Sunday 19 January 2020

Albion club the big winners

Wexford Albion A 5 Wexford Albion B 0

Wexford Albion A. Back (from left): Ben Mallon, Fabio Valentini, Conor Shortall, Seán Denton, James Kirby. Front (from left): Seán O'Connor, Jake Kelly, William Gaul, Evan Donohue (capt.). Missing: Seán McCleane
Wexford Albion A. Back (from left): Ben Mallon, Fabio Valentini, Conor Shortall, Seán Denton, James Kirby. Front (from left): Seán O'Connor, Jake Kelly, William Gaul, Evan Donohue (capt.). Missing: Seán McCleane
Wexford Albion B. Back (from left): Ryan Paige, Callum Fowler, Darragh McLaughlin (capt.), Sam Clancy, Dougie O'Dowd. Front (from left): Logan Byrne, Sam Molloy-Nolan, T.J. Furlong, Danny Mallon, Cian Leacy
Rival captains Evan Donohue and Darragh McLaughlin battle it out

Alan Aherne

Every final has to produce a winner and a loser, and Sunday's play-off to determine third and fourth places in the 46th annual Mini World Cup, hosted by Wexford Albion, was no different.

However, the real victor in this clash was the development programme in place at the organising club as they had the pleasure of seeing two of the four teams they entered contesting the decider.

Wexford Albion A were missing usual team captain Seán McCleane owing to holidays, but they took control from the off and went on to record a comfortable 5-0 success despite his absence from their defence.

That outcome didn't take in any way though from the fine achievement of a younger and less experienced B squad in getting to this stage, with several of the losers' key performers eligible for the competition once again in 2018.

They took many people by surprise with the quality of their displays, chalking up three victories before pushing Legia all the way to extra-time in the semi-final proper four days earlier.

Having to play up the notorious Albion slope first didn't help their cause, and the A side exercised complete control in a generally one-sided first-half.

The corner count of 7-0 told its own story, and a busy 20 minutes for B netminder T.J. Furlong began at an early stage when he palmed away a long-range shot from Seán Denton - one of two players who had also won the third place play-off in 2016, along with stand-in captain Evan Donohue.

Denton was one of three first cousins in action, playing with Ben Mallon but against Danny Mallon, and that summed up the familiarity between the sides.

Seán O'Connor shot wide for the eventual victors before they made the breakthrough in fortuitous circumstances in the fifth minute when a punt from distance by Ben Mallon ended up in the net.

Furlong denied Denton with a superb save before O'Connor came close on a couple of occasions, but the B team were dealt two more body blows midway through the half.

Jake Kelly didn't get hold of his shot in the ninth minute, but it fell kindly for Evan Donohue who finished it to the net from close range.

And after T.J. Furlong saved from Fabio Valentini, he was picking the ball out of his net once more in the eleventh minute.

Jake Kelly had scored a spectacular lead goal in the semi-final when he lobbed the Curracloe netminder before his side eventually succumed to a 4-1 loss.

And he repeated the dose here with a clever finish from the right, leaving the B team with too big a mountain to climb.

Kelly was denied a second by a Furlong save before a speculative effort from Seán O'Connor produced the fourth goal in the 18th minute.

A team goalkeeper William Gaul hadn't been troubled at all in that opening half, with Conor Shortall and James Kirby also looking composed as their side launched wave upon wave of attacks.

However, their B counterparts deserve immense credit for stepping up considerably on the re-start with the elements now in their favour.

They may not have got a consolation that might have edged striker Callum Fowler towards the top goalscorer award, having hit the target in every round before the final.

However, it certainly wasn't for the want of trying from a team marshalled from the back by Sam Molloy-Nolan and Darragh McLaughlin, with the tough-tackling Danny Mallon anchoring their midfield.

Logan Byrne supplied a lot of creativity as always, while Cian Leacy, Ryan Paige, Sam Clancy and Dougie O'Dowd also gave their all.

After T.J. Furlong saved at Jake Kelly's feet, the first shot from the B team was produced by Leacy less than three minutes in, while Logan Byrne then had a go from long range.

Byrne came closest to netting for the B team in the ninth minute of the half, but netminder William Gaul denied him with a superb stop.

Seán Denton of the A side had a long-range shot kept out by Furlong before the opposition continued their quest for a goal.

Callum Fowler nearly got on the end of a ball into the box from Logan Byrne, while the attacker wasn't too far away from getting a connection on a dangerous Darragh McLaughlin free-kick either.

However, the A team managed to lift the siege, and they wrapped up the win when Seán O'Connor added his second goal from long range with less than five minutes left.

The true spirit of the contest had been reflected when both teams posed together for a pre-game photograph, and it was a similar story at the medals presentation when they joined forces once again.

And there was an unexpected bonus for the B team when their supporters, led by proud mothers Claire and Eva, collected the fair play award from the organisers for their positive contribution to another very successful tournament.

Wexford Albion A: William Gaul, Ben Mallon, Conor Shortall, Seán O'Connor, James Kirby, Seán Denton, Evan Donohue (capt.). Subs. (rolling) - Jake Kelly, Fabio Valentini. Missing: Seán McCleane (holidays).

Wexford Albion B: T.J. Furlong, Darragh McLaughlin (capt.), Sam Molloy-Nolan, Cian Leacy, Danny Mallon, Logan Byrne, Callum Fowler. Subs. (rolling) - Ryan Paige, Sam Clancy, Dougie O'Dowd.

Referee: Jimmy Kelly. Assistants: Ger Morris and Sam O'Neill.

Wexford People

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