Dwyer salvages a draw
Galway 1 Wexford Youths 1
Lauren Dwyer salvaged a draw for Wexford Youths as they moved one point closer to their fourth Continental Tyres Women's National League title in Mervue on Saturday.
The Carlow native cracked home a long-range effort past Tina Hughes to give her side a share of the spoils with 20 minutes left as Youths moved into position to wrap up the title with victory at home to Cork on Saturday.
It was fitting that Dwyer got a hugely important goal for her side, especially in the absence of Rianna Jarrett. The league's top goalscorer fractured a bone in her foot while on international duty in Poland four days earlier and will miss the remainder of the season.
While Jarrett was away, Wexford failed to score for the first time in domestic competition this season when they beat Cork on penalties to take the Continental Tyres Women's National League shield last week, and they were struggling to break down Galway here.
If Jarrett is one of two Youths players who are irreplaceable, Dwyer is the other. Not renowned for her goalscoring, despite possessing a fine strike of the ball, the lynchpin of the Wexford back four stepped up and flighted home the equaliser just when it was needed.
Manager Tom Elmes made just one change from the team that struggled to get the better of Cork in the shield final. McKenna Davidson dropped to the bench while Doireann Fahey, back from international duty with the Under-19s, slotted into the first eleven.
Youths dominated the early exchanges, owning the lion's share of possession without breaking the hosts down. Katrina Parrock drew a save from Tina Hughes while Nicola Sinnott missed the target from distance.
The longer the half wore on, the more dangerous Galway looked and the more the tough trip west seemed to be weighing down Wexford. The hosts took the lead before half-time and Sophie Lenehan had to be alert to prevent a second.
Knowing the importance of getting at least a point, Wexford emerged after the break and went for it.
Aoife Slattery fired over the crossbar, Parrock had a powerful effort saved by Hughes, and Edel Kennedy headed wide.
Emma Hansberry and Doireann Fahey were both denied before Dwyer found the net from distance to level the scores. Both sides had half chances as the game moved towards the end but 'keepers and defences won out.
There was a special moment for one Youths starlet in the last few minutes, as striker Blessing Kingsley came on as a late substitution for Doireann Fahey. And if Wexford's struggles in front of goal continue, she could well be needed to become an unlikely heroine in the next few weeks.
This was the first time Wexford dropped points away from home in the league this season, but all in all a point away against an improving Galway side is not a bad result.
Elmes will need to find a way to drag more goals out of his side, minus Jarrett, as they head into the last few weeks of the season.
Attention briefly turns away from the race to clinch the title and onto the FAI Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening. Wexford host U.C.D. Waves in Ferrycarrig Park with a scheduled kick-off time of 7.45 p.m., and the winners will play either Shelbourne or Peamount.
Then, three days later, Youths will have their first chance to wrap up the title when they welcome Cork City to the south-east.
A win will secure them the league crown and a place in the 2019-'20 UEFA Women's Champions League.
Anything other that victory will see Youths head up to U.C.D. Waves on Sunday, October 28, with a second and final opportunity to secure the title. While that is a nice safety blanket, nobody in Ferrycarrig Park will want that fixture to have anything significant riding on it.
Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon, Becky Cassin; Kylie Murphy (capt.), Edel Kennedy; Aisling Frawley, Emma Hansberry, Doireann Fahey; Katrina Parrock. Subs. - Aoife Slattery for Frawley, McKenna Davidson for Parrock, Blessing Kingsley for Fahey, also Ciamh Dollard, Rachel Hutchinson, Ciara Delaney, Cliodhna Ní Shé.
Galway: Tina Hughes; Aoife Walsh, Shauna Fox, Méabh De Búrca (capt.), Sadhbh Doyle, Aislinn Meaney, Lynsey McKey, Aoife Thompson, Sinéad Donovan, Rachel Baynes, Tessa Mullins. Subs. - Louise Creaven, Keara Cormican, Elle O'Flaherty, Carolina Garcia-Fernandez.