Sunday 22 September 2019

Fatigue plays part in defeat

Fresher St. Pat's withstand late onslaught from Youths

Jonny Bonner gets the ball under control for Wexford Youths as Billy Dennehy closes in
Jonny Bonner gets the ball under control for Wexford Youths as Billy Dennehy closes in
Gary Delaney of Wexford Youths is tackled by Christy Fagan

Alan Aherne

The fatigue factor came heavily into play in Ferrycarrig Park on Monday of last week when a valiant Wexford Youths comeback failed to earn the share of the spoils their efforts in the last ten minutes deserved in this SSE Airtricity Premier Division re-fixture against St. Patrick's Athletic.

Wexford Youths 0 St. Patrick's Athletic 1

The game had been postponed from July 15 due to the Dubliners' involvement in the Europa League qualifiers.

However, they also had the benefit of a free Friday beforehand as their scheduled opponents, Cork City, had faced Genk in Belgium the night before.

It meant that the much fresher Pat's outfit travelled to Wexford for the first time this season without a game since the 1-0 home loss to Dinamo Minsk on July 21 which ended their interest in European competition.

In contrast, Youths had precious little time to recover from their exertions on the previous Friday when Gary Delaney's late header earned a valuable three points in Ballybofey.

Quite apart from the game itself, the arduous journey up and down was bound to take its toll, and St. Pat's were well aware of that as they set a fast early tempo and utilised both flanks to ensure the home side expended more energy than they would have liked.

There was a tired look to everything Youths tried for three-quarters of the game, and this was evident in the stray pass which led to the decisive goal from the Inchicore crew in the 27th minute.

On the plus side, it was a considerably better display than the one produced in Richmond Park in April when Pat's romped to a 4-0 victory, but that was little consolation on a night when another three points were dropped.

To give Youths their due, they found their second wind in the last ten minutes and came forward in waves, with Danny Furlong going closest to grabbing the equaliser when his shot was cleared off the line by centre-half Darren Dennehy in the 84th minute.

The one change from the win against Finn Harps was enforced, with Danny Ledwith's place taken by the man who deputised for him after his early injury in Ballybofey, Aidan Friel.

Paul Murphy was serving the second part of his two-match ban so Andy Mulligan once again filled Murphy's normal role playing just behind front man Danny Furlong, while the bench was notable for the inclusion of Paul Brennan for the first time for a league game this season.

The 7-0 corner count in favour of the visitors didn't lie, with the first cleared by Chris Kenny in the fifth minute after a Graham Kelly shot took a deflection.

The experienced Keith Tracey crashed a free-kick into the Youths wall, and when the ball was returned into the danger area by captain Ger O'Brien, a Kelly header was tipped over by Graham Doyle. Conan Byrne directed the setpiece to Kelly whose effort was blocked and cleared, but it was evident that the Youths defence would be in for a busy night.

Gary Delaney tried to free Aidan Friel with a long ball in the 14th minute, only for Ian Bermingham to nick it off the winger and start a counter-attack. And it almost paid off as seconds later a Conan Byrne cross found the head of Mark Timlin whose effort was parried by Graham Doyle and quickly cleared.

Bermingham did well to cut out an attempted Andy Mulligan pass to Danny Furlong before Christy Fagan cleverly worked some space for himself at the other end but then over-hit his pass to Byrne.

Mulligan saw a cross cleared by Darren Dennehy and his follow-up safely gathered by netminder Brendan Clarke before Lee Grace dealt capably with a Byrne free-kick.

There had been no real respite for Youths up to that point, and the Pat's pressure eventually paid off in the 27th minute.

Shane Dunne's attempted pass to Aidan Friel never looked like finding its intended target, with left-back Ian Bermingham making the interception, working a one-two with Christy Fagan, and calmly slotting the ball past Graham Doyle for a finish any centre-forward would have been proud of.

The goal was a fair reflection on the general run of play, and Pat's wasted no time in trying to double their tally and put the game beyond reach.

Lee Grace cleared from a Bermingham cross before Doyle saved from Fagan at his near post after Conan Byrne knocked a long free-kick from goalkeeper Brendan Clarke into his path.

Pat's centre-half Seán Hoare, who was excellent throughout in his defensive duties, didn't get a decent connection on a Keith Tracey free-kick and headed tamely wide in the 34th minute.

A long-range free-kick from Jonny Bonner was meat and drink to Clarke before his rival netminder had a lot more work to do, saving a downward header from Conan Byrne after a Ger O'Brien cross.

Youths had a half-chance in the 41st minute when Bonner played a lovely through ball to Danny Furlong, but his first touch took him slightly to the left of goal and pressure applied by the defence ensured his shot didn't trouble Clarke.

The offside flag saved the home side when Fagan slotted the ball through to Billy Dennehy, while Seán Hoare shot wildly over in first-half added time after intercepting an intended Chris Kenny pass to Danny Furlong.

Furlong had nearly got a touch on a long Craig McCabe throw one minute earlier, but Youths retired for the break without having created an opening to seriously test their experienced opponents.

The pressure continued on the re-start as centre-halves Stephen Last and Gary Delaney cleared successive crosses from Billy Dennehy and Graham Kelly respectively.

Shane Dunne saw his delivery dealt with by Darren Dennehy before goalkeeper Brendan Clarke advanced smartly to gather Aidan Friel's attempted pass to Andy Mulligan.

Delaney was caught in possession in the 50th minute but was relieved to see Christy Fagan shooting high and wide, while Graham Doyle fisted clear from the first of five second-half corners for Pat's.

Goalscorer Ian Bermingham entered the notebook of referee Graham Kelly and then got no power behind a cross to the far post from Fagan.

The number three remained in the thick of the action though, and he probably took the wrong option in the 57th minute, deciding to pass to Fagan who scuffed his shot when he could have had a go himself after good work by Mark Timlin and Billy Dennehy.

While St. Patrick's Athletic were still dominant, the fact that a second goal was eluding them ensured that Youths still had plenty to play for. Billy Dennehy's glancing header went across goal and wide from a Conan Byrne cross in the 59th minute, with Aidan Keenan introduced shortly after for Aidan Friel.

Stephen Last, Gary Delaney and Last on two more occasions cut out four attacks in quick succession before Keenan was booked, with Delaney mopping up once more from Keith Tracey's free-kick.

Seán Hoare headed a Conan Byrne corner wide before a speculative shot from distance by Jonny Bonner was comfortably saved by Brendan Clarke.

Billy Dennehy was yellow-carded for a theatrical dive in the box before we witnessed a brighter side to his game when he forced Graham Doyle into a tremendous fingertip save from a shot destined for the top corner in the 75th minute.

It led to the first of three corners on the bounce, with Aidan Keenan eventually managing to clear his lines.

Conor O'Keeffe joined the fray in place of Shane Dunne before we saw the first sign of that Youths revival. The substitutes combined as Keenan fed O'Keeffe whose cross was met acrobatically in the air by Danny Furlong whose effort went just over the bar.

That chance arrived in the 78th minute and was the spur for Youths to step it up considerably in the closing stages as they somehow found renewed energy levels.

Goalkeeper Clarke fisted a Craig McCabe free-kick clear before a Darren Dennehy tackle denied Andy Mulligan after solid build-up play from Furlong and Keenan.

Shane Dempsey was the last of the fresh legs introduced, for Chris Kenny, with the St. Patrick's Athletic threat evident again in the 83rd minute when Christy Fagan shot over from a Keith Tracey pass although he was flagged for offside anyway.

And it was from a probing long ball into the box by Dempsey that Youths came closest of all to equalising.

It broke on his left side for Furlong who drove an instinctive shot back across his body and towards goal, only for the alert Darren Dennehy to save his netminder with a goal-line clearance.

The home crowd did all they could to encourage Shane Keegan's side as the pressure was maintained on Pat's. Full-back Craig McCabe had a couple of long throws, with his mother, Edel, dutifully on hand with a towel for drying purposes on a miserable evening.

Aidan Keenan and Jonny Bonner experienced crossed wires in the 89th minute, with one leaving the ball for the other after Danny Furlong jumped with Darren Dennehy to contest a long ball from Gary Delaney.

Just 15 seconds of normal time remained when Pat's - who gave a late debut to exciting teenage prospect Steven Kinsella, acquired on loan from Everton - breathed a collective sigh of relief again.

This time Furlong fired a cross to the near post and Andy Mulligan's header couldn't have come much closer to hitting the target.

Mulligan wasted a cross before Jonny Bonner and Shane Dempsey delivered to the box in the last of the three extra minutes, but a Gary Delaney flick on was cleared and time ran out on that strong Youths comeback.

Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Stephen Last, Lee Grace; Aidan Friel, Chris Kenny, Jonny Bonner, Shane Dunne; Andy Mulligan, Danny Furlong. Subs. - Aidan Keenan for Friel (61), Conor O'Keeffe for Dunne (77), Shane Dempsey for Kenny (83), also Peter Higgins, Paul Brennan, Gavin Dowling, Andrew O'Connor.

St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O'Brien (capt.), Seán Hoare, Darren Dennehy, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, Graham Kelly, Keith Tracey, Billy Dennehy; Mark Timlin, Christy Fagan. Subs. - Steven Kinsella for Timlin (83), Sam Verdon for Kelly (87), also Dinny Corcoran, Rory Feely, Conor O'Malley, Jamie McGrath, Michael Barker.

Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).

Wexford People