Thursday 22 August 2019

Golden goal powers students

U.C.D. 2 Wexford F.C. 0

Shane Dunne, who regained his starting berth in the centre of midfield
Shane Dunne, who regained his starting berth in the centre of midfield
Seán Hurley, who departed in the second-half with an injury

Alan Aherne

Struggling Wexford F.C. were initially undone by a moment of magic in the U.C.D. Bowl on Friday when a brilliant bicycle kick from centre-forward Georgie Kelly gave the students the lead in spectacular fashion in this SSE Airtricity First Division clash.

It was a bitter blow to the visitors, because it arrived after an 18-minute spell following the interval when they were showing some promise and posing problems for the hosts with a positive attitude typified by the constant probing of young attacker Danny Doyle.

However, that opening goal arrived at the opposite end and it was worthy of applause from both sets of supporters.

Daire O'Connor was a livewire presence throughout on the right flank for U.C.D., and his cross was gleefully seized upon by Kelly who flew into the air before directing a superb downward strike past Corey Chambers.

It was hard to see Wexford recovering from that setback, and sure enough the outcome was well and truly sealed ten minutes later from the same source.

This time O'Connor won a 50-50 ball in a tackle with his namesake, Andrew, before floating in a neat delivery for Jason McClelland to arrive at pace from the left wing and cushion it into the far corner of the net.

That was game, set and match, and so the search for a first win in competitive fixtures will now extend into the 14th outing - at home to high-flying Waterford in the league on Friday at 8 p.m.

The results don't lie, and manager Damian Locke is clearly struggling to make the leap from being a key member of last year's coaching staff to the person in the hot seat.

The poor form is a blow to the ever-optimistic team of volunteers working so hard behind the scenes to keep the club operating at this level too.

Even one win would be a considerable boost to their spirits and no more than they deserve, but it's unlikely to arrive this week either barring a huge surprise.

Craig McCabe missed Friday's tie through suspension, while Ricky Fox and Craig Wall didn't start either from the side which showed a certain degree of promise in the home draw with Cabinteely seven nights earlier.

Conor Sutton came in for his first league start of the season at right wing-back, with Andrew O'Connor replacing Fox in a similar role on the left. Shane Dunne took over Wall's central midfield duties, and the captain's armband was donned by centre-half Ross Kenny in the absence of both Graham Doyle and his deputy, McCabe.

Wexford may be low in confidence, but they very nearly enjoyed the best possible start. Just under two minutes had elapsed when a Sutton cross was kicked away by Maxi Kouogun into the path of young Eoin Porter whose venomous shot shaved the crossbar before going over.

It would have been a wonderful way to grab an opening club goal for the Good Counsel student who was starting out on a busy sporting weekend, as he played at centre-back with the Wexford Minor footballers in their championship win over Wicklow less than 24 hours later.

It wasn't to be unfortunately, but the visitors were an equal match for the students early on. Adam Hanlon delivered a dangerous low cross which netminder Niall Corbet claimed at the second attempt, while rival number one Corey Chambers did well to save a Georgie Kelly header at the expense of a corner in the 17th minute.

Gary O'Neill's delivery broke out to Daire O'Connor whose volley produced a fingertip stop from Chambers and another corner which the Wexford man caught.

O'Neill didn't trouble Chambers with a shot in the 24th minute, but Ross Kenny had to be alert in dealing with a dangerous cross to the near post by Daniel Tobin.

Kelly continued to pose a threat up front for the students and headed over from a good opportunity after team captain Gary O'Neill sent in a free-kick from the left edge of the area.

Wexford created a good opening in the 39th minute after earning their sole first-half corner which was needlessly conceded by Tobin under no pressure after a Shane Dunne free-kick.

Adam Hanlon and Mark Slater combined on the left before directing the ball towards the far post where Owen McCormack's header forced Corbet into an important save.

U.C.D. moved into attack swiftly and nearly got off the mark from Jason McClelland's cross which was initially chested by Georgie Kelly, but his shot flew over to Wexford's relief.

Ben Hanrahan hooked another McClelland delivery wide, while a Kelly volley from a Daire O'Connor cross also missed the target.

Mark Slater couldn't make the most of a free-kick after a foul on Danny Doyle, with goalkeeper Corbet safely gathering his set-piece before the half-time whistle blew with the sides scoreless.

Doyle provided an early threat for Wexford on the re-start, with his persistence getting him into the box where his low ball across goal was cut out by Corbet.

Conor Sutton collected a yellow card before Doyle again made inroads into the U.C.D. box, only for defender Maxi Kouogun to shepherd the ball wide.

Danger threatened from an Adam Hanlon cross but the whistle came to the home side's rescue, while it had also been blown for a handball by Doyle in the 63rd minute before Shane Dunne knocked the ball into the net.

That wonder goal from Georgie Kelly followed, and the closest Wexford came to responding was when they forced three successive corners, all to no avail.

McClelland then pounced in the 75th minute to effectively wrap up the points for the Belfield boys, and they controlled the remainder of the contest without any major problems.

Andrew O'Connor did have one opening when he linked up with fellow Waterford man Thomas Croke, chesting the ball before volleying over the bar with just over ten minutes left.

There was a shaky moment from Corey Chambers when he missed a low cross from substitute Robert Manley under no pressure, with O'Connor taking no precautions by knocking it out for a corner.

That led to a shot from centre-half Maxi Kouogun which was blocked, while Jason McClelland fired high and over from a Daniel Tobin cross.

Wexford's last throw of the dice saw Thomas Croke force a corner, but Andrew O'Connor's delivery over-shot the runaway and drifted wide.

The gap between the bottom side and the new occupants of seventh place, Shelbourne, is now eight points, with the teams set to meet in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday week, May 19.

First up though will be promotion-chasing Waterford who replaced Cobh Ramblers in top spot over the weekend.

Our south-east neighbours have won this season's two previous meetings, in the league and the EA Sports Cup, and it's hard to see past them making that a treble this time around given the current 18-point gap between top and bottom after eleven games.

Last week also brought the news that young goalkeeper Corey Chambers, currently deputising for injured captain Graham Doyle, will be taking a break from the League of Ireland in August when he will depart for the U.S.A. to take up a soccer scholarship offer.

The Irish under-age international has dual citizenship with Canada (through his mother), and will start his third level education after signing for Patriots, the team representing George Mason University from Fairfax County, Virginia, in the NCAA Division 1.

Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny (capt.), Andrew O'Connor; Conor Sutton, Eoin Porter, Shane Dunne, Mark Slater, Seán Hurley; Adam Hanlon, Danny Doyle. Subs. - Ricky Fox for Hurley, inj. (62), Thomas Croke for Porter (75), Liam Donnelly for Hanlon (77), also Lee Duffy, Dean George, Graham Doyle.

U.C.D.: Niall Corbet; Daniel Tobin, Maxi Kouogun, Liam Scales, Evan Osam; Daire O'Connor, Greg Sloggett, Gary O'Neill (capt.), Jason McClelland; Ben Hanrahan, Georgie Kelly. Subs. - Robert Manley for Hanrahan (79), Seán Byrne for O'Neill (87), also Conor Kearns, Josh Collins, Seán Coyne, Cian Kavanagh, Gareth Coughlan.

Referee: Alan Carey (Dublin).

Wexford People