Saturday 25 November 2017

Laboured win for the women

Wexford Youth 2 Kilkenny 0

Dean Goodison

Wexford Youths newcomer Katrina Parrock in a race for possession with Leanne Tumelty
Wexford Youths newcomer Katrina Parrock in a race for possession with Leanne Tumelty
Rianna Jarrett in the thick of the action for Wexford Youths

In a season of disjointed, static, clumpy performances, this from Wexford Youths in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday might be the worst yet.

The only saving grace is that at least goals from Claire O'Riordan and Kylie Murphy eventually came and Laura Heffernan's side remain two points behing Peamount in the Continental Tyres Women's National League.

This is Kilkenny's third season in existence. Before this game they had scored 13 times in 32 league games and conceded 173. In the three matches preceding this they lost 9-0 to Peamount, 11-0 to Shelbourne and 6-0 to UCD Waves.

Wexford set up like they were going out to face Lyon in the UEFA Champions League final.

The issue of playing ill-equipped wide players was somewhat overshadowed while Youths best defender spent eight games in midfield, but it can not be ignored by management any longer.

The latest to hop-on the wide-midfield merry-go-round was Lauren Dwyer. It's easier to list who hasn't occupied the position on the flank at this stage but it's staggering to think that a holding midfielder (Becky Cassin) and now a defender have spent more minutes on the wing than Linda Douglas this season.

When Wexford lost players to injury in the 2015-'16 season, the level of wing play from Douglas and Aisling Frawley went through the roof and their influence propelled Youths to title glory. Current boss Heffernan was in the States at the time.

On Saturday, both sat behind their manager on the bench as Aoibhín Webb and Lauren Dwyer played out of position. Frawley came on and made a massive difference, as suddenly Kilkenny had a wide player that could stretch them.

Wexford are easy to play against. Narrow, tight, flood the midfield, that's the M.O.; even Kilkenny did it and almost made it stick.

Without the threat of being stretched in wide areas, no team is going to do any different and the middle will remain clogged.

It's funny, given that this was the first meeting of two managers, in Heffernan and former Shelbourne boss Casey McQuillan, who have inadvertently done more than anyone else to make former Youths boss Will Doyle look like an Irish Arrigo Sacchi.

One thing Doyle did recognise was the importance of stretching teams with a threat on the flanks. In the middle of the title-winning season he wasn't always getting great performances out there but he stuck with it and it paid dividends.

After finally putting her best four defenders together against Galway - arguably the best back line in the league - Heffernan broke them up and gave Ally O'Keeffe a start.

If it was a test with a view to playing a similar way against decent teams in the next few weeks it would be better forgotten before it costs her side points.

Dwyer did okay out wide; she's a good footballer, she would do okay in most spots in the team, but this was Kilkenny.

Much like Jess Gleeson when she was in midfield, she could put in a shift, but it doesn't mean she wouldn't be a more natural fit somewhere else.

O'Keeffe defended well on the rare occasion she had to but this game was more about distribution and using the ball wisely. Whether it was down to nerves, or being stuck on the bench all season, the former Kilkenny player's radar was a little off.

Orla Casey stung Nadine Ryan's fingers with a strike from distance in the third minute. Jess Gleeson cursed her luck when she fizzed one from distance inches over the bar a short time later but it looked more like a shot than a cross.

Casey almost slipped Dwyer in on the left but Ryan got out to claim.

Gleeson floated a free-kick into the perfect position just past the penalty spot in the eleventh minute but only Nicola Sinnott was in the vicinity and she couldn't connect and it was scrambled behind.

The resulting corner came to nothing, like every Youths corner in this game.

Considering how dangerous Wexford have been from set-pieces in the last few seasons, poor delivery is a huge waste of promising situations.

Linesman Jimmy O'Neill needlessly got involved, giving a handball for a shoulder against Claire O'Riordan although namesake Michelle O'Neill, who was unsighted, had her best game in Ferrycarrig Park in a long time in the middle.

By and large Kilkenny kicked the ball back to Wexford and the hosts did nothing with it as the half wore on.

However, from one thump forward by Leann Payne, Becky Conway broke through on goal and almost embarrassed the hosts with Tamara Furlong just managing to keep her volley out.

On the half-hour mark, having created nothing with all their possession, Aoibhín Webb won the ball back on the byline and crossed for O'Riordan to glance a tame header at goal.

At the other end, Leanne Tumulty almost released Conway but Furlong came out to smother.

Wexford's best chance of the half fell to O'Riordan in the 41st minute.

The hosts won two headers from Nadine Ryan's kick-out to set her free but O'Riordan dallied on the ball, got too close to the Kilkenny 'keeper and hit her with a poor finish.

Dwyer set her away two minutes later but O'Riordan's shot was blocked. Just before the interval Webb and Casey worked a short corner that ended with the latter drilling a shot from the edge of the area that almost squirmed through Ryan's hands.

After a dreadful 45 minutes, it took another eight for Heffernan to bring Jarrett into the hole. The returning striker did play through to O'Riordan for the opener but it's hard to believe that it's the long-term solution to the O'Riordan/Jarrett quandary.

It was only when Frawley came on that Wexford looked anything like a threat. O'Riordan flicked on her cross but Jarrett couldn't get in to convert. With 68 minutes gone Youths had created virtually nothing, and then, out of the blue, they scored.

Jarrett slipped O'Riordan through on the right side of the penalty box and there was no hesitation this time, as the striker put her foot though the ball and sent a rocket high into the Kilkenny net.

Mere seconds after the kick-off Frawley's cross from the left was butchered by Ryan under pressure from O'Riordan and Kylie Murphy turned the ball home for 2-0.

Katrina Parrock came on with 17 minutes left and looked lively on the right.

She powerfully met another excellent Frawley cross from the left with a volley but Ryan prevented the dream debut with a solid stop.

Frawley won a corner on the left that Parrock crossed for Gleeson to volley over in the 82nd minute. The winger then whipped over for O'Riordan but the Limerick native flashed over.

A crisp Frawley shot from Jarrett's late pull-back was saved by Ryan as time expired.

Wexford Youths' visit to Shelbourne scheduled for Saturday will not go ahead due to an Irish international friendly with Scotland on Friday.

They will return to action on Saturday week at home to fellow title chasers UCD Waves.

Wexford Youths: Tamara Furlong; Nicola Sinnott, Jess Gleeson, Orlaith Conlon, Ally O'Keeffe; Becky Cassin; Aoibhín Webb, Kylie Murphy (capt), Orla Casey, Lauren Dwyer; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Rianna Jarrett for Casey (53), Aisling Frawley for Webb (57), Katrina Parrock for Dwyer (73), also Jenny O'Keeffe, Siobhán Doolan, Rachel Hutchinson, Linda Douglas.

Kilkenny: Nadine Ryan; Karley Leavy, Ciara Delaney (capt.), Bethany Carroll, Emma Boyle; Bronagh Kane, Leann Payne, Sylvia Gee, Aislinn Carroll, Leanne Tumelty; Becky Conroy. Sub. - Megan Butler for Kane, inj. (76).

Referee: Michelle O'Neill.

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