Thursday 19 September 2019

Loss for the ladies as injury list takes a heavy toll

Growing injury list takes a heavy toll

Emma Hansberry in action
Emma Hansberry in action

Dean Goodison

So, it looks like the straw that broke the camel's back is a Kylie Murphy-shaped one.

Peamount United 1 Wexford Youths 0

Wexford Youths Women have had a remarkable run, withstanding injury after debilitating injury but there's only so many times a manager - first Will Doyle and now Gary Hunt - can look behind him and replace like with (nearly) like.

Peamount were the first to take advantage of their opponents' weaknesses in the Continental Tyres Women's National League at Greenogue on Saturday evening and they probably won't be the last.

There's a bit of hype behind the Pea's coming into the season. With another year under their belts they certainly look a sharper, more defensively disciplined, young side. They won't take the beatings of last season but they won't be title challengers either.

But then will Wexford? This could quickly turn into the longest short season in history. A glance at the teamsheets from their home opener against star-studded UCD Waves suggests that that was actually a good point for the league champions.

The system is there. Hunt hasn't changed much about the way this side sets up, with three at the back guarded by the deep-lying midfielder. The faces in those spots have changed though, and only Nicola Sinnott remains from what would have been considered first choice.

Saturday should have been The Ballagh native's big day. She captained the side in the absence of Murphy and was probably the stand-out performer too. It wasn't the fairytale ending she might have hoped for but maybe those were all used up last campaign.

Chelsee Snell came into the back three, with Orlaith Conlon injured. The new signing is certainly no mug, as she was tough, pretty good positionally and solid under the high ball.

In the short term she looks set to be the key addition this season but a name on the bench, former Irish international under-age goalkeeper Sophie Lenehan, might turn into the best long-term asset acquired recently.

So while the defence held their own, Youths had problems in the middle of the park, particularly in the opening half an hour when youngster Tiegan Ruddy was allowed dictate play, with Roma McLaughlin and Lisa Casserly buzzing around her.

Youths did settle and would go on to hold their own in the centre of midfield for the rest of the match, but the damage accrued could not be undone or evidently overturned.

Claire O'Riordan was her typical spiky self up top, with Aoibhín Webb playing off her and struggling, in a congested centre, to find the time and space to operate, like she can, effectively between the lines.

The sides felt each other out in the first 15 minutes but Peamount slowly ratcheted up the pressure. McLaughlin struck a weak shot from the edge of the area before Lauryn O'Callaghan crossed for Heather Payne to nod over.

Then the hosts took the lead. McLaughlin fed the ball down the left flank for Sarah McKevitt, who crossed to the centre of the goal. Claire Kinsella missed the connection but Payne made no mistake, side-footing past Tamara Furlong in the Youths goal.

Lifted by the goal, Peamount continued on the front foot. Casserly flashed over the bar before McKevitt just failed to get a touch on Ruddy's through ball.

When Youths finally did create a chance, it was no surprise that it came down Linda Douglas' flank. The winger picked out O'Riordan, who in turn sent Webb away. She had a yard on the defender but couldn't get separation and the last-ditch block ended a dangerous situation.

Then, just before the break, Douglas crossed from the right, with Becky Cassin lurking, ready to divert the ball goalwards, but Ruddy got back to cut it out and the danger was gone.

It was all Youths at the start of the second-half as they upped the tempo. Webb had a shot blocked from the edge of the area, O'Riordan almost made the most of some hesitant defending close to goal, and a Douglas cross beat Naoise McAloon but just missed the top corner.

Emma Hansberry came into the game in the second-half, starting with an attempt from just inside half-way that McAloon watched the whole way into her hands. Her setpiece, in a dangerous area to the right of the goal, after O'Riordan was fouled, was easily cleared in the 56th minute.

Yet after McKevitt dispossessed Douglas, Peamout should have made it two, but Payne eventually fired across goal and wide with just Furlong to beat. With Wexford pushing forward, the hosts' attacks were rare but dangerous when they did happen.

Aisling Frawley did well on the left in the 67th minute but chose the wrong option when she got inside the box and the danger was cleared. Maria Delahunty, returning from the Waterford ladies' football squad, curled a shot across goal and narrowly wide.

The best Wexford chance came and went in the 77th minute. Again Douglas was provider for O'Riordan; the Youths top scorer from last season worked a yard of space inside the box and chipped her effort over McAloon, but it rebounded out off the post.

While they never stopped pressing, Youths failed to go as close again. Delahunty dragged a low shot wide. Then in the final minute of normal time, Hansberry's cross was missed by O'Riordan, only for Amy Walsh to arrive at the back post and shoot wide.

Youths ended the game with ten. Lauren Dwyer was carried off by manager Gary Hunt and physio Nigel Fitzharris after a reckless Peamount flick-out of the boot. It went unpunished by referee Lee Duffy, pretty much summing up the performance from a young official who, at the moment, simply doesn't have the experience to officiate at this level.

Wexford return to action this day week (Tuesday) when they open their Champions League campaign with a daunting fixture against BIIK Kazygurt. That game will take place at Ferrycarrig Park and will kick-off at 7 p.m.

Wexford Youths: Tamara Furlong; Nicola Sinnott (capt.), Lauren Dwyer, Chelsee Snell; Rachel Hutchinson; Linda Douglas, Becky Cassin, Emma Hansberry, Aisling Frawley; Aoibhín Webb, Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Maria Delahunty for Webb (58), Orla Casey for Cassin (72), Amy Walsh for Frawley (78), also Sophie Lenehan, Aoife Prendergast, Leanne Tumelty, Shauna Wall.

Peamount: Naoise McAloon; Lauryn O'Callaghan, Louise Corrigan, Emma Byrne, Rachel Doyle; Tiegan Ruddy; Heather Payne, Roma McLaughlin, Lisa Casserly, Sarah McKevitt; Claire Kinsella (capt.). Subs. - Niamh Barnes for McKevitt (83), Jessica Corr for Payne (90+2), Lauren Kelly for Casserly (90+3), also Brooke Dunne, Margaret Doyle, Emma Donohue, Madie Edwards.

Referee: Lee Duffy.

Wexford People