Share of the spoils
Wexford Youths Women 2 Peamount United 2
Champions Wexford Youths and primary challengers Peamount United sparred but never really brawled in their much-anticipated clash in the Continental Tyres Women's National League at Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday.
This was a chance for both to show where they really stood after an off-season of significant change in both camps and the result, and general pattern of the game, suggests there's not as much between the teams as some Dublin-based observers would have you think.
All four of the Peamount players from Colin Bell's Senior squad played, as did the three from Dave Connell's Under-19s, but neutral observers would have found it difficult to pick which team started with the seven current internationals and which started with one.
Apart from the first 15 minutes of the second-half, when Youths didn't deal well with the expected Peamount onslaught, there was nothing in the game. Indeed, it was the hosts that looked the more dangerous when they got into good attacking areas.
Amy Walsh started the game for the injured Ciara Rossiter at left-back. In theory, Wexford began in a similar set-up to the one that dispatched Limerick in their opening league game but they were understandably far less adventurous in practice.
However, Peamount didn't exactly play like a team which battered Shelbourne three weeks earlier. They gave their hosts respect, playing Amber Barrett up top on her own, the focal point of a 4-2-3-1 system that Wexford nullified for most of the first-half.
Nothing much of note happened in the first 25 minutes. Rianna Jarrett looked like she might get a piledriver away on the right edge of the box but she was blocked off, while a handful of Wexford crosses had sailed harmlessly into the hands of Naoisha McAloon.
Then, with 27 minutes on the clock, Peamount really should have taken the lead. Aine O'Gorman forced the ball into the box from the right, Eleanor Ryan-Doyle kept it alive, and Barrett contrived to drill the ball wide from ten yards out.
When those earlier crosses were sailing into the 'keeper's arms, Wexford had one-on-one situations at the back post, simply because O'Gorman had no interest in getting back to double up.
A good cross was always likely to cause Peamount problems and Claire O'Riordan delivered it in the 31st minute. Kylie Murphy arrived with impeccable timing to nod down and past McAloon to open the scoring.
Wexford were buzzing forward and when the impressive Becky Conroy forced O'Riordan in two minutes later, she poked a shot hight that McAloon saved.
The hosts then messed up a three-on-one opportunity on a quick counter-attack from a Peamount corner, with Edel Kennedy eventually firing harmlessly wide.
The home side did go two up in the 40th minute. Conroy picked up the ball on the left, just outside the area, and let fly with a shot that beat the undersized McAloon and nestled in the back of the Peamount net.
The half-time whistle undoubtedly came at the wrong time for Wexford, as they were well on top at that stage and it gave United the opportunity to re-group. They took full advantage and got on the front foot immediately after the re-start.
With the pressure building since the resumption, Wexford dodged a bullet in the 54th minute.
O'Gorman took a right wing free down the line to Barrett that Youths reacted slowly to. The Peamount striker crossed and Conroy's outstretched hand made contact with the ball above her head.
In fairness to Michelle O'Neill, who gave two handballs in the first-half that were ball-to-hand, she was probably a little unsighted through bodies. However, the linesperson was in a great position and failed to raise her flag.
Peamount, who seem to have caught the Shelbourne bug of appealing for everything, no matter how obvious it is that it's not a free, were apoplectic at this point. However, they channelled it in the correct way and were level seven minutes later.
Eleanor Ryan-Doyle ghosted in between he defence and advancing goalkeeper to latch on to O'Gorman's ball and tuck away the first. Barrett's free-kick airmailed a tardy Sophie Lenehan hand five minutes later to level the game.
At that point in proceedings there looked only one winner, yet Peamount went back into their shell and never went close to scoring again. On the other hand, Wexford created a couple of half-chances without overloading in attacking positions.
McAloon had to make a smart save from Conroy on the left in the 68th minute. Orla Casey came on and added a real spark in the final third, and it was her turn, run and strike that troubled the visiting stopper in added-time.
A draw is probably a decent result for both sides at this stage of the season. Wexford will want to get back to winning ways quickly though, and they travel to Galway on Saturday looking for an important three points.
Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon, Amy Walsh; Edel Kennedy, Kylie Murphy; Aoibhín Webb, Rianna Jarrett, Becky Conroy; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Aisling Frawley for Webb (76), Orla Casey for Jarrett (78), Becky Cassin for Conroy (90), also Ciamh Dollard, Katrina Parrock, Rebekah Carroll, Cliodhna Ní Shé.
Peamount: Naoisha McAloon; Lauryn O'Callaghan, Louise Corrigan, Chloe Moloney, Claire Walsh; Lucy McCarton, Karen Duggan; Aine O'Gorman, Niamh Farrelly, Eleanor Ryan-Doyle; Amber Barrett. Subs. - Sarah McKevitt for O'Callaghan (73), Niamh Barnes for Farrelly, inj. (78), also Niamh Reid-Burke, Lauren Kealy, Rachel Doyle, Megan Smyth-Lynch, Doireann Fahey.
Referee: Michelle O'Neill (Wexford).