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Monday 14 October 2019

Shels inflict more final pain

So Hotels Women's National League Cup Final: Wexford Youths 0 Shelbourne 1

Edel Kennedy of Wexford Youths in a midfield tussle with Alannah McEvoy
Edel Kennedy of Wexford Youths in a midfield tussle with Alannah McEvoy

Dean Goodison in Ferrycarrig Park

This was another in a catalogue of big game disappointments for Wexford Youths. Shelbourne were the opposition, with the WNL Cup the prize squandered in Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday.

It bore a lot of similarities to the goal-less league tie between these sides back in May. For the most part it was a cagey affair, and neither manager wanted to give anything away, but in the end one side was going to win eventually.

Wexford didn't create much again and it is becoming a pattern in big games. It's probably easy enough for Shelbourne to explain away the stifling of games as being part of the 'development' of their young team, but the shackles are doing Youths no good right now.

By and large, this Wexford team has experience. The defence, for example, should be able to handle these ties with less of an eye on their protection.

This was the fourth game this season against a fellow 'big three' member, and Wexford have scored one goal and garnered a solitary draw.

This in not a form line associated with Wexford Youths for much of the last five seasons. Creating a gameplan to nullify opponents and take as few risks as possible is great when you are winning matches, but that's not happening.

The way Tom Elmes wants to set up his team would work a treat with the right personnel to play it. Wexford could afford to be workmanlike in the heart of the midfield, be a spoiler, if they were getting joy in the wides areas, but that's just not happening either.

The way Shelbourne set up is best exploited in the wide areas. They played three at the back with their wide players pushed well up the field, and those players aren't much use in defensive situations.

But Wexford never looked like taking advantage, as the way to hit Shelbourne is to get speed in wide areas and feed them early. Neither Jess Gleeson nor Rachel Graham want any part of a speedy winger coming at them, but Youths have failed to exploit the opposition's biggest weakness twice now.

They will get another chance on Saturday, and the same team again will just not do the job. Blessing Kingsley has a bright future but is green at the moment, and these games are tough fare for a 17-year-old up against experienced, wily opponents.

Ciara Rossiter is an excellent footballer but not once did she look like scaring Gleeson. That's not her game, and Wexford looked like a team primed to swap her back and give Doireann Fahey a go at the former Youths defender.

Wexford don't have a Linda Douglas now, someone that can stretch the game and cause opponents problems with speed in wide areas. That comes down to recruitment as much as anything, and it seems that Wexford have stalled badly in that regard.

Aisling Frawley was missing again for this contest and, while the Waterford native has had a mediocre season to date, she might have at least given Shelbourne something to consider out wide.

It's unusual for a team not to be a bit more settled midway through a campaign. Right now Elmes doesn't really know who his number 1 is, he doesn't know who he wants to start with alongside Murphy and Kennedy in midfield, and he definitely doesn't know who his two best wide options are.

Pretty soon he may not even know who his starting striker is, and that's a scary position to be in, two weeks out from a UEFA Champions League campaign that will see Wexford face three good teams in six days.

Shelbourne had the better of the opening ten minutes, as Alex Kavanagh had an early shot saved and later flashed over from the edge of the area.

Emily Whelan sprinted away in the 14th minute and finished past Maeve Williams, but Wexford were saved by a questionable offside decision.

Wexford's first sight of goal came in the 19th minute when Fahey's back post corner was flicked towards goal by Jarrett but headed away by Gleeson.

Ten minutes later McKenna Davidson released Jarrett with the best pass of the afternoon, but the Youths striker went for power and couldn't beat Amanda McQuillan.

Lauren Dwyer sliced wide of her own goal from Noelle Murray's chipped ball into the box in the 32nd minute, before Whelan got behind the hosts' defence again in the 40th minute and scooped over the crossbar.

Considering how many free-kicks Michelle O'Neill gave for minimal contact throughout the 90 minutes, it was surprising that Rachel Graham didn't go into the book for a reckless challenge on Edel Kennedy 20 yards from goal.

Jarrett stepped up to the free-kick in a great position but wasted it with a powerful, high strike that cleared the crossbar by a couple of feet.

Goal-less at the break, Shelbourne went close when Williams pawed away an Allanah McEvoy scooped effort.

Williams easily held a Murray header in the 55th minute before Gleeson blocked a Rossiter shot at the other end.

Having been on top for the second-half, without creating much, Wexford fell behind when Whelan's burst left the defence flat-footed and she forced her finish past Williams.

Lynn Craven came on to make her Wexford Youths debut against her former team. She didn't get much service in her 17-minute cameo but she did add some energy to the left side of the hosts' attack.

Kennedy volleyed over from the edge of the area with 13 minutes left, but Wexford created very little when chasing the game.

Finally, in the 89th minute she won the ball back high up the pitch and had Shelbourne on the rack but took the wrong option by trying to force the ball across the box when Jarrett was outside her in a great position.

Wexford face Shelbourne again on Saturday evening where anything but a win will add the final nail in the coffin of their SÓ Hotels Women's National League title defence (Ferrycarrig Park, 6.30 p.m.).

Wexford Youths: Maeve Williams; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon, Doireann Fahey; Edel Kennedy, Kylie Murphy (capt.); Blessing Kingsley, McKenna Davidson, Ciara Rossiter; Rianna Jarrett. Subs. - Aoife Slattery for Kingsley (67), Lynn Craven for Rossiter (73), Katrina Parrock for Davidson (85), also Ciamh Dollard, Vanessa Ogbonna, Fiona Ryan, Becky Cassin.

Shelbourne: Amanda McQuillan; Rachel Graham, Pearl Slattery (capt.), Jess Gleeson; Chloe Mustaki; Emily Whelan, Jamie Finn, Alex Kavanagh, Jess Ziu, Alannah McEvoy; Noelle Murray. Subs. - Jess Gargan for Graham (65), Isibeal Atkinson for Murray (73), Kate Mooney for McEvoy (81), also Taylor White, Rebecca Cooke, Mia Dodd, Rebecca Creagh.

Referee: Michelle O'Neill (Wexford).

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