Super Wexford stun the Hoops
Wexford F.C. 3 Shamrock Rovers 2
Wexford stunned high-flying Shamrock Rovers to re-ignite their SSE Airtricity League Southern Elite Division Under-17 campaign in Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday.
The hosts had already met their Dublin opponents twice this season (once in a friendly and once in the league) and had conceded 13 goals between the two games, while failing to score on either occasion.
This time around Wexford had clearly learned their lesson and were simply magnificent in the opening half. Credit must be heaped on manager Derek O'Brien for his tactical approach against this strong Dublin side.
Setting up in an unfamiliar 3-5-2, Wexford pressed their opponents high and prevented them from playing out from the back, the Hoops' preferred style of play.
To their credit, Rovers still tried to play football and it worked magnificently into Wexford's hands as they nicked the ball on several occasions in the opening few minutes. Adham Masood and Kyle Kennedy both went close after winning the ball back high.
The breakthrough came after just seven minutes and was beautifully crafted.
Stephen Kearns' ball was dummied intelligently by Masood, leaving Craig O'Reilly in acres of space to finish calmly into the roof of the net.
The onslaught didn't relent there and Kennedy struck the post just three minutes later with a guided header.
Masood was causing further problems but lacked the composed finish required to lengthen the lead.
Being over-run in midfield and squandering possession easily to the dogged Model side, Rovers were forced into a change of tactics themselves.
They abandoned their 4-2-3-1 to copy Wexford's back three, and in an attempt to win back the midfield battle they left one man up and had no fewer than six players in the middle of the park.
For all of Wexford's intelligent game planning, they would have felt that a slender 1-0 lead at the break was less than sufficient and a tally which a stronger Rovers side would overturn.
Fortunately, Wexford crafted two more exquisite goals to give the league's second-placed team a mountain to climb. Kennedy crossed for O'Reilly to volley in his second in the 38th minute, and in stoppage time Kennedy scored a cracker himself.
The winger, who had started the move by switching the ball to Stephen Kearns, latched onto Masood's pull back to half-volley spectacularly with the outside of his right foot, off the post and in.
The Yellowbellies switched to a 4-2-3-1 themselves for the second-half as they looked to tighten up defensively, and for the majority of the time remaining this worked well.
Colum Feeney did have to be at his best to deny Kenny Cunningham and Dean Williams in the 57th and 60th minutes respectively, but after this short burst the Hoops looked frustrated.
Their breakthrough came in the 83rd minute almost out of nothing, when Emmanuel Odeniyi shrugged off the otherwise solid Reece Murphy to finish low.
Rovers got the second in injury time when Williams prodded home after a goalmouth scramble but it was all too little, too late, as Wexford kept their hopes of a top four finish alive with their most notable win of the season.
Wexford: Colum Feeney; Jack Gallagher, Reece Murphy, Cian Foley; Caellum Travers-Devlin, Patrick Barron, Craig O'Reilly, Kyle Kennedy, Stephen Kearns; Adham Masood, Liam Berry (capt.). Subs. - Nathan O'Connor for Travers-Devlin (46), Oscar Smith for Kennedy (61), Ciarán Paige for O'Reilly (65), Brandon Deady for Masood (73), Jason Daly for Kearns (86), also James Esser, Michael Walsh.
Shamrock Rovers: Gavin Bazuna; Eric Abulu, Adam O'Connor (capt.), Darren Prendergast, Martins Olakanye; Jack Priestly, Conor Behan, James Clarke, Jack Kelly, Kenny Cunningham; Dean Williams. Subs. - Emmanuel Odeniyi for Clarke (46), Adam Murphy for Cunningham (71), Jordan Tallon for Behan (73), Reece Murphy for Kelly (90), also Thomas Hannon.
Referee: Darren Ennis (Wexford).