Tuesday 28 January 2020

Two cup exits in eight days

Wexford Youth 1 UCD Waves 2

Orla Casey of Wexford Youths racing clear of Dearbhaile Beirne (UCD Waves) in Saturday's semi-final
Orla Casey of Wexford Youths racing clear of Dearbhaile Beirne (UCD Waves) in Saturday's semi-final
Wexford Youths attacker Claire O'Riordan in a tussle with UCD Waves midfielder Orlagh Nolan
Linda Douglas of Wexford Youths trying to make inroads during Saturday's loss to UCD Waves

Dean Goodison

That's two now, two in eight days; the League Cup and now the Shield, two trophies that won't be coming to Ferrycarrig Park later in the season.

When will it be three, or four? Soon, it's as simple as that because if things don't change quickly this team hasn't a hope.

Maybe you remember Bullseye, the long-running ITV quiz show based on the sport of darts. It's currently re-run on Challenge for the younger generation to gain a full appreciation of Jim Bowen's hosting skills.

In Bullseye, the winning pair, already loaded down with 1980s tat, made the final round, where they could choose to play for the star prize, usually a lovely car, a caravan or a fancy holiday. Between them, they needed to throw 101 or more in six darts to take the whole shebang.

The player who threw the darts all show was generally a pretty good pub player and they would throw second. The person answering the questions threw first; often they could hardly aim straight and the viewer always wondered would poor old scorekeeper Tony get a dart in the ear.

Is this methodology, 21st century style, the secret behind Laura Heffernan's team selection? Those little magnet-filled plastic circles with players' initials scribbled on them, flung at her white board, see where they land and take it from there.

The team is set up in a way that accentuates the players' weaknesses, game after game. Sometimes good coaches are not natural managers and maybe that's part of what's going on here.

The manager should have recognised that playing your best defender in midfield wasn't working after three games and saved face there. We tried something, it didn't work, fair enough, move on.

There are now eight competitive games gone and Wexford Youths rarely string a passing move together. The movement in possession is poor and confidence is plummeting. They are now an aimless long-ball team, feeding off scraps and opponents' mistakes.

This whole season has taken on the look of a management team intent on self-preservation. The talk of 're-building' at the start of the season was embarrassing. Re-building what?

Last season, which was deemed unacceptable, this side finished two points off second and only well behind a team that has since been decimated.

There was a moment in the second-half when Kylie Murphy was caught in possession, and it was far from the only time a Youths player was caught dallying with the ball. The Wexford captain turned round to chastise her defence for the late warning call.

Forgetting the poor spatial awareness from the Wexford captain for one minute, both Heffernan and assistant Denny Carthy flew to the edge of the technical area to also have a go at the defence.

It must be hurting the players at this stage, as you only have so many shots at winning a league title and this one is there for the taking. It must eat away at players, particularly the experienced ones, that their own hopes and dreams are being eroded by friendly fire.

It's certainly getting to supporters. Generally fans of Youths women are as jovial as you'll find anywhere, they are delighted by success, proud of their team in failure but they are not fools, the expressions are getting grimmer, the murmurs of discontent becoming louder and louder.

It's certainly getting to supporters. Generally fans of Youths women are as jovial as you'll find anywhere. They are delighted by success, proud of their team in failure, but they are not fools. The expressions are getting grimmer, the murmurs of discontent becoming louder and louder.

The only time when Wexford look any way lively at all is when they are going full bore, like they did right after kick-off. It's not because the midfield suddenly becomes a strength, it's because they occasionally win the ball back higher up the field.

That's what happened when Aoibhín Webb, playing in a central attacking midfield role, picked up the ball and slipped Claire O'Riordan into the clear in the eighth minute. Her low shot was too close to Brooke Dunne and the 'keeper saved with ease.

After Gleeson booted behind to repel the danger caused by Aine O'Gorman, the UCD attacker swung in a corner that Rebekah Carroll helped on to Dearbhaile Beirne, and she poked her shot onto the foot of the post.

At the other end, in the 19th minute, Webb fed deep into the left channel for O'Riordan who whipped in a cross that was just a little too long for the arriving Orla Casey. UCD took the lead at the start of the second quarter in comical fashion.

Karen Duggan smacked a speculative, 30-yard shot that cannoned off Jess Gleeson and spun up into the air. Tamara Furlong, confused, half came to meet it, didn't get there and watched in horror as the ball spun off the deck, over her head and into the net.

A nice move down the right by UCD ended with O'Gorman poking across to Beirne in the 36th minute but her shot was tipped over by Furlong. That was the last real chance of note as Youths went in at the break trailing.

Like in the first-half, Wexford emerged playing with a quicker tempo. Lauren Dwyer forced the ball through to O'Riordan in the 47th minute but her attempt to loft over Brooke Dunne was thwarted by the Waves stopper.

In what was almost a re-run of the goal they conceded against Cork, Linda Douglas defended Kerri Letmon's ball to the back post with O'Gorman lurking. Moments later Webb burst clear, crossed from the right to Siobhán Doolan, and she hit the crossbar with the far half of the goal gaping.

Duggan saw a shot easily saved by Furlong before O'Riordan sent a weak volley dribbling towards the Waves goal from Doolan's cross at the other end. The visitors went 2-0 up in the 65th minute and against it was preventable.

O'Gorman sent a flat corner into the six-yard box from the left and it slipped through Furlong's hands. Douglas managed to head off the line but Kerri Letmon wanted it most when it floated back into the six-yard box and she headed home.

Wexford had no response until Rachel Hutchinson came off the bench. Suddenly someone in midfield was comfortable in possession and knew how to pick a pass. Becky Cassin headed over her right wing corner in the 78th minute.

With ten minutes left Hutchinson's delivery had Dunne flapping; the ball fell to O'Riordan and she fired to an empty net to half the deficit. However, Wexford never looked like grabbing an equaliser, in fact UCD looked more likely to score again.

Irish international Julie Ann Russell, playing her last game for UCD before leaving for Australia, slipped O'Gorman into the clear but Furlong saved with her legs. Later Emily Cahill's header from O'Gorman's corner was cleared off the line by Orlaith Conlon.

The Waves were able to comfortably play out almost five minutes of added time to advance to a Shield final. Wexford return to action on June 24 away to Galway.

Wexford Youths: Tamara Furlong; Linda Douglas, Nicola Sinnott, Orlaith Conlon, Lauren Dwyer; Jess Gleeson; Orla Casey, Aoibhín Webb, Kylie Murphy (capt.), Siobhán Doolan; Claire O'Riordan. Subs. - Becky Cassin for Doolan, inj. (68), Rachel Hutchinson for Webb (75), Chelsee Snell for Dwyer, inj. (90+3), also Sophie Lenehan, Amy Wilson.

UCD Waves: Brooke Dunne; Aisling Dunbar, Emily Cahill, Rebekah Carroll, Catherine Cronin; Karen Duggan, Orlagh Nolan; Julie Ann Russell, Aine O'Gorman (capt.), Dearbhaile Beirne; Kerri Letmon. Subs. - Lauren Kelly for Letmon (73), also Erica Turner, Sinéad Gaynor, Sophie O'Donoghue, Orla Haran.

Referee: Michelle O'Neill.

Wexford People