Wexford aim to end disappointing season on high note
Soccer, Women's FAI Cup Final preview
Wexford Youths head to the Aviva Stadium for the FAI Women's Senior Cup final on Sunday trying to salvage something from a hugely disappointing season against SO Hotels Women's National League winners Peamount United.
Tom Elmes' side were cast adrift midway through the league campaign and surrendered their title with a whimper.
They lost the WNL League Cup final to Shelbourne and, despite some promise, slipped out of the Champions League at the group stages for the fourth time in as many attempts.
That all adds extra pressure to Wexford's final chance of silverware, a trip to the national stadium for a fourth Senior Cup final appearance since 2015.
In that first visit Youths claimed a dramatic triumph, defeating Shelbourne on penalties.
There was an embarrassing return to the Aviva in November, 2016, when Wexford were annihilated 5-0 in a re-match against the Tolka Park club.
Then, in 2017, Laura Heffernan's Youths were stunned by Cork at the semi-final stage.
As well as being a good manager for Youths, Elmes has been a lucky one too.
There's a running joke in the league that Wexford somehow always manage to get the favourable cup draws, and it certainly has panned out that way under his stewardship.
On their way to the final in 2018, Wexford were drawn at home to Cork and brushed them aside in the quarters. With Peamount and Shelbourne matched on the other side, Youths pulled the home tie against UCD Waves in the last four.
A hard-earned win sent Wexford into the decider where Katrina Parrock scored the only goal of the game as Youths took their second cup in four seasons. That luck of the draw has continued further this term.
Following on from favourable pairings in the League Cup, Wexford got the only non-league side in the last eight of the FAI Senior Cup.
They duly dispatched TEK United 4-1 and were in the hat with Peamount, Shelbourne and Galway for the semi-final draw.
Again, the two Dublin sides were drawn together and Wexford got the home tie against Galway, whom they dispatched 4-2 in one of their better attacking performances domestically to move into this decider against a Peamount team which saw off Shelbourne 2-0.
A victory would end a turbulent season in a manner that would give Wexford something to build on in 2020.
While the results haven't been up to scratch, arguably more worrying is the way the Ferrycarrig Park club have haemorrhaged playing staff this season.
New signings Sarah McKevitt and Jenny Clifford went early, Orla Casey soon followed, and Sophie Lenehan went with her to DLR. Ciara Delaney and Cliodhna Ní Shé didn't make it to Lithuania, while Katrina Parrock did but was soon gone.
Doireann Fahey was the only one that made a sideways move, heading to the States for a scholarship at Hartford.
Five of 'The Disappeared' played when Wexford had just twelve available players on the weekend of captain Kylie Murphy's hen party.
Those players shouldn't be forgotten come Sunday, as they kept a club going when others were unavailable.
Any time that number of players leave, there are clearly internal problems that will need addressing in the off-season, but the chance to win the cup comes first.
The Wexford team has been a little more settled in recent weeks, but their defensive struggles have been well publicised.
Before Saturday against Kilkenny, Lauren Dwyer hadn't started since the loss to Peamount in mid-September, but she must be in the first eleven against Peamount.
Elmes has been reluctant to pair Sinnott and Dwyer together until last weekend, with Orlaith Conlon his preferred starter at left centre-half.
Lynn Craven and Ciara Rossiter have made the full-back positions their own and have added a spark going forward, but Wexford haven't kept a clean sheet with either or both in defence this season.
In midfield, Murphy, Edel Kennedy and Lauren Kelly are automatic starters.
In the wide areas Aisling Frawley's form has improved, while McKenna Davidson has been the most consistent player in that position all season and there shouldn't be any surprises in those selections.
Wexford will need a big performance from Rianna Jarrett up top, in what may turn out to be one of her final appearances for the club, and there is very little doubt that she will be anything less than excellent.
The big decision for Elmes is his goalkeeper, as the repeated chopping and changing screams a lack of trust in any of his 'keepers.
Ciamh Dollard has taken the number one jersey in the last two weeks, but her blunder against Kilkenny could, and should, give Williams the edge.
Peamount have murdered lesser teams and have seamlessly progressed since Amber Barrett moved to FC Koln.
While they have plenty of attacking options, Eleanor Ryan-Doyle is a player that needs to be neutralised, and if Youths manage it they will fancy their chances.
The bookies' odds will suggest a Youths win is an upset as Tom Elmes' team have not got much out of their games with the top two.
Sometimes they didn't deserve more, on other occasions they did, but if Wexford play to the best of their ability there is every chance they will end a disappointing season in style.