Friday 24 May 2019

Women claim a major scalp

Shelbourne 1 Wexford Youths 3

Claire O’Riordan wins this tussle. Photograph: Martin Doherty
Claire O’Riordan wins this tussle. Photograph: Martin Doherty

Consider this a statement - a first-ever Continental Tyres Women's National League away win for Wexford Youths against Shelbourne on Saturday.

It would be wrong to say that these clubs bring the best out of each other, as that's not necessarily the case. However, meetings between these fierce rivals usually show exactly what kind of state each side is in.

Shelbourne came into the game with what, on paper, looked like a decent run of form after an early mauling at the hands of Peamount. Yet the hosts in the A.U.L. complex simply couldn't live with Wexford on the counter-attack and in truth the gulf on the scoreboard could have been much wider.

A two-goal win for Youths was the largest margin of victory in a game between the sides since Gary Hunt's Wexford team collapsed to a heavy defeat in the FAI Cup final back in November, 2016.

It just goes to show how long 18 months is in the Women's National League, with Wexford now the champions, the ones with the target on their backs but still dealing with the pressure with the minimum of fuss.

This was Jess Gleeson's first game against her old club and she was no match for the red-hot Rianna Jarrett. With her unique skill set, the Wexford striker should have been on Colin Bell's radar at the end of last season.

The Republic of Ireland boss was present for this encounter and it seems unlikely that Jarrett's form can be ignored any longer with the international break coming up in a couple of weeks.

Having moved to further her international ambitions, Gleeson was outshone at the other end by the best two central defenders on the park.

Ironically, on form both Lauren Dwyer and Orlaith Conlon should now be ahead of the Shelbourne defender in those bubbling under the international squad, with Dwyer arguably the best centre-half in the league so far this season.

Wexford had all the early chances as they began what would turn into their best performance of the season to date. Claire O'Riordan headed just inches over the crossbar from an Aisling Frawley cross in the opening moments.

The Wexford winger then sent Rianna Jarrett through on Amanda McQuillan but the Shelbourne goalkeeper won the first battle. O'Riordan then rounded the hosts' 'keeper but Lynn Craven got back to clear off the line.

There was no surprise when the opening goal came in the visitors' favour in the 34th minute. A Frawley corner from the left was only cleared as far as Edel Kennedy on the edge of the box. She worked it back towards goal and Rianna Jarrett hooked it home from eight yards out.

Wexford were happy to let Shelbourne have possession but struggle to break down a rock-solid back four protected by an energetic and forceful Kylie Murphy and Kennedy shielding in front. Going in at the break a goal up suited Youths just fine.

That pattern continued early in the second-half until just after the hour mark when Wexford doubled their lead.

The goal came from another Frawley corner, and it was flicked on by the excellent O'Riordan at the near post, past the stranded advancing McQuillan.

Jarrett and O'Riordan had chances to wrap up the points as the half wore on but Shelbourne did pull a goal back at the other end in the final ten minutes when Pearl Slattery nodded Jamie Finn's cross past Sophie Lenehan in the Youths goal.

Rather than cracking, Wexford kept playing their game and they wrapped up the victory in injury time. Frawley broke quickly down the left, and with Shelbourne over-exposed she squared to Katrina Parrock on the right edge of the box.

The former Kilmore player was only on the field a matter of seconds but she took her time, set herself and drilled past McQuillan to score her first goal of the season, a strike that ensured Wexford moved back to the top of the table ahead of Peamount's game against U.C.D. on Sunday.

Wexford face Kilkenny at home in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday (3 p.m.), a game that is currently scheduled to be their last before the international break.

They then return to league action on June 23 when their game at Limerick will provide the showpiece match-up of the Gaynor Cup weekend in U.L.

Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon, Becky Cassin; Edel Kennedy, Kylie Murphy; Aisling Frawley, Orla Casey, Claire O'Riordan; Rianna Jarrett. Subs. - Becky Conroy for Casey, Katrina Parrock for Jarrett, Amy Walsh for Kennedy, also Cliodhna Ní Shé, Rachel Hutchinson, Ciara Delaney.

Shelbourne: Amanda McQuillan, Jess Gleeson, Pearl Slattery, Alex Kavanagh, Leanne Kiernan, Rachel Graham, Noelle Murray (capt.), Jamie Finn, Niamh Prior, Lynn Craven, Isibeal Atkinson. Subs. - Alannah McEvoy for Prior, Roma McLoughlin for Murray, also Seána Cooke, Fiona Donnelly, Rachel Kelly, Kate Mooney, Karley Leavy.

Wexford People