Wicklow’s class shines through as they edge past Wexford
Wicklow 3, Wexford 2: Last year’s beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists Wicklow started this SFAI U-16 Paul O’Neill Cup clash with Wexford in Lamberton, Arklow, as favourites having already defeated Carlow away in their opening fixture.
U-16 S.F.A.I. CUP A defensive error in the very first minute saw Wexford striker Robert Dempsey clean through on goal but he spurned the chance to score, putting his effort the wrong side of the post.
Less than two minutes later the Wexford side were to regret that missed opportunity as Irish international Aaron Barry set Dara Verney racing through the visitor’s defence to put Wicklow ahead, his low effort beating keeper Owen Healy.
The home side gained the upper hand and almost doubled their lead with a Keith Armstrong effort from distance grazing the upright. Wexford applied a more direct approach to their game with a series of long balls and almost levelled in the 18th minute through Ger O’Keefe.
O’Keefe evaded the home defenders but quick thinking from Wicklow keeper Cormac O’Brien thwarted the Wexford attacker, with the netminder injured in the process. Three minutes later though, Wexford levelled.
A corner from the left was hit deep and the Wexford number two rose highest to firmly direct home. The sides were level for no more than five minutes however, with Wicklow responding through Dara Verney’s awareness, a weighted through ball for striker Jack Tim Murphy and the Wicklow forward held off his marker to fire past Healy in the Wexford goal.
Wicklow began the second-half on top, with some lovely passages of play though their efforts on goal were all off target. Irish international Shane Murray, nominated for the FAI U-16 player of the year award, went close from a free-kick, his effort inches wide.
He followed that effort with a volley that smashed off a post, as Wicklow pushed hard to score a third. Credit though to Wexford, levelling a second time after substitute Wicklow keeper Jason Earls could only parry a Wexford strike with the visitor’s centre half first to react to the loose ball.
Wicklow continued to press and went ahead for the third time in the 65th minute. Clive Crammond found substitute Mark Hardy in space and Hardy kept his nerve firing home from twelve yards. Hardy went close to adding a fourth Wicklow goal, his headed effort going narrowly over the bar after excellent work from Aaron Barry.
Wicklow manager Brian Byrne was naturally delighted with the outcome, saying, ‘our class told in the end but Wexford put up a gallant performance’.
He added, ‘We scored some great individual goals but conceded through poor defensive work. We have been seriously hit with injuries recently so to get a result under the circumstances was good.
‘Both Shane Murray and Jack Tim Murphy today showed the quality that is needed to win tight games.’
The Wicklow team that defeated Wexford 3-2 in a S.F.A.I. U-16 Paul O'Neill Cup clash, played at Arklow recently.