WICKLOW BOW OUT
Draw with Wexford not enough for Garden lads
A PLACE in the All-Ireland semi-final was up for grabs when Wicklow's U-16 county squad played host to Wexford schoolboys in Bridgewater Centre Park. Wicklow knew their fate was not in their own hands as NEC only had to match Wicklow's result when they took on Kildare to go through, as NEC have a superior goal difference.
A draw would be enough to see Wexford advance to the semis and the maroon and yellow's managed to get that result.
Wexford won the only previous encounter between the two sides this season with a 3-0 home win over their northerly neighbours.
The game started off with a lot of early pressure being applied by the visitors. Wexford's Sean Duffy forced Conor Clack into two good saves inside the first seven minutes of the game. Wexford had a lot of possession inside the WDSL half without creating many clear cut chances, this was a common pattern for much of the match.
Despite Wexford's dominance in possession it was Wicklow who took the lead. In the 14th minute Justin House headed his Coolboy and county team mate Adam Barnes through on goal, Barnes fired his shot past the keeper and into the top right hand corner to make it 1-0. Six minutes later Barnes continued to give the Wexford defence grief when he made a darting run down the right and played a ball into the penalty area but Adam Rochford was unable to convert.
Wicklow keeper Conor Clack continued to impress when he went full stretch to knock Ivan Meegan's effort from a free kick over. Wicklow's defence were putting in a steady performance but their resistance was finally broken five minutes before the break. This followed the odd substitution of Hugh Humby who was putting in a decent shift, did this knock Wicklow out of their rhythm? Ivan Meegan whipped in a corner from the right and John Dunne managed to meet the ball with his head and level the game at one each.
Wexford doubled their tally in stoppage time of the first half. Ivan Meegan picked up the ball on the right, curling a left footed shot over the keeper and into the far top corner, a peach of a finish to close out the half. The half time score line was 2-1 to Wexford Schoolboys. The complexion of Jim Barnes and Brian Kavanagh's half time team talk would have changed completely following the final five minutes of the half.
The second period began with Wexford looking to snatch a third and hand Wicklow an uphill task. Jack Gaynord slipped through Niall Keys who rattled the post with a rocket of an effort. In the 50th minute Adam Barnes had a chance to level it for Wicklow but his attempt from a failed clearance was saved by Jordan Betts.
Fifteen minutes later saw referee Jim Forde make a big decision by awarding Wicklow a penalty after Colin O'Toole was brought down in the box. The Wexford players and sideline protested the deci- sion but the judgement was indeed correct. Skipper Adam Barnes stepped up to take the kick, sending the keeper the wrong way to make it 2-2 and to double his and Wicklow's goal tally.
Wexford nearly struck back immediately with Lee Cullen firing his shot just wide. WDSL went in search of a winner in the final fifteen minutes. A move involving Justin House and Colin O'Toole ended with Adam Rochford shooting wide. Colin O'Toole continued to be a nuisance, cutting in from the left and letting fly. Goalkeeper, Betts was equal to O'Toole's effort.
The full time whistle sounded with the score two a piece and the points shared. This result sees Wexford Schoolboys advance as the group winners on 13 points. The draw means Wicklow exit the competition as NEC managed to comprehensively defeat Kildare by six goals to one to go through as runners up in the group on 12 points, two clear of WDSL. Interestingly enough NEC will face Wexford in the semi-finals.
Even though Wicklow exit the competition, a draw was a good result against a strong Wexford side that play a very easy on the eye style of football.
WDSL 1. Conor Clack, 2. Adam Doyle, 3. Sean Mulligan, 4. Eoin Forsyth, 5. Jordan Murray, 6. Hugh Humby, 7. Oisin McGlaughlin, 8. Darren Daly, 9. Adam Rochford, 10. Adam Barnes, 11. Justin House
SUBS: 12. Ryan Heffernan (for McGlaughlin, 72 mins), 13. Colin O'Toole (for Humby, 34 mins), 14. Jamie Power, 15. Oisin Daunt Smyth, 16. Tomas McDonald (for Rochford, 80 mins), 17.Cian Condron, 18. Liam O'Brien
WEXFORD SCHOOLBOYS 1. Jordan Betts, 2. Lee Busher, 3. Conor Nolan, 4. Martin O'Connor, 5. Ryan Byrne, 6. Lee Cullen, 7. Jack Gaynord, 8. John Dunne, 9. Sean Duffy, 10. Niall Keys, 11. Ivan Meegan SUBS: 12. James Costelloe, 13. Matthew Creane, 14. Lee Conroy (for Gaynord, 58 mins), 15. Daniel Murphy, 16. Michael O'Rourke, 18. Jason McGuire VENUE: Bridgewater Centre Park REFEREE: Jim Forde
The Wicklow team who were edged out of an All-Ireland semi-final spot despite drawing with Wexford at the weekend.