The best foot­ball team in the land!

Youths the undis­puted best women’s team in Ire­land

Enniscorthy Guardian - - SPORT - DEAN GOODISON

Wex­ford Youths Women cel­e­brate af­ter com­plet­ing a do­mes­tic tre­ble with a 1-0 win over Peamount United in the Con­ti­nen­tal Tyres Women’s FAI Cup fi­nal in the Aviva Sta­dium on Sun­day.

KA­T­RINA PARROCK’S 35th-minute goal en­sured Wex­ford Youths ended the sea­son as the undis­puted best in the land, with a Con­ti­nen­tal Tyres Women’s FAI Cup tro­phy sit­ting pretty with league and shield hon­ours.

It was fit­ting too. If any­one has flown un­der the radar on an unas­sum­ing team that makes win­ning a habit far away from the lights of the big city clubs, it’s Parrock.

Com­ing from where she has, with suc­cess­ful teams in a dif­fer­ent game, she was the right woman for the big mo­ment in the Aviva Sta­dium on Sun­day, just as she has been be­fore.

It’s a strange old game. You can fin­ish nine points be­hind a side, lose two of the last three match-ups against the same op­po­si­tion, but end the sea­son in flashy fash­ion against a weak team with noth­ing to play for and sud­denly you be­come cup fi­nal favourites.

To see Youths priced up as un­der­dogs and hear so many pun­dits pick their op­po­nents to win, it must have grated a lit­tle bit within the Wex­ford ranks. Just given the bare stats, it was bizarre, but for any­one who has watched the four meet­ings be­tween the sides this sea­son, it was mind-bog­gling.

Women’s sport cries out for re­spect but does the best team in this coun­try, in the big­gest sport in the world, even get the re­spect they de­serve within their own game? It doesn’t seem that way, whether it’s for all the win­ning they do, or all the in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion they don’t get.

There’s an in­ter­est­ing quote that comes to mind from Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Mc­Carthy. In 2010 he was fed up with the per­cep­tion of his team and coined the phrase, ‘we’re no­body’s un­der­dog’; it feels per­fectly apt for this group of Youths.

This team can’t be un­der the radar any more, this team has to as­sume the man­tle of favourites go­ing into next sea­son, con­tinue to treat op­po­nents with the re­spect they de­serve, but at the same time find the swag­ger of cham­pi­ons.

To some it might be hard to make sense of it all. Look at Doire­ann Fa­hey, pre­ferred to Becky Cassin - some­one who has come in at dif­fer­ent times in a cou­ple of po­si­tions and rarely put a foot wrong.

Fa­hey is not only the poster girl for Tom Elmes’ regime but also a shin­ing ex­am­ple of what can be achieved when real vet­eran lead­er­ship and youth­ful hunger col­lide. The 17-year-old was raw com­ing in from Peamount, there’s no doubt about it.

But the Dublin side had no real in­ter­est in mak­ing her bet­ter. In Wex­ford she has learned, learned to play her po­si­tion, to stop div­ing into tack­les (usu­ally), and learned to con­trib­ute to a team ethos that’s about more than just win­ning, it’s about win­ning the right way.

Wex­ford won this cup fi­nal the right way. They won it not only with good, hard hon­est graft but with the class to pick their mo­ments and man­u­fac­ture their chances. They are pa­tient in an era when pa­tience is more than a virtue; they know one great chance is bet­ter that ten half-chances if you make it count.

Peamount didn’t have pa­tience, and they gave up try­ing to prise open the Youths de­fence quite early on. In fact, the longer this sea­son and games be­tween the two have gone on, the more des­per­ate they have be­come in the Wex­ford half of the field.

This is the first clean sheet for Wex­ford against this side this sea­son, and it’s got to the point where Peamount sim­ply don’t know how to break them down. There is no way through, around or over, this rear­guard, and they looked com­pletely lost, de­void of the be­lief to even form ideas in the sec­ond-half.

In a sport­ing en­vi­ron­ment that lauds at­tack­ing play and goals and of­ten for­gets the beauty that lies at the other end of the field, how Wex­ford stran­gled the life out of Shel­bourne and Peamount at dif­fer­ent times this sea­son is a purist’s dream.

The only time Wex­ford blinked a lit­tle for a sus­tained pe­riod was in the open­ing quar­ter. Maybe some­what sur­pris­ingly, Youths looked a lit­tle more on edge than Peamount, as they just couldn’t set­tle on the ball and knock it around like they can.

At that stage they needed their goal­keeper. Man­ager Elmes talked about his ex­pec­ta­tions for So­phie Lene­han a lit­tle af­ter the game. He was adamant that she should make those saves but Wex­ford ‘keep­ers haven’t al­ways made those stops.

They are ones the Wex­ford stop­per would ex­pect to make her­self but there has been a clear shift in Lene­han in the last cou­ple of months. Tech­ni­cally she is im­prov­ing - straight arm up rather than swip­ing- and her read­ing of the game and sharp­ness off her line was prob­a­bly the best it has ever been in this game.

But it’s Lene­han’s con­fi­dence that feeds into the team’s con­fi­dence, as if she’s not dom­i­nant in ev­ery­thing she does, how can her team be­lieve it? It’s in this area that she has made huge leaps and her con­tri­bu­tion to this sea­son should not be over­looked.

The save from O’Gor­man was par­tic­u­larly sweet as her fin­ger­tips grazed across the ball and pushed it over as Peamount threat­ened early. At the other end ev­ery­thing was a lit­tle un­tidy in the first 30 min­utes; the passes in the fi­nal third were off and they just needed to set­tle.

The key mo­ment to that set­tling came in the 30th minute. Ni­cola Sin­nott popped off a throw to Emma Hans­berry - play­ing wide on the right with Fraw­ley through the mid­dle.

She fed Kylie Mur­phy right of goal, 25 me­tres out, and the cap­tain set the tone with a fizzing shot that flew nar­rowly wide.

Wex­ford kept press­ing and had the ball in the net in the 33rd minute. First things first, Edel Kennedy was lucky to get the free-kick in the build-up, but Peamount were just as lucky that the lineswoman ruled out her goal from Hans­berry’s free­kick af­ter Rianna Jar­rett’s slight nudge on the de­fender.

Jar­rett was a sur­prise starter for Wex­ford, com­ing off her frac­tured foot in­jury. She cer­tainly wasn’t fully fit and any game other than the cup fi­nal she prob­a­bly wouldn’t have played, but her pres­ence alone gave Youths a dif­fer­ent dy­namic.

She was in­volved again when flick­ing on Emma Hans­berry’s right wing cross in the 35th min- ute. Con­trol in these sit­u­a­tions is one as­pect of the game Parrock needed to work on com­ing into top level soc­cer last sea­son.

And her im­prove­ment was there to see as she cush­ioned the ball bril­liantly, turned and poked past Naoisha McAloon to open the scor­ing.

Just when things looked set­tled for half-time, player of the year nom­i­nee Lau­ren Dwyer found her­self a lit­tle high up the field, leav­ing Am­ber Bar­rett one-on-one with Or­laith Con­lon, and the Done­gal na­tive broke into the box and went to ground un­der pres­sure from the Youths de­fender.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing one as the gen­eral con­sen­sus seems to be that it was a penalty. What is also clear is that the Peamount for­ward glanced at Con­lon, eased into her path, and the Wex­ford de­fender put out a to­ken ef­fort boot with min­i­mal con­tact that Bar­rett lapped up.

The prob­lem that the Peamount striker has is that she has a grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion for ini­ti­at­ing con­tact while si­mul­ta­ne­ously los­ing con­trol of her legs and crum­bling to the ground.

That said, Con­lon needed to not bite on the bait, so it’s one that could have gone ei­ther way.

Wex­ford came out af­ter the in­ter­val and looked by far the more com­posed side and were able to con­trol the game and play it at their own pace. Emma Hans­berry’s ball was flopped to­wards goal by Kennedy but lacked the force to beat the Peamount ‘keeper.

Youths weren’t cre­at­ing much but nei­ther were their op­po­nents. Pot­shots came at the Wex­ford goal from Karen Dug­gan, from Bar­rett and from O’Gor­man, but Lene­han was never re­ally trou­bled.

Af­ter throw­ing Con­lon into her goal­keeper ear­lier, Bar­rett flung her­self to the ground with al­most zero con­tact in the box again as the half wore on, but once more ref­eree Vicki McEn­ery was un­moved.

Things all looked good for Wex­ford un­til the loud­speaker an­nounced that there would be four min­utes of added time.

Then Wex­ford com­pletely lost the plot, which was strange be­cause they have closed out games in mas­terly man­ner all sea­son. Rather than keep­ing pos­ses­sion, or head­ing to the corner, it all got des­per­ate and Peamount sensed the ner­vous­ness.

It all came to a head with a mad scram­ble in the box, as Bar­rett turned across the edge of the area and Lau­ren Dwyer dived in with a crazy tackle. Two things went in the Youths de­fender’s favour: her op­po­nent’s his­tory and the fact that once again Bar­rett was on her way to the ground be­fore con­tact was made.

If the Peamount and Ire­land for­ward just ran through the tackle and went over, the ref­eree prob­a­bly would have seen the con­tact cre­at­ing the fall, but from McEn­ery’s viewpoint the legs col­lapsed be­fore Dwyer con­nected and it must have left her with doubt about the badly mist­imed tackle.

Wex­ford still had to scram­ble the ball clear but they just about man­aged it, wrap­ping up their sec­ond FAI Cup in four years to go with their four league ti­tles, two shields and a league cup suc­cess.

Wex­ford Youths - no­body’s un­der­dog; not any longer any­way.

Wex­ford Youths: So­phie Lene­han; Ni­cola Sin­nott, Lau­ren Dwyer, Or­laith Con­lon, Doire­ann Fa­hey; Kylie Mur­phy (capt.); Emma Hans­berry, Edel Kennedy, Ais­ling Fraw­ley, Ka­t­rina Parrock; Rianna Jar­rett. Subs. - Orla Casey for Jar­rett (72), McKenna David­son for Parrock (79), also Ci­amh Dol­lard, Ciara De­laney, Aoife Slat­tery, Becky Cassin, Rachel Hutchin­son.

Peamount United: Naoisha McAloon; Lau­ryn O’Cal­laghan, Louise Cor­ri­gan (capt.), Chloe Moloney, Lucy McCartin; Karen Dug­gan, Ni­amh Far­relly; Áine O’Gor­man, Eleanor Ryan-Doyle, Me­gan Lynch-Smith; Am­ber Bar­rett. Subs. - Claire Walsh for McCar­tan (55), Dearb­haile Beirne for Smyth-Lynch (64), Louise Master­son for O’Cal­laghan (90), also Sarah McKe­vitt, Ni­amh Barnes, Lau­ren Kealy, Jade Reddy.

Ref­eree: Vicki McEn­ery (West­meath).

Rianna Jar­rett, Or­laith Con­lon and Lau­ren Dwyer with the spoils of suc­cess.

Wex­ford Youths Women cel­e­brate their third piece of sil­ver­ware this sea­son.

Edel Kennedy and Karen Dug­gan bat­tling in the air.

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