Women in driving seat after two wins
Newcomer among the goals
WEXFORD YOUTHS moved six points clear at the top of the Continental Tyres Women’s National League table with four second-half goals against Kilkenny United in the Watershed on Wednesday.
With his side facing into a gruelling schedule in the coming weeks, manager Tom Elmes took the opportunity to flip around his team a little and it took them a while to find their mojo.
However, once debutant Doireann Fahey curled home a 50th-minute opener, Youths eased away to win.
As well as former Peamount youngster Fahey at left-back, Aoife Slattery also made her debut in the holding midfield role.
Cliodhna Ní Shé, Katrina Parrock, Emma Hansberry and Becky Conroy all came into the side, while Ciamh Dollard kept the goalkeeper’s spot ahead of the returning Sophie Lenehan.
With such wholesale changes, it was hardly any surprise that Wexford struggled in the firsthalf. The pace and intensity that put Peamount to the sword was non-existent in the opening 45 minutes as the hosts battened down the hatches and defended admirably.
While the middle of the field was swamped, the opportunities were present in the wide areas but Youths struggled to win those one-on-one battles without Aisling Frawley and Claire O’Riordan.
It wasn’t until Nicola Sinnott got forward from right-back to double up and put in quality crosses that Wexford looked like piercing through the hosts’ defensive wall.
Both of the newbies showed huge promise. Apart from her goal, Kildare native Fahey was comfortable at left-back and did superbly when pushing on in the second-half.
Slattery showed composure beyond her years and consistently demostrated her eye for a pass into the congestion in front of her.
Throw into the mix the imminent arrival of Hawaiian McKenna Davidson and Youths suddenly have serious depth in their squad. The American forward looks to have the tools to play any of the four attacking positions in Elmes’ side and could be a hugely important addition ahead of August’s Champions League campaign.
Wexford didn’t get much joy in that area of the field in the opening half. Their first chance of note came in the 30th minute when Slattery’s ball over the top sent Kylie Murphy away, but the Youths captain meekly headed into the grateful hands of Niamh Coombes with just the Kilkenny goalkeeper to beat.
Ann Marie Burke forced Ciamh Dollard to get low to make a sharp save in the 37th minute, but the longer the half wore on the more Wexford pressed.
Conroy nodded a Hansberry cross wide and the in-form Rianna Jarrett probably should have scored when she headed over from Sinnott’s cross two minutes before the break.
Wexford did take the lead in the 50th minute. Fahey, breaking from deep, played a one-two with Becky Conroy, and from the left edge of the area curled a perfectly-placed right-footed shot to the bottom far corner to open the scoring.
Youths were a different team after the opener, as the tension was all gone from their play. The introduction of Orlaith Conlon and Edel Kennedy, in particular, helped.
It meant a move to the right for Emma Hansberry, and Kilkenny simply couldn’t deal with the Sligo native in that position.
It was her right-wing corner that was fumbled by Coombes and bundled home by Orlaith Conlon to make it 2-0 in the 56th minute. However, as the majority of her side celebrated, Rianna Jarrett lay prone on the floor.
After some attention by physio Nigel Fitzharris, Jarrett continued, put in a sprint but was quickly withdrawn and worryingly had her knee iced and wrapped.
The injury seemed to break the Wexford flow for ten minutes but as the game headed into the final quarter they hit their stride again.
Conroy missed proper connection on a Hansberry cross before a combination of Murphy and Conlon couldn’t force another corner over the line.
However, the captain powered home a 74th-minute header from a left-wing Hansberry corner to make it three.
Twice more Conroy was denied, Hansberry shot narrowly wide from a fantastic Fahey low cross, and Coombes somehow denied Kennedy from close range. Then Kilkenny hit back with a rasping Leah Doyle drive from 25 yards out to give them some hope.
Yet the pattern of the game continued. Orla Casey narrowly missed a telling touch from Hansberry’s low, fizzing cross before the chief creator turned goalscorer in the 88th minute when lifting over Coombes from Conroy’s delicate flicked through ball.
A dinked Casey effort in the final minute just grazed the top of the crossbar on the way over but it mattered little in the end.
The result put Wexford six points clear of Shelbourne heading into the weekend fixtures, with Peamount a point further back.
Wexford Youths: Ciamh Dollard; Nicola Sinnott, Cliodhna Ní Shé, Lauren Dwyer, Doireann Fahey; Aoife Slattery; Katrina Parrock, Emma Hansberry, Kylie Murphy (capt.), Becky Conroy; Rianna Jarrett. Subs. - Edel Kennedy for Parrock (55), Orlaith Conlon for Ní Shé (55), Orla Casey for Jarrett, inj. (58), also Sophie Lenehan, Amy Walsh, Becky Cassin, Rachel Hutchinson.
Kilkenny United: Niamh Coombes; Aoife Brophy, Sarah O’Donoghue (capt.), Shauna Martin, Leah Doyle; Carla McManus, Gillian Keenan, Ciara Maher, Colleen Rickards, Ann Marie Burke; Nicole Plunkett. Subs. - Niamh Kelly for Plunkett (46), Erin Best for Burke (46), Jennifer O’Neill for Rickards (78), also Megan Butler, Sara O’Sullivan, Tiffany Roberts.
Referee: Tristan Eardley (Kilkenny).
Nicola Sinnott shields the ball from Lucia Lobata of Galway during the home win on Saturday.