Slick Shels run riot
WEXFORD YOUTHS' Enda McGuill Cup dream was brought to a crashing halt by Shelbourne Under-19s on Tuesday evening last.
At a bitterly-cold Tolka Park, Mick Wallace's men all but kissed goodbye to their hopes after a below par first-half performance that saw the hosts lead 3-0 at the break. The Youths were a different outfit in the second period but were unable to convert their dominance into a goal, and their evening went from bad to worse when Shels striker Liam Donnelly netted from the penalty spot on 80 minutes to complete his hattrick.
Wallace and co. brought a decent following with them from Ferrycarrig Park but unfortunately for the travelling support, they didn't have much to cheer about in the early stages. Wexford almost fell behind on 13 minutes when Stephen Sheerin's cross from the left sailed menacingly close to Brandon O'Callaghan's crossbar, and the frantically back-tracking goalkeeper was very grateful to see it avoid his net.
Four minutes later though the visitors' resolve was broken. Dylan Cashin sent in a low cross from the right that Sheerin brilliantly dummied, leaving it on a plate for Matthew Taylor to sweep home into the bottom corner.
Donnelly joined Taylor on the scoresheet six minutes later. A poor touch from a Wexford defender was pounced upon by Donnelly and the striker weaved his way past two men before slotting past O'Callaghan.
Another error from the away side, this time from Mark Donoghue, saw Taylor seize possession and he danced into the penalty area but just as he seemed poised to double his tally, Dale Scallan threw himself in the way to execute a perfectly-timed block.
Scallan could do nothing to prevent Shels from making it 3-0 two minutes before the break though. Alex Prizeman somehow left two for dead on the byline with some remarkable footwork before cutting the ball back to Donnelly who coolly side-footed home his secondg.
The Wexford side were probably grateful to hear the referee's whistle blow for half-time as it gave them a chance to re-group, and that is precisely what they did.
Despite their significant improvement, they still lacked something of a cutting edge. They bossed possession but they constantly failed to find that final ball which would have created a goalscoring opportunity for them. The closest they came to finding a riposte was Benny Fitzpatrick's bobbling drive which stung the fingertips of Ryan Graydon, but there was no Wexford man sniffing around for the rebound so Graydon lived to tell the tale.
Graydon was beaten on 79 minutes but Gary Delaney's header from Chris Penner's corner kick cannoned back off the crossbar.
Graydon's opposite number, Brandon O'Callaghan, then suffered the misfortune of conceding a penalty when he clipped Donnelly as the striker looked to have rounded the shotstopper. Donnelly dusted himself down and dispatched the spot kick to seal his side's place in the Enda McGuill Cup final.