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Thursday 20 June 2019

Women ease into cup final

Soccer, SO Hotels Women's League Cup Semi-final: Wexford Youths 5 Limerick FC 0

McKenna Davidson and Tara Mannix of Limerick F.C. in a race for possession
McKenna Davidson and Tara Mannix of Limerick F.C. in a race for possession

Dean Goodison in Ferrycarrig Park

Wexford Youths advanced to the SÓ Hotels Women’s National League Cup final by coasting past a limited Limerick in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday.

Tom Elmes’ side were able to completely control the game, clanking around in second gear while utilising their chances to pick apart an overmatched visiting outfit.

They will face Shelbourne in the decider on July 20 after the Tolka Park side edged past league leaders Peamount in the other semi-final.

In truth, it was an instantly forgettable 90 minutes of football.

The most important aspect of the weekend is that Wexford have now gone past an invisible division line in their fixture calendar.

From this point forward, half performances are no longer going to be good enough if Youths want to hit their goals this season.

There’s now two months until the Champions League qualifying and there is no more time for coasting.

The reasoning is two-fold. The long-standing goal of advancing out of the group and into the knockout stages with the top professionals is only going to be possible if Wexford build their form and gain some momentum heading into the mini-tournament.

Without moving fixtures forward, Youths will play six games before the Champions League and they need to approach each of those like they are cup finals.

Playing at Saturday’s pace, like they did heading into last season’s competition, is going to leave them playing catch-up from the first whistle.

The second reason is obvious. Wexford have four really tough battles ahead in those six games, three of them in the league, and are going to need to be better than this to still be in the race for the title when heading overseas.

This level of performance won’t be enough in Galway on Saturday and it won’t even be close to enough to beat Peamount seven days later.

Controlling the game needs to morph into controlling the game with added aggression and speed.

There was no instance when Wexford raised their level in this 90 minutes, as it was an unusually consistent, methodical pace for the entire contest.

In fact, early in the second-half, Limerick upped their tempo for a few minutes.

One of their coaching staff made the observation that ‘if we can get the goal we’ll have them rattled’.

If ever there was a fine line between delusion and optimism, Limerick found the man that could hover over it.

It was a slow start, and there was only really two moments of interest in the opening 15 minutes.

The first saw Vanessa Ogbonna pummelled by a Limerick defender as she broke away down the left but she did not win a free-kick from referee Nicky Boland.

The second was a third botched short corner routine (from three attempts) in two games.

The short corner is becoming the complicated free-kick of 2019.

It’s unnecessary as the stats don’t back up its usefulness in professional football, never mind at this level where well-placed direct corners are a nightmare for defenders.

It was on the left that Wexford opened the scoring in the 16th minute.

McKenna Davidson was back in the centre of midfield for this game but drifted wide in this attack before pulling back for Rianna Jarrett.

The Youths striker took her time, made a half-yard on her right foot and fired past Karen Connolly.

Sylvia Gee flashed over from distance for Limerick before Edel Kennedy broke clear on the right in the 25th minute and drilled well wide.

Wexford did net their second four minutes later and it was Kennedy who applied the finish after being slipped into the clear by Kylie Murphy.

The attacking midfielder had a chance to double her tally from Doireann Fahey’s pull-back before the interval but she scuffed the shot wide.

Apart from Fahey’s surges forward, Wexford hadn’t got much joy in wide areas in the first-half but that did improve a bit after the break.

Jarrett was provider in the 48th minute but again Kennedy saw her shot saved by the visiting ‘keeper.

It appeared Jarrett was onside when Lauren Dwyer released her from deep a minute later.

She was clean through on goal but the flag was up before a potential finish was applied.

Sophie Liston almost got in at the other end but Orlaith Conlon got just enough on her effort to make Sophie Lenehan’s save a routine one.

On the hour mark Wexford made it three.

This time Doireann Fahey slipped a succulent low through ball into Vanessa Ogbonna’s path, and she met it in stride, settled herself and calmly slotted past the advancing Connolly.

Lenehan had safe hands for a low Aoife Horgan strike in the 64th minute, while Aisling Frawley was twice denied when she broke through five minutes later at the other end.

The Wexford winger got far more joy once Chloe Willis was subbed off and most of the hosts’ attacks came down her wing in the final 20 minutes.

However, it was Blessing Kingsley who added the fourth in the 87th minute, as the Under-17 starlet raced onto a Kylie Murphy slipped pass and slotted beyond Connolly with ease.

Jarrett took on her defender three minutes later before shooting, and Frawley knocked it over the line from close range.

Connolly injured herself trying to keep the ball out of the net and, after being down for two minutes, referee Boland decided to dispense with added-time and blew the full-time whistle.

Either club has hosted this final in recent years so the decider against Shelbourne, who beat Peamount 2-1, will either take place in Wexford or Dublin.

Things get critical in the title race this weekend when Youths head to Galway on Saturday (Eamonn Deacy Park, 6 p.m.) to face the talented young westerners.

Keen rivals Peamount United visit Ferrycarrig Park seven days later in a clash of the current top two.

Wexford Youths: Sophie Lenehan; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon, Doireann Fahey; Kylie Murphy (capt.); Aisling Frawley, Edel Kennedy, McKenna Davidson, Vanessa Ogbonna; Rianna Jarrett. Subs. - Becky Cassin for Fahey (63), Blessing Kingsley for Ogbonna (63), Cliodhna Ní Shé for Davidson, inj. (76), also Ciara Delaney, Maeve Williams.

Limerick FC: Karen Connolly; Tara Mannix, Marie Curtin, Megan Kelleher (capt.), Chloe Willis; Anna Shine, Maura Shine, Sylvia Gee, Sophie Liston, Aoife Horgan; Chloe Connolly. Subs. - Meg Brennan for Willis (69), also Clodagh Doherty.

Referee: Nicky Boland.

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