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Wexford FC spoil Sligo’s party

Shortt’s extra-time winner creates major upset in Cup

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Harry Groome and Eoin Farrell trying to close down a Sligo Rovers attack.

Harry Groome and Eoin Farrell trying to close down a Sligo Rovers attack.

Paul Cleary trying to cut out a Sligo Rovers cross.

Paul Cleary trying to cut out a Sligo Rovers cross.

A determined Aaron Dobbs trying to win possession.

A determined Aaron Dobbs trying to win possession.

Newcomer Eoin Farrell defending a dangerous situation.

Newcomer Eoin Farrell defending a dangerous situation.

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Harry Groome and Eoin Farrell trying to close down a Sligo Rovers attack.

wexfordpeople

SLIGO ROVERS 1 WEXFORD FC 2 (AET)

WEXFORD FC brought Sligo Rovers’ incredible week to an abrupt halt on Sunday as John Russell’s side were dumped out of the FAI Cup in the opening round at the hands of First Division side Wexford.

Rovers took the lead early in the second-half in what was a dull encounter at The Showgrounds, with the visitors pulling one back in the 80th minute and forcing the match to extra-time.

The game looked like it was heading for penalties, until Ger Shortt struck in extra-time to win the tie for Wexford on a night that Rovers will want to forget.

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After what can only be described as an unforgettable week for the club, with Rovers beating Motherwell to reach the Europa Conference League third qualifying round on Thursday night, and the WNL side beating league leaders Shelbourne on Saturday, everyone was on a high.

John Russell made wholesale changes for the Extra.ie FAI Cup first round tie on Sunday, but was acutely aware of the chances of a shock given Rovers’ busy schedule in recent weeks.

The Rovers boss handed first starts to academy graduates Éanna Clancy, Kailin Barlow and Cillian Heaney, while Nando Pijnaker, Frank Liivak and Max Mata came into the team.

Shane Blaney, Will Fitzgerald, Aidan Keena, Karl O’Sullivan, David Cawley and Garry Buckley were all rested for this tie, and Wexford made the most of their depleted opposition to spring a surprise.

In a game that won’t live long in the memories of those who attended, neither side created much in the opening stages.

The lively Barlow tried to play in Mata after 14 minutes, but Alex Moody was equal to it and came well off his line to make the save.

Neither Luke McNicholas nor his counter-part Moody saw a lot of the action early on, but the Rovers netminder was called upon to save from Conor Barry who tried to catch out the 22-year-old from distance.

The hosts had several handball shouts waved way in the first-half, with Paul Cleary probably a relieved man to get away with a couple in the penalty area.

The best effort of the first-half came just before the interval. The busy Barry hit an effort goalwards that was certainly travelling, but McNicholas was equal to it.

Going in scoreless at half-time, both sides were going to have to up the ante after the restart, but Ian Ryan would certainly have been the happier of the two managers.

Thomas Considine burst forward on 46 minutes and tried the shot from a tough angle, when he probably should have squared it for the onrushing Barry who was to his left.

Aaron Dobbs, who is in great form in the league, dragged his shot wide on 52 minutes from Considine’s ball, before Rovers went ahead.

Estonian international Liivak was upended in the Wexford box by Adam Wells, and Aidan Keena, who came on at half-time, confidently struck his penalty down the middle to put Rovers ahead.

John Russell’s side might have been ahead, but they were anything but convincing.

Even going the goal down, Ian Ryan’s side never gave up and kept pushing. It was like they knew this game was there for them if they wanted it enough.

Keena almost made it 2-0 three minutes later when he shook off three Wexford players, with his effort hitting the far post.

Despite a five-minute burst, the Bit O’Red never really took hold of the game, and as time went on Wexford’s confidence grew.

Moody’s strong save on 69 minutes denied Liivak from Keena’s clever ball.

This was far from over, and the visitors proved that on 80 minutes when they were back on level terms.

As the Bit O’Red failed to clear their lines, former player Dinny Corcoran pulled the trigger inside the box to score against one of his old clubs.

Extra-time beckoned as neither side found a way through to score a winner, and it was much of the same.

Mark Byrne was left with his head in his hands when he missed a gilt-edged opportunity for Sligo.

A brilliant cross from Will Fitzgerald on 105 minutes found its way to Byrne on the far post, but the Mayo man couldn’t keep his header on target.

Mata dragged his shot wide on 110 minutes, with Wexford going ahead on 114 minutes, and just six minutes of extra-time remaining.

A cross-cum-shot from Ger Shortt, who was lively when he came on, caused McNicholas problems, and the young Rovers ‘keeper dropped the ball into the net.

It was a horrible goal for Rovers to concede, particularly for McNicholas who has been superb since taking Ed McGinty’s place in goals.

The Mayo man did make amends for his error moments later, though, as Shortt was through on goal again.

McNicholas bravely came off his line to smother the ball at the feet of Shortt who certainly would have made it 3-1.

No matter how hard they tried, Rovers couldn’t find a way back into the tie and Wexford came away from The Showgrounds with a well-deserved place in the FAI Cup second round.

It will leave them on a high for another long trip west on Friday, this time to face high-flying Galway United in the league in Eamonn Deacy Park at 7.45 p.m.

And there was fantastic news for the club yesterday (Tuesday) when they were drawn at home to Dundalk in the second round on August 28.

Wexford FC: Alex Moody, Eoin Farrell, Paul Cleary, Joe Manley, Adam Wells, Luka Lovic, Conor Crowley, Conor Barry, Thomas Considine, Harry Groome, Aaron Dobbs. Subs. – Ger Shortt for Considine (65), Jordon Tallon for Groome (65), Len O’Sullivan for Wells (79), Dinny Corcoran for Crowley (79), Conor Davis for Barry (90), Mitchell Byrne for Lovic (112), also Shay O’Leary, Aidan Friel, Evan Farrell.

Sligo Rovers: Luke McNicholas, Lewis Banks, Éanna Clancy, Nando Pijnaker, Paddy Kirk, Niall Morahan, Adam McDonnell, Kailin Barlow, Cillian Heaney, Frank Liivak, Max Mata. Subs. – Aidan Keena for Morahan (46), Mark Byrne for Heaney (64), Robbie Burton for Barlow (65), Garry Buckley for Clancy (78), David Cawley for McDonnell (78), Will Fitzgerald for Liivak (98).

Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo).


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