Fourth-placed finish after brilliant week of football
WEXFORD AND District Schoolboys League finished in fourth position in the SFAI Kennedy Cup after a brilliant week of football in the University of Limerick.
It could have been even better for the Slaneysiders, as they suffered an unfortunate 1-0 defeat to Cork in the semi-final, with the Rebels going on to win the tournament.
Wexford began their campaign on Monday evening of last week against West Waterford/East Cork. They controlled proceedings from the first minute but chances were hard to come by.
Danny Peiro-Doyle broke the deadlock before half-time with a speculative right-footed shot that deceived the ‘keeper at his near post.
He then doubled his tally just after half-time. A Rian O’Grady corner was headed down by captain Oisín McDonagh, and Doyle turned in from close range.
WWEC did pull one back midway through the second-half, but the Model county side held on for a comfortable and deserved 2-1 win.
Tuesday was the day when the second and third group games were played, and it was a day where all teams would find it most difficult in terms of squad rotation and managing players.
Wexford started the day with a morning kick-off against South Tipperary. The first-half offered very little in terms of chances, although Wexford had the better of things.
They had to wait until midway through the second-half for Darragh Buttle to poke home, and Darragh Sherlock added a second inside four minutes to double the advantage.
Tipp tried to put the pressure on for the remainder of the second-half, but the Wexford lads held firm.
Game two on Tuesday was always going to prove to be the decisive game in the group. With Wexford on two wins from two and NDSL on four points from six, after drawing that morning with WWEC, a draw would have been enough for the Slaneysiders.
The 4 p.m. kick-off started with a bang. NDSL opened proceedings with a goal inside the first five minutes, when for probably the only time in the tournament the Wexford defence was caught napping.
The response from Wexford was astounding. Oisín McDonagh fed Brian Ivers with a through ball and he coolly converted from 18 yards to level things up, and it stayed like that until half-time.
A resurgent and determined Wexford side emerged for the second-half. A double substitution ten minutes after the interval proved to be the catalyst for victory.
Marin Kisov came in and with probably only his second touch fired Wexford ahead with a blistering effort from just inside the penalty box to spark wild celebrations on the bench.
Cue Danny Peiro-Doyle. A Stephen Murphy delivery into the box from a free-kick was met by Doyle, who rose gracefully to plant his header in the bottom corner - 3-1 Wexford and job done.
With the group won, Wexford moved into the quarter-finals to play a strongly-fancied Galway side. In winning the group with three from three, John Fanning’s side became the first Wexford team in the history of the competition to claim all nine points.
Wexford started the quarter-final as underdogs on Wednesday in the 5 p.m. kick-off against a Galway side who were scoring for fun on the way to topping their group.
They were totally unfazed and got a dream start when Darragh Sherlock’s corner went straight in at the near post to send the Wexford lads and supporters into ecstasy on the hill.
However, despite some early dominance, Galway mustered a chance and a low cross from the left found the centre-forward who bundled it over the line. It was 1-1 at half-time.
Wexford made a few tactical changes at the break, when manager Fanning dropped his two wingers deeper to try to create space behind the high Galway line.
Two minutes into the half it worked. Brian Ivers showed neat footwork all week and he side-stepped two players in the middle of the park and played a defence-splitting pass of sheer quality onto the onrushing Ryan Wycherley, who clipped over the advancing Galway goalkeeper. It was a brilliant finish to spark more wild celebrations and put Wexford on their way.
Captain fantastic Oisín McDonagh finished off proceedings when he met a Darragh Sherlock corner ten minutes into the second-half, although it might have went straight in.
So, Wexford found themselves in the semi-final of the Kennedy Cup for only the second time in the history of the competition. Four wins from four and playing a lovely brand of football to earn their rightful place in the last four.
The semi-final was set for 3 p.m. on Thursday, day four of a hectic schedule, and Cork were the opposition. Both teams started brightly, with neither prepared to sit back.
A long ball forward from the Cork centre-back was to spell disaster for the Wexford players, management and supporters. Goalkeeper Enan Quinlan came to claim but lost his balance and ended up outside the box.
The referee didn’t hesitate to show red. It was probably harsh though as his first movement was inside the area, and maybe yellow might have been enough in the biggest game of this fabulous ‘keeper’s life.
The Cork goal came soon after when Eoin Looney drove a good effort in from 25 yards past Kenny Murphy, who had now been subbed in. The sending-off had the Wexford players and management in some shock but they kept things to 1-0 until the break.
The half-time words of encouragement must be still ringing in the players’ ears. The second-half performance from every player was vintage stuff.
They outplayed Cork for the majority of the half with a man down. McDonagh, Wycherley, Sherlock and Ivers all came so close to equalising but, despite the dominance, Wexford just couldn’t find the equalising goal. The final whistle went and it was 1-0.
It was an amazing effort from all players and management, and there was a rapturous reception from the hill from Wexford supporters and other county groups, who had come to show their support for these amazing young men.
Wexford finished off the week on Friday with a 3-1 defeat to DDSL in the third/fourth place play-off. John Fanning made a host of changes for this one, with tired legs and tired minds after a gripping semi-final the day before. Ryan Wycherley got the goal for Wexford.
An amazing week for these young men came to an end with a fourth-placed finish after brilliant performances right up to and including the semi-final.
These young men won the hearts of many other groups in Limerick and the officials. They are a credit to themselves, their parents, clubs and county. From one to 20 they were just fabulous.
Wexford squad: 1. Enan Quinlan (Gorey Rangers), 2. Alex Norval (Forth Celtic), 3. Rory Ahern (St. Joseph’s), 4. Oisín McDonagh (Glynn Barntown, capt.), 5. Noah Byrne (Gorey Rangers), 6. James Furlong (Adamstown), 7. Rian O’Grady (Forth Celtic), 8. Stephen Murphy (Gorey Rangers), 9. Darragh Buttle (Oylegate United), 10. Marin Kisov (St. Joseph’s), 11. Stephen Connor (St. Joseph’s), 12. Oisín Larkin (Shamrock Rovers), 13. Billy Martin (Glynn Barntown), 14. Caleb Watters (Gorey Rangers), 15. Eoin Tomkins (Gorey Rangers), 16. Kenny Murphy (Gorey Rangers), 17. Ryan Wycherly (Oylegate United), 18. Danny Peiro-Doyle (Glynn Barntown), 19. Darragh Sherlock (Glynn Barntown), 20. Brian Ivers (Newpark United).
Management team: John Fanning (manager), Dermot Warren (head coach), Dan Stenning, Conor Roche, John Kehoe (coaches), John Rossiter (goalkeeping coach), Miriam Sherlock (physio).