Continental Tyres Women's League Cup final: Wexford Youths Women 1 Peamount United 2
Dreams of a possible quadruple died for Wexford Youths in Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday as Peamount snatched victory in the Continental Tyres Women's League Cup final.
Lauren Dwyer gave the hosts a first-half lead but Peamount were level three minutes into the second period when Áine O'Gorman found the net with a looping effort, before a fortuitous ricochet goal off Megan Smyth-Lynch secured the cup for the Dublin side late on.
While every trophy is important, this is priority three out of four on the domestic front. It's an important wake-up call at a critical juncture of the season, and 80 per cent is not going to be enough from here on in. It wasn't enough in this game.
That's three games for Wexford against Peamount this season and they have all been markedly different. The first, back in April, saw Youths eventually lucky to hang on for a point after going two goals up in the first-half.
They were shredded several times in that game but they quickly improved. Wexford dominated the second league clash in Greenogue, playing with an incredible hunger, no shortage of belief, and plenty of quality in as comfortable a 2-1 win as you'd see at this level.
This game had little bits of both of those games meshed, with an added something that's become more prevalent recently. The intensity wasn't there for Wexford, not to the same level as it was in Dublin two and a half months ago.
Yet, while it cost them in the possession stakes, Peamount still rarely looked like breaking Wexford down.
What the visitors did avail of is two more in a growing line of individual errors that have led to goals. The frustration of shooting yourself in the foot must be starting to build for players and management alike.
There's almost nothing more Tom Elmes could have done to put his side in a position to win this game. He started what he believed to be his best team, and made impactful changes, but got sucker-punched by two preventable moments filled with frustration.
While there might be two ways of looking at it, falling to errors has to carry more comfort than being cut to pieces, although the fact that these mistakes are now a recurring theme probably blunts that stance a little.
Becky Cassin was excellent the last time these sides met and it was no surprise that she kept the starting berth she has recently held at left-back. Going into this game there was probably no doubts about any other outfield position, but that may not be the case going forward.
The goalkeeping position has been a constant merry-go-round, which in itself can't be helping either Ciamh Dollard, who got the nod this time, Sophie Lenehan, who was back on the bench, or the defence trying to adjust week-to-week.
It's an horrifically difficult decision for management, and it could define the season, but the time has come to pick one and stick with it. Going for Lenehan was hugely important for Youths last term, and going with the potentially outstanding youngster again would be brave but could offer greater rewards.
There was nothing for either 'keeper to do in the opening ten minutes as the sides felt each other out. Jarrett almost got in from Sinnott's defensive header but, under pressure, the Wexford striker fired wide.
Peamount started to boss possession but found the Youths defence a tough nut to crack. O'Gorman twice missed the target before Dollard made a stop from Barrett's curling strike.
Wexford looked dangerous from set-pieces, with Pea's stopper Naoisha McAloon extremely uncomfortable with Katrina Parrock's presence right in front of her. One scrambled corner saw Edel Kennedy's shot blocked on its way to goal.
It was no surprise that it was another Hansberry delivery that created the opening goal. Aisling Frawley was barged into on the right, the delivery came over, and Lauren Dwyer ghosted in at the near post to head into the corner of the net.
With half an hour on the clock Wexford looked comfortable but United finished the half stronger and it gave the game a different complexion.
Yet for all the possession, Peamount only worked Dollard once from distance, when she beat away Karen Duggan's shot from the edge of the area.
Three minutes into the second-half the visitors were level. Barrett was pushed wide on the right and had only one option, to pull back to O'Gorman on the edge of the box.
The Irish international didn't connect well with her shot at all but it looped up, caught Dollard by surprise, and the flailing Wexford 'keeper could only push it into her own net.
Having created nothing of note themselves in an hour, clearly the hosts needed something different and it came in the form of diminutive Hawaiian McKenna Davidson. She came on for the struggling Frawley on the right wing and Wexford finally found an outlet that could win a one-on-one battle.
However, soon an insane session of 'tell McKenna where to go' began that seemed to involve most of the players but not the manager. It felt like everyone had a string and Davidson was their live marionette.
The crazy juxtaposition was that, despite the incessant moaning coming her way, she was the one player Peamount were worried about.
The visiting management told winger Megan Smyth-Lynch to 'sit in a bit because 10 is causing us all sorts of problems', and their first substitution was a straight swap at left-back.
Where the verbals did take their toll was on Davidson's final ball, which was below its usual level, but that was hardly surprising in the circumstances.
She did win a corner that McAloon flapped at, causing mayhem in the box, but Wexford couldn't force it home. Jarrett then laid off to Kennedy in the 65th minute but her shot cracked against the crossbar.
Despite referee Paula Brady getting more and more involved, especially in pointing the visitors' way, Peamount didn't threaten again until Chloe Maloney headed Smyth-Lynch's corner wide at the back post 17 minutes from time.
Wexford had seemed comfortable without looking like they were about to score themselves when Áine O'Gorman broke down the right side and sent in a low cross.
Lauren Dwyer hacked wildly at the first attempted clearance, thundered the second off Smyth-Lynch, and it rebounded into the Wexford net.
There was still eight minutes plus added time remaining but Wexford never looked like equalising. There was no real response and that suggests tiredness may be starting to set in after several long weeks of tough games.
Things get no easier on Saturday when Youths welcome Peamount back to Ferrycarrig in the league (kick-off 6.30 p.m.), before Shelbourne travel south three days later for the second of two games that could all-but decide the destination of the title.
Wexford Youths: Ciamh Dollard; Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer, Orlaith Conlon, Becky Cassin; Kylie Murphy (capt.); Aisling Frawley, Emma Hansberry, Edel Kennedy, Katrina Parrock; Rianna Jarrett. Subs. - McKenna Davidson for (65), Doireann Fahey for Parrock (81), Orla Casey for Hansberry (87), also Sophie Lenehan, Ciara Delaney, Rachel Hutchinson, Aoife Slattery.
Peamount United: Naoisha McAloon; Lauryn O'Callaghan, Louise Corrigan (capt.), Chloe Maloney, Lucy McCartan; Niamh Farrelly, Karen Duggan; Áine O'Gorman, Eleanor Ryan-Doyle, Megan Smyth-Lynch; Amber Barrett. Subs. - Niamh Barnes for McCartan (81), Sarah McKevitt for Smith-Lynch (90+2), also Niamh Reid-Burke, Jade Reddy, Louise Masterson, Claire Walsh.
Referee: Paula Brady (Dublin).