Wexford League 2 A.U.L. 1
Wexford Football League fought back from a goal behind at the break to overhaul the A.U.L. and book their place in the Oscar Traynor Trophy quarter-final.
After conceding inside the opening two minutes the Slaneysiders were up against it, but Gareth McCurtin drew Wexford level shortly after the switch of ends and Shane Dempsey grabbed the winning goal with just over 20 minutes remaining.
It was no more than the hosts deserved after a much-improved second-half performance when they had a significant enough breeze at their backs. They had been sluggish in the opening 45 minutes, but whatever manager John Godkin said at half-time clearly worked the oracle as their movement and passing was slicker and they pressed forward in numbers with far greater urgency.
The hosts got off to the worst possible start, with A.U.L. catching them cold and taking the lead in the second minute.
Philip Hand curled in an inswinging corner-kick from the right and experienced Sheriff Y.C. man John Lester rose highest to send a header to the net.
Wexford were reduced to pot-shots from distance in the early stages, with goalkeeper Keith Donoghue gathering Robin Dempsey's effort at the second attempt and Shane Dempsey hitting a well-struck piledriver just off target.
The home side did create a decent opportunity in the 15th minute when Adam Territ got to the byline and squared for the inrushing Kyle Dempsey, but Donoghue got down well to his left to thwart the striker.
It was the Dubliners' turn to threaten two minutes later when Lee Fetherston's swerving effort was deflected narrowly over the crossbar for a corner.
John Peare got on the end of a Shane Dempsey cross on 29 minutes but, under pressure, his header drifted wide of the right post.
The visitors ended the half well and twice had efforts on goal, with Stephen Donnelly warming the gloves of Lee Walker and Anthony McKay fizzing a shot wide of the left upright, although John O'Connor also went close for Wexford.
The hosts would have been looking for a positive start to the second period, and they got just that. The influential Shane Dempsey went close two minutes in when the goalkeeper tipped his vicious free-kick from the left side of the area on to the crossbar.
In a frantic spell they were almost undone at the other end, though, when Lee Walker had to produce a smart save with his feet to deny Donnelly after a mazy run.
Kyle Dempsey then dragged a shot wide but the equaliser did arrive with 50 minutes on the clock. Warren Broaders delivered a peach of a cross to the back post and Gareth McCurtin timed his run to perfection and steered a controlled header to the net.
The A.U.L. had their best spell of the game just after conceding, with Irish Junior international Stephen Donnelly twice having sights of goal, first seeing his effort blocked and then delaying too long before getting the shot away.
Donnelly then teed up Anthony McKay, but his effort drifted wide of the left post.
Wexford quickly regained their composure and settled back into a nice rhythm, and Robin Dempsey did well to make space for himself before playing a through ball to Adam Territ, but the hard-working Gorey Rangers man's scuffed effort was deflected out for a corner.
A.U.L. came close to getting their noses back in front on 67 minutes when Stephen Donnelly blazed a decent chance off target, and within 60 seconds they were picking the ball out of their net for a second time.
Shane Dempsey ran on to a perfectly-weighted pass from his North End clubmate Robin Dempsey and angled a shot past goalkeeper Keith Donoghue to the far corner of the net.
Wexford almost put the game to bed two minutes later but Gary Delaney's effort was cleared off the line by Philip Hand, while at the other end Stephen Donnelly continued to look the most likely scorer and on 72 minutes his rushed shot sailed wide.
Wexford comfortably dealt with what the A.U.L. threw at them in the remaining minutes, with Gary Delaney and Ian Sinnott mopping up pretty much everything that came their way, and the visitors suffered another blow when substitute Conor Brown was sent off as the game ticked into injury time.
Wexford went close to rubbing further salt into their wounds in the 93rd minute, with David 'Swack' Behan showing great determination to win possession and shrug off his marker before picking out Eoin Rhodes, but the goalkeeper did well to prevent the New Ross Celtic's man shot from creeping inside the post.
Wexford now have a last eight clash to look to forward to in the new year, while the A.U.L. will have to take a more scenic route in search of a quarter-final spot, as they face United Churches League for a place in the next round.
Wexford Football League: Lee Walker, Warren Broaders, Ian Sinnott, Gary Delaney, John O'Connor, Robin Dempsey, Gareth McCurtin, John Peare, Adam Territ, Shane Dempsey, Kyle Dempsey. Subs. - Conor Bruce for McCurtin (55), David Behan for Territ (66), James Peare for R. Dempsey (73), Dale Flynn for O'Connor (83), Eoin Rhodes for Peare (88), also Seán Culleton, Gary McClean, John Staples.
Athletic Union League: Keith Donoghue, Catalin Tibre, John Lester, Gavin McDermott, Philip Hand, Lee Fetherston, Brian Mooney, Paul McMillan, Shane Farrell, Anthony McKay, Stephen Donnelly. Subs. - Adam Byrne for Mooney (57), Brian Vokes for McKay (69), Conor Brown for Farrell (73), Glen Reddy for McMillan (79), also Jordan Buckley, Dean Byrne, Earnest Lemantovic.
Referee: Seamus Kelly.