Tuesday 24 April 2018

Shelbourne aim to make form count against holders Wexford in women's final showdown

Shelbourne v Wexford Youths, Live, RTE 2, 12.05 tomorrow

Wexford Youths' Claire O'Riordan. Photo: Sportsfile
Wexford Youths' Claire O'Riordan. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Over the space of five months last season, Shelbourne were pipped for the double by Wexford and tomorrow gives them the first opportunity for revenge.

In a repeat of last year's FAI women's cup decider, which Wexford clinched on a penalty shoot-out, Shels face the same opposition at Lansdowne Road (12.05pm) determined to regain a trophy they'd lifted in each of the previous three years.

Raheny United was the name on that trophy but they amalgamated with the Shels underage section last year and many of the stalwarts integral to the previous successes are back at the Dublin 4 venue tomorrow.

While Wexford caused an upset 12 months ago by denying the Dubs a four-in-a-row, much has changed since they completed the double in May by edging out Shels in a title play-off.

Not alone have they a new manager in Gary Hunt but serious injuries to key players have impacted on their prospects of dominating the domestic scene. Knee surgery for Ruth Fahy, Ciara Rossiter and goalkeeper Mary-Rose Kelly has robbed Wexford of three mainstays from their double-winning campaign.

They were unable to replicate the past feats of Peamount United and Raheny by progressing past the group stage of the UEFA Women's Cup, despite having home advantage, and a 3-1 league defeat to Shels four weeks ago at home has left them trailing their familiar foes by four points back in third spot.

They'll be without the influential Kylie Murphy, too, for their Lansdowne return due to suspension, yet the presence of natural goalscorer Claire O'Riordan arms them a focal point in attack. Although recent victories over UCD Waves and Cork City have shown they still possess firepower, Wexford's destiny could depend on how they cope with Shelbourne's threat up front. Teenager Leanne Kiernan has been prolific of late for Shels and Ireland's U-19s, a run Hunt is eager to nullify on the expansive pitch of the national stadium.

"We have very competent defenders, so even in a one-on-one battle with Shelbourne's players, I'd be pretty confident they can handle it," he said.

Despite the way this season has unravelled, Pearl Slattery of Shels still believes the pressure is on Wexford to retain their crown. "To us, Wexford are favourites in this final because they won the double last year," said the defender, contesting her third final.

Verdict: Shelbourne

Shelbourne (Probable) - McQuillan; Cooke, Slattery, Walsh, Higgins; Killeen, Graham, Douglas, Murray; Kavanagh, Kiernan.

Wexford Youths (Probable) - Lenehan; Sinnott, Gleeson, Dwyer, Walsh; Cassin, Hansberry; Douglas, Delahunty, Frawley; O'Riordan.

Irish Independent

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