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Captain Kylie Murphy on song in new striker role as Wexford Youths bag the goals they’ve been missing


Wexford Youths star Kylie Murphy has been a perennial driver of her team’s high standards. Photo: Sportsfile

Wexford Youths star Kylie Murphy has been a perennial driver of her team’s high standards. Photo: Sportsfile

Wexford Youths star Kylie Murphy has been a perennial driver of her team’s high standards. Photo: Sportsfile

When Rianna Jarrett and her shed load of goals parted ways with Wexford Youths two years ago, both were on the crest of a wave.

And it even seemed that they were beginning to cope with a sporting life without each other, too.

Despite being so reliant on her goals, Wexford swept to a 3-2 FAI Cup final win against Peamount without any direct goal-scoring contribution from Jarrett.

Having announced her international breakthrough by scoring against Ukraine at home, the Brighton-bound star seemed set to go from strength to strength, too, an impression hardened by an FA Cup debut goal.

However, despite earning an initial contract extension, she has since had to drop down a division and she has struggled to establish herself in Vera Pauw’s starting side.

Back home, Wexford have struggled, too.

Her eye-watering total of 27 goals helped Wexford hoover up a treble in the season before she departed, but since that 2019 cup success, the club have drawn a blank.

Identifying a goal-scoring replacement was an obvious requirement and they struggled to find one after a trophyless 2020.

Ultimately, the answer was right under their nose in the guise of evergreen midfielder Kylie Murphy, who has been charged with supporting the sparkling talents of teenager Ellen Molloy up front.

“I probably look back on last season,” recalls manager Stephen Quinn, “the year after Rianna left and it was a massive gap and the question is, ‘who is going to score the goals now?’

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“Because she was scoring 20 goals and more a season and other players were just putting a few in, but there’s no sole responsibility now. 

“Even though Kylie is centre-forward, everyone else has to put the ball in the back of the net too.”

Ask the Laois native her opinions on the switch and she deflects as befitting the character of a long-standing captain.

“All right, I always think I could do better,” the 33-year-old promptly demurs.

“I’d be very hard on myself as a player anyway. A new role, changing up to go up front, has been challenging.

“But I’ve enjoyed it and it has probably given me a new lease of life. I didn’t know what I was doing going into it. It wasn’t as natural as midfield has been for me. But I’ve been enjoying it.

“Getting on the score-sheet. But I think more about the chances I’ve missed. And the girls have been phenomenal, putting in chances for me, so I think of the ones I miss.

“Would they have made a difference in the title race? They would have.”

Despite her stature in the game, since she has lined out from the inaugural season in 2011, and impressive trophy haul, her reticence is understandable.

The stats don’t lie, however; Murphy has chipped in with 13 of her side’s goals, with team-mate and natural striker Molloy just pipping her on 14.

Murphy, a perennial dynamo driving Wexford to achieve higher standards, could not shirk the responsibility required with the absence of Jarrett, which itself had followed Amber Barrett’s exit from the club.

“Absolutely, of course, it did,” she reflects on the impact of ceding so much quality.

“Losing a player like her, there’s not that many out-and-out strikers in the league.

“We had to tweak a few things and a lot of people forget we lost our manager mid-season, even though Stephen stepped in and it was a seamless transition.

“I’m around a long time and I know myself I set standards and he didn’t have much time to breathe because it’s taken a lot of time to get where we are, we set standards and we didn’t want to let them slip. But he’s been phenomenal.

“Am I an out-and-out striker? I don’t know. I’m willing to do any type of job I’m asked to do.”

And one day’s work remains as she seeks to add a fifth cup to her three league titles accumulated since her first day at the coalface when the league started in 2011.

“We just need to give it everything,” she adds.

“All we can do is leave everything on the pitch. If we play to our full potential, whatever happens, will be. We need to look at each other and know we did enough for each other.”

Nobody will do more than a player proving her worth in goals.

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