General football, Ireland, WFAI Cup, Women's football

Underdogs Wexford are top dogs

Underdogs Wexford Youths claimed the 2019 Women’s FAI Cup with a determined win over favourites Peamount United. The showpiece was a repeat of last year’s tense decider, however this year there were goals and chances aplenty.

Youth’s laid the foundations for this victory nearly a month ago – in the semi-final victory over Galway. On that occasion, they came from behind to book their place in the decider. Here, Youth’s took an early lead and although pegged back twice, their experience helped them to see the game out and secure back-to-back Women’s FAI Cup victories.

So Wexford

Double goal scoring hero, Lauren Kelly revealed the foundation plan. “For the semi-final, we were thinking of how we could change it up. They’re going to be expecting Rianna up top. It’s so Wexford, it has been going on for years. (The change of tactics) worked out really well against Galway so he decided we’d play like that again against Shels and it just worked out for the last few matches.”

Manager Tom Elms explained, “playing two up top, we knew that Rianna was going to take a lot of attention. I think they would have planned to put their two centre halves on her and we knew that was going to free up that second striker and you could see that with the first goal – the space that Lauren (Kelly) had. With the space we had it meant that we could begin on the front foot and get early support.”

Sea of green

Peamount had matched Wexford for most of this game, however, a 64th minute run by substitute McKenna Davidson setup the winner. Her run pulled centre half, Louise Corrigan out of position and created the space for captain Kylie Murphy to run onto and finish Rianna Jarrett’s layoff. It was harsh on Corrigan who had been commanding to that point. Murphy also reiterated the change in formation went some way to deciding the cup. “I really felt it hurt them, it felt like every time we went up the pitch, it felt like we were going to score. It wasn’t just turning around and looking up and seeing Rianna (Jarrett) in a sea of green, Lauren was there and I was joining in and think Tom got it spot on.”

Off script

Such was the day, even when Youth’s went off script, the ball ended up in the back of the net. Lauren Kelly revealed her lobbed finish in the 34th minute – to put Wexford back in front – shouldn’t have been, due to a prior meeting with Peamount’s goalkeeper. “We played Peamount a few weeks ago and usually Naoisha (McAloon) would play in goal, but Niamh (Reid-Burke) played that day. We were in on goal about three times and we tried to lob it over, but she’s just the type of goalkeeper you can’t lob. So, we went into the match, I was walking out with the girls, ‘shots go low, shots go low’ and then I lobbed it. I don’t know why I did that. It bounced awkwardly and hit it on the volley and thankfully it went in.”

Dreaming

It has been quite a few months for Kelly. In July, she netted a blockbuster of a strike for Ireland to defeat Brazil on the way to a fourth-place finish at the World University Games. Then in August, she scored in Youth’s Champions League campaign, where they won two out of their three games. “This whole year has been great for me, especially in Italy at the World Games, scoring against Brazil, stuff like that you dream of when you’re younger. Scoring in the Champions League as well, they’re things you dream of when you’re younger. It has been a really good year for me personally.”

Respect

Kelly couldn’t hide her delight at netting against Peamount, a club she spent three years with – only leaving to get game-time. However, you get the feeling there’s huge respect amongst the players, particularly when rivalries are put to one side and they pull on the green jersey for the likes of the University Games. “I have all the respect in the world for Peamount. I loved my time there, but when you’re not getting a game, you have to look after yourself. To go back and score against them, you’ve proved yourself in a way.” That respect carries through to her manager, Tom Elms and Wexford Youths, who she credits for taking her in and having faith. “Since I’ve come to Wexford, Tom has been very patient with me. I’m so grateful for Tom giving me a chance and having faith in me. It’s good to re-pay him and the girls as well, they’ve been so nice since I came to Wexford.”

Consistent Peamount had won 18 of their 21 league games this season but couldn’t shake the dogged underdogs. While Wexford built from the front with a little faith in their ex-Pea.

Andy Donlan.

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