Wexford Youths host fellow title-chasers Shelbourne at Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday afternoon looking to secure the first silverware of the 2019 season (kick-off 3pm).
Last year’s treble champions have been supplanted at the top of the table, for now, by Peamount United but will look to build confidence by regaining the league cup.
Youths lost out to Peamount at the same venue last year and, like last year, they’ve got a Champions League qualifying campaign to look forward to next month.
A 4-1 win over Kilkenny United last week has them well-prepped after thanks to a brace from captain Kylie Murphy and one each from McKenna Davidson and Ciara Rossiter.
New signing Fiona Ryan was given a run-out from the bench, while this week saw the addition of Ireland under-17 captain Ellen Molloy from Thomastown United.
“We had a good win and performance last week so we come into the game in good form,” manager Tom Elmes told the league’s official website.
“The full squad is available and we’ve made some new signings, so it will be good to get them some playing time too. Training is going well and everybody is looking forward to the game.
“I think we both play good football, and so I’m expecting it to be a good match. There is no doubting that winning becomes a habit and that’s what we want for this team.
“We have a big few weeks coming up, as we have the Champions League on the horizon too, but there’s silverware on the line and so we’ll be focused on that on the day.”
Shelbourne’s preparation for the cup final hasn’t been ideal as they’ve been without a game in three weeks as a result of the World University Games.
Shels had five players in the squad, including University captain Chloe Mustaki, as Dave Connell’s side achieved a best-ever finish of fourth place.
That experience will have stood the players in good stead, not least goalkeeper Amanda McQuillan who scored and saved a penalty in the quarter-final shoot-out win over China.
Jess Gargan and Lynn Craven were also centrally-invovled in Naples and will return to their clubs in high spirits following their international success.
“Everybody is looking forward to the game, especially as we haven’t played in a few weeks now,” said midfielder Rachel Graham.
“We can’t wait to get back out playing. Both sides are doing well so far this year, so it should be a good game.
“We’re past the mid-way point of the season, so we will both be keen to keep up our momentum. It’s the first silverware on offer this season, so that’s always a draw.
“As a side we go out to play every game knowing we are capable of getting the win, and I don’t see why it would be any different on Sunday.”
Referee: Michelle O’Neill.
The sides have met once in the league so far this season with nothing to separate the sides in a scoreless draw at Frank Cooke Park.
Four meetings in all competitions last season yielded three wins for Youths and one for Shelbourne, including a 2-1 win for Youths in the Shield semi-final at Ferrycarrig Park.
The two traded away wins, with Wexford winning 3-1 at the AUL before Shels returned the favour by winning 3-1 in Wexford, while the final game ended 1-0 to Youths.
Wexford Youths 11/10; Draw 13/5; Shelbourne 6/4.
Wexford Youths 1 – 2 Shelbourne