Tadhg Williams reports from Tolka Park
Emily Whelan’s second-half header ensured it was the home side that came away with all three points today as Shelbourne and Wexford Youths met for the first time the season.
Whelan headed the winner just before the hour after Ciara Grant’s early strike was cancelled out always immediately by Youths captain Kylie Murphy.
Wexford started strongly and their first attempt on goal came only two minutes in as Lauren Kelly and Murphy linked up nicely on a quick counter-attack to play Aisling Frawley in. Her shot from the edge of the box went well past the left post.
Shelbourne had a heart in mouth moment only a couple of minutes later. Ellen Molloy closed down Pearl Slattery in her own box, blocked the ball down for Vanessa Ogbonn,a but her shot was easy for Rachael Kelly to gather.
Shelbourne began to come into the game more ten minutes in. Izzy Atkinson looking dangerous on a couple of runs from left full, and a very organised midfield trio of Ciara Grant, Alex Kavanagh and Jamie Finn passing the ball well.
Their possession was rewarded in the 13th minute when Ciara Grant picked up the ball on the right flank and her cross floated over the head of Wexford keeper Ciamh Gray and in off the left post.
Caught up in their celebrations, Shelbourne dropped their heads. A Wexford attack straight from kick off allowed Aisling Frawley to play in Kylie Murphy to mark her 200th appearance with a very classy finish.
Despite a shortage of chances, it was a very even first half and both midfields were putting each other under a lot of pressure. The Shelbourne midfield trio played some very classy passing football.
Jess Ziu and Izzy Atkinson were both looking dangerous on the attack but the Wexford defence was very solid and dealt with Shelbourne attacks quite easily.
Wexford had a blatant penalty shout with five minutes to go in the first half. Pearl Slattery pushed Murphy right on the penalty spot and there was a strong reaction from the Youths bench.
Wexford were been furious not to have had the chance to go 2-1 up.
The penalty appeal put in little bit more fire in Wexford bellies approaching half time. A scramble in the box from a Youths corner had Shels goalkeeper Rachael Kelly struggling to get her hands on the ball.
Somewhere amongst the madness there was an Ellen Molloy bicycle kick but the ball was eventually cleared by the Shelbourne defence.
The second half was more of the same from both teams. Some very intelligent football on display at times, Murphy bossing the midfield for Wexford, while Noelle Murray was at the centre of almost every Shelbourne opportunity.
Wexford’s first chance of the half came ten minutes in. Ogbonna put Shels’ goalkeeper Rachael Kelly under serious pressure and she was forced to pick up the ball just outside her own box.
The resulting free kick was curled around the wall by recent Ireland call-up Ellen Molloy and saved well by Kelly to redeem herself.
Shelbourne responded a couple of minutes later, Jess Ziu going on a mazy run down the right flank and cutting inside to play the ball out to Emily Whelan, who hit a really good, curling effort from outside the box.
Ciamh Gray’s athleticism got her across the goal to make an incredible strong-handed save, pushing the ball past the post.
Just before the hour, Shelbourne went 2-1 up. Noelle Murray put in an inch-perfect cross onto head of Emily Whelan.
Her header bulleted past Ciamh Gray in the Wexford goal – a first goal of the season for the Irish international.
Ogbonna showed a lot of strength up front for Wexford throughout the game, shrugging off Rebecca Cooke to square it to Aisling Frawley.
Time and space wasn’t enough for the Wexford winger as the ball landed in the arms of Rachael Kelly.
A period of sustained Shelbourne pressure ended with Slattery unlucky not to get her name on the score sheet. Another Murray cross was met by Slattery’s glancing header just past the left post.
Murray seemed to be the source of every Shelbourne attack in the second half. She picked out substitute Niamh McLaughlin down the left flank, who cut inside nicely but her shot was blocked down by Lauren Dwyer.
Wexford unleashed a couple of dangerous attacks with ten minutes to go, Ogbonna again playing a part in producing a great chance.
She fired the ball across to Kylie Murphy, who caught it on the half-volley that sailed over the bar. A very dangerous period of possession for Youths nevertheless.
Murphy had another chance on 85 minutes with a free kick from a very soft foul. Her effort barely floated over the bar.
Murray nearly scored the goal of the season with two minutes left in normal time. A Shels corner was cleared by Wexford only out as far as Murray, 25 yards out, hit a gorgeous curling half volley, rattling the post.
Wexford, desperate to get a deserved point out the game, piled on the pressure in the closing minutes, Molloy nearly scoring a backheal from Ogbonna’s ball into the box.
Molloy had another chance deep into added time as her free kick was pushed around the post by goalkeeper Kelly.
Wexford’s two-week hiatus from competitive football was obvious today as Shelbourne were the sharper side in the second half.
The introduction of underage internationals Blessing Kingsley and Aoibheann Clancy certainly gave Wexford a boost, especially in the last ten minutes, but Dave Bell’s side defended well and maintained a 2-1 victory.
At the same time, Tom Elmes and Youths will be travelling back to Wexford tonight disappointed to have not taken a point with them.
Shelbourne: Rachael Kelly; Rebecca Cooke, Pearl Slattery, Rachel Graham, Izzy Atkinson; Jamie Finn, Alex Kavanagh (Jess Gleeson 74), Ciara Grant (Niamh McLaughlin 66); Noelle Murray, Jess Ziu, Emily Whelan
Subs not used: Mia Dodd, Jess Gargan, Kate Mooney, Jenny McDade, Ella O’Connell
Booked: Emily Whelan (77).
Wexford Youths: Ciamh Gray; Ciara Rossiter, Lauren Dwyer, Nicola Sinnott, Lynn Craven; Aisling Frawley (Aoibheann Clancy 66), Edel Kennedy, Kylie Murphy (C), Ellen Molloy; Lauren Kelly (Blessing Kingsley 66), Vanessa Ogbonna
Subs not used: Maeve Williams (gk), Orlaith Conlon, Kira Bates-Crosby, Breda Cushen.
Referee: David Dunne
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Noelle Murray (Shelbourne).