Dave Donnelly reports from PRL Park
Wexford Youths produced a rousing second-half comeback to secure a point at PRL Park and become the first side to take points from champions Peamount United.
Goals in the final 15 minutes from defender Nicole Sinnott and captain Kylie Murphy saw the visitors share the points having gone in two goals down at the break.
Megan Smyth-Lynch opened the scoring after just five minutes, while Aine O’Gorman doubled the lead in injury time, but the champions nevertheless dropped their first points of the season.
The home side were blessed to take a two-goal lead into half time, having endured long spells of pressure from Tom Elmes’ side, and the visitors were full value for the point after 90 minutes.
Indeed, Peas had keeper Naoisha McAloon to thank for a string of finish saves after the break, not least from sub Blessing Kingsley in injury time.
Last season’s double winners raced into an early lead in front of the watching eyes of Ireland manager Vera Pauw as Smyth-Lynch enhanced her reputation as a scorer of spectacular goals.
The hosts started the game at a fine clip and had already threatened the goal a couple of times when captain O’Gorman launched a deep cross from the right wing.
Wexford could have been forgiven for seeing little danger as the ball floated towards the winger on the edge of the box, but she produced a fine acrobatic volley that bounced in off the opposite post.
Peamount had all the play in the opening quarter-hour, and Karen Duggan saw her lofted shot bounce onto the top of the net as the home side pushed for a second.
Youths should have had a quick chance to equalise, though, when McAloon clattered Lauren Dwyer in her attempt to reach a cross from deep, but the visitors’ appeals were waved away.
Wexford slowly grew into the game and Murphy, continuing in the unfamiliar role of the central striker, headed straight at McAloon before another effort from distance was gathered by the keeper.
The league’s top scorer, Eleanor Ryan Doyle, looked to have doubled the home side’s lead just before the break as she rounded Kiev Gray but she was harshly judged to have strayed offside.
They wouldn’t have to wait long for the second goal, however, as O’Gorman wriggled free and planted a wonderful strike in off the bar with the final kick of the half.
Elmes introduced the more attacking Lynn Craven for Orlaith Conlon at the break, with Edel Kennedy stepping back into the back three, and the new shape saw them enjoy more front-foot ball.
The rare site of Peamount booting the ball long and aimlessly from defence was a feature of the second half as they came under continued pressure from the Youths front three.
Ellen Molloy, who was not scheduled to play after being left out of the Ireland squad due to an ongoing injury, began to play a more prominent role as the away side became more adventurous.
The first warning came just past the hour as a beautifully-struck Murphy free kick was clawed away from goal by the in-form McAloon, who is on standby for the Iceland double-header next week.
O’Gorman drew a straightforward save from Gray with a shot from distance before Molloy likewise kept McAloon honest from a similar distance.
McAloon then produced another spectacular save to deny a superb effort from Kingsley, who has signed back with Youths on her summer break from college in Mississipi.
Wexford looked more balanced with Carlow woman Kingsley up front ahead of Murphy, and the extra space in behind allowed Molloy to earn a corner with another speculative effort.
Aoibheann Clancy sent the set-piece in from the left and defender Sinnott evaded her marker to head home from point-blank range.
It was no less than Youths deserved and Peas manager James O’Callaghan signalled his intention to see out the game by replacing Ryan Doyle with defender Dora Gorman.
Ciara Rossiter’s lateral free kick from deep was only just missed by Lauren Dwyer at the back post as Wexford poured forward in search of a leveller.
Murphy had the ball in the net eight minutes from time as McAloon dropped a cross from the right but, bizarrely, Kingsley was judged to be offside despite seeming to take the ball from deep.
The equaliser did arrive two minutes from time and Rossiter, who showed Pauw what she can offer when pushed forward in the second half, produced a moment of magic from the left.
The versatile widewoman led Lauryn O’Callaghan down the garden path and back again before drilling in a cross that was the perfect height for her captain to nod home from two yards.
Rossiter almost provided the winner as she again made space where there was none and cross low for Kingsley but the striker took her shot first time when she had time and McAloon gathered.
Remarkably, there was still more drama as the fifth minute of injury time ticked on and Karen Duggan was found from a corner but a mass of Youths bodies kept the ball from crossing the line.
Were Peamount to nick it, it would have been typical of the ruthlessness that has seen them nick the title two seasons in a row, but a draw was a fair result on a thrilling evening in Greenogue.
Peamount United: Naoisha McAloon; Lauryn O’Callaghan, Claire Walsh, Tiegan Ruddy, Deirbhaile Beirne; Karen Duggan, Lucy McCartan, Sadhbh Doyle (Steph Roche 67); Aine O’Gorman, Megan Smyth-Lynch (Alannah McEvoy 73), Eleanor Ryan Doyle (Dora O’Gorman 84).
Subs not used: Niamh Reid-Burke (gk), Della Doherty, Orlaith Fitzpatrick, Chloe Smullens, Louise Masterson, Becky Watkins.
Wexford Youths: Kiev Gray; Orlaith Conlon (Lynn Craven 46), Nicola Sinnott, Lauren Dwyer; Aisling Frawley (Blessing Kingsley 64), Edel Kennedy, Aoibheann Clancy, Lynn Marie Grant, Ciara Rossiter; Ellen Molloy, Kylie Murphy.
Subs not used: Maeve Williams (gk), Doireann Fahey, Kira Bates-Crosbie, Kim Flood, Katie O’Regan, Lauren Kelly, Sinead Taylor.
Referee: Claire Purcell.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Ciara Rossiter (Wexford Youths).