It was a late Dean Broaders penalty on Sunday that earned Youths a replay against their Munster League opponents and another Broaders goal from the penalty spot only eight minutes into it that sent them on their way into the 3rd round of the FAI Cup. But there was plenty of drama before the home side came from behind to take the tie with an 89th minute winner.
There is no longer a gulf between the better non League sides and the Airtricity First Division and there were those who thought manager Shane Keegan had invited giant killing by including several fringe players for the original tie. If they thought he would restore the regulars en bloc for the replay they were mistaken. Only C.J. Browne returned to the heart of the Wexford defence with Broaders and Shane Nolan also returning from the subs bench up front.
Youths took the early initiative with Douglas Hall keeper Adrian O’Donavan looking uneasy under pressure. It was his clumsy dive in a one on one that gave Youths the early advantage, Broaders converting efficiently from the spot. But the lead lasted no more than a minute before Kelleher slipped a low cross to Chris Fox in central space outside the box. One touch and the Douglas Hall man of the match cracked a superb drive into the top right corner of Graham Doyle’s goal. Such was the speed of the strike the keeper barely moved a muscle. A goal to remember.
From then on the visitors looked more like the side with the senior pedigree and they duly took the lead when Wexford went to sleep defending a corner from the right. Kelleher laid it back to McGarry, in acres of space, and his probing ball in to the box was converted at close range by fellow defender Brian Wilkinson. Youths came closest when Aidan Keenan took the ball down, turned and fired in a tremendous drive that whistled past the junction of post and crossbar.
Mr Keegan’s half time deliberations proved seminal to a change of fortune for Wexford after the interval. He opted for more commitment symbolised by the entry of Patsy Malone and switched to four four two. Having gone ahead after eight minutes of the first period Youths equalised in the eighth minute of the second, good close control by Shane Nolan taking him through a hesitant Douglas Hall defence to slip the ball past Adrian O’Donavan.
But the visitors were hardly out of it and the introduction of sub Ger O’Donavan in attack revitalised their hopes. He burst through in the 82nd minute and looked likely to score until Doyle, advancing at speed from his goal got down to parry at close range only to be red carded for use of the hand outside the penalty area. The Wexford skipper’s departure saw a senior debut for sub keeper Cormac O’Brien and seemed to hand the advantage to their Cork opponents but, if truth be told, fatigue had begun to handicap the visitors’ efforts and O’Brien was not seriously troubled.
At the other end Douglas Hall seemed determined to gift the game. Adrian O’Donavan contrived to pass the ball directly to Tom Elmes, unattended in front of goal, only for the big sub striker to lift the ball over him and the bar when it seemed he must score. Five minutes later, with just one minute of the ninety remaining, an almost carbon copy of defensive ineptitude gifted the ball to Shane Nolan. He showed Elmes how to do it, lobbing the ball over the keeper and Wexford Youths into the next round of the competition.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle; Shane Clarke (Cormac O’Brien 82), James Scallon, C.J. Browne, Shaun Corcoran; Eric Molloy, Thomas Croke, Shane Nolan, Brian Nolan (Paul Malone 46), Dean Broaders (Tom Elmes 74); Aidan Keenan.
Subs not used: Martin Kehoe, John Yeates, Craig Wall, Shane Dempsey.
Bookings: Malone (58).
Sent Off: Doyle (82).
Douglas Hall: Adrian O’Donavan; Simon McGarry, Gareth O’Donavan, Brian Wilkinson, Garry Prout; Kevin Kelleher, Killian Murphy, Dermot Ryan, Chris Fox; Derek Varian, Mark Reardon (Ger O’Donavan 60).
Subs not used: Gavin Henchy, Alan Higgins, Mark Maher, Peter O’Riordan.
Bookings: Varian (20), Kelleher (38), Fox (48).
Referee: Sean Grant.
Attendance: 150 (estimate).