On Sunday afternoon in front of 710 spectators at Tallaght Stadium a brace from Claire O’Riordan saw Wexford Youths crowned Women’s National League champions for a second consecutive year after Will Doyle’s side were forced to battle back from a goal down to claim a 2-1 victory.
After Shelbourne forced the play-off 11 days earlier, thanks to a 3-1 victory at Tolka Park, Youths were out to gain revenge for the defeat and it was them who had the game’s first chance when O’Riordan latched onto a low cross from Emma Hansberry, but the Limerick native failed to direct her low headed effort towards goal.
As Shels continued to settle into the game, Noelle Murray, the hero from last week’s League Cup success against UCD Waves would try her luck from distance, however, her effort was easily gathered by Tamara Furlong.
Shelbourne opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Youths skipper, Kylie Murphy was penalised for a handball 35 yards from goal, and from the resulting free-kick Slattery headed home Keeva Keenan’s delivery from close range.
As the side exchange half chance, Youths almost equalised just after the half hour mark when a Hansberry corner caused chaos in the Shelbourne box before Ruth Fahy’s attempted overhead kick was easily cleared.
Three minutes before half-time Youths grabbed an equaliser after Linda Douglas found O’Riordan free in the penalty area and the forward headed home from close range.
Soon after, O'Riordan had another opportunity from 18 yards after Lauren Dwyer found the goal scorer from a long range free-kick. However, on this occasion she failed to generate enough power to trouble Amanda McQuillan.
When the sides returned for the second-half Shelbourne had the half’s first chance when Murray headed wide from close range from a Siobhan Killeen corner.
Killeen was again involved in Shelbourne’s next chance when she found Leanne Kiernan with a lovely low ball, but the forward’s shot on the run was easily gathered by Furlong.
Moments later, Wexford had a brilliant opportunity of their own when Hansberry found Douglas with a low cross from the left wing before the winger then laid the ball off to O’Riordan who fired wide from close range.
Youths were almost punished for O’Riordan’s miss two minutes later when Murray was allowed to glide forward with possession before playing a one-two with Rebecca Creagh. However, after racing onto the return ball, she could only fire wide from range.
With 20 minutes remaining, Wexford grabbed what proved to be the winning goal when O’Riordan found herself one-on-one with McQuillan after Niamh Walsh slipped allowing the forward to race through a gaping hole in the Shels defence before firing low past the onrushing shot-stopper.
Moments later, as Shels went in search of an equaliser Murray had a long range effort easily saved by Furlong and in additional time the keeper was again called into action when she made an excellent save to deny Walsh from a headed effort after the central defender had latched onto a lovely delivery from Kiernan before powering her headed effort towards goal from close range.
Despite the late pressure from Shelbourne, Wexford Youths hung on for victory and along with the glory they have also earned a place in the 2016-17 UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifiers which take place in August.
Shelbourne Ladies: Amanda McQuillan; Keeva Keenan, Niamh Walsh, Pearl Slattery, Annie Timoney (Sophie Watters 46); Dearbhaile Beirne Rebecca Creagh (Alex Kavanagh 65), Rachel Graham, Siobhan Killeen; Noelle Murray, Leanne Kiernan.
Subs Not Used: Niamh Reid-Burke, Niamh Barnes, Kim Turner, Megan Lynch, Shauna Newman.
Booked: Noelle Murray (70), Keeva Keenan (86, 90+6), Siobhan Killeen (89).
Red Card: Keeva Keenan (90+6).
Wexford Youths Women: Tamara Furlong; Nicola Sinnott, Ruth Fahy, Jessica Gleeson (Becky Cassin 36), Orlaith Conlon; Linda Douglas (Amy Walsh 90+4), Kylie Murphy, Lauren Dwyer, Emma Hansberry, Aisling Frawley; Claire O’Riordan (Aoibhin Webb 90).
Subs Not Used: Megan Whitty, Shauna Wall, Rachel Hutchinson.
Booked: Emma Hansberry (70), Becky Cassin (74), Kylie Murphy (82)
Referee: Alan Carey.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Claire O’Riordan (Wexford Youths).