Edel Kennedy’s stunner seals FAI Cup for Wexford and denies Shels a double

Ellen Molloy lights up Tallaght Stadium as Youths take home another cup

Wexford Youths’ Edel Kennedy celebrates scoring their third goal. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Wexford Youths’ Edel Kennedy celebrates scoring their third goal. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Wexford Youths 3 Shelbourne 1

Posts and rebounds, assisted by the delicate delivery of a 17-year-old prodigy from Kilkenny, is how this FAI Women’s Cup final was settled in front of a record 3,053 crowd.

Yet for all of Ellen Molloy’s brilliance, and there was plenty of unplayable moments from the teenager, Edel Kennedy’s sweet strike is what guaranteed a fourth cup success since 2015 for Wexford Youths.

In the same swing of Kennedy’s hips, Shelbourne were denied the double.

But it was Molloy’s contributions that had the greatest influence on proceedings, before she links up with Vera Pauw’s senior squad ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Georgia. That is presuming an injury, when she pulled up having stormed down field in the 92nd minute, proves more cramp than muscle strain.

“I’m delighted to be back in the Ireland squad,” said Molloy following a brief stint with the under-19s “but what about Edel’s goal? It was the goal of the season.”

Wexford’s second half excellence overshadowed the final receiving some unwanted publicity due to the crass performance of Shels manager Noel King on RTÉ television last week. The tone deafness continued in King’s programme notes, when he “deliberately avoided mentioning players names” because “they have been speaking for themselves all season” while lauding the “vital support” of 13 men, which he did name, and just the one female (Donna Power).

Much like the way King ridiculed Ireland international Áine O’Gorman before Tuesday’s under-21 international, the 65 year old does not seem to have any idea how damaging his words can be for the game in this country.

“You are who you are,” King told The Irish Independent on Saturday. “I can’t change now. I can’t imagine how I would.”

If one player deserved a pre or even post-match mention from her manager it was Pearl Slattery. The Shels captain started like a train, with referee Paula Brady only brandishing the yellow card after a third heavy foul that led indirectly to Lynn Marie Grant scoring Wexford’s opening goal.

Slattery was already blessed to avoid a caution on 19 minutes for ploughing through the back of opposing captain Kylie Murphy. When her next fully committed challenge caught Molloy, who beat the veteran to a 50-50 ball, Ciara Rossiter’s free was nodded down by Slattery before Grant’s awkward touch spun into the air and landed in the top corner of Amanda Budden’s net. The Shels goalkeeper could have done better but probably would have collided with the post.

The league champions were level within nine minutes as Jess Ziu cut in from the left to smack the butt of Ciamh Gray’s post. Ciara Grant’s instinctive follow up was rewarded with the equaliser but only after bouncing in off the upright.

That was the height of action in a cagey first half. Molloy ruled the second stanza, gliding between the lines and never wasting a second on the ball. After sliding possession to Grant on the right, she showed for the return pass before creating enough space to drop a perfect cross onto Murphy’s right boot for a finish that gave Wexford a 2-1 lead.

Lauren Dwyer and Shauna Fox compete for a header. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Lauren Dwyer and Shauna Fox compete for a header. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

It was a moment of teenage magic, finished by a 33-year-old striker, that deserved to win any cup final.

But Shels were not done. Chloe Mustaki’s direct ball out of defence had Saoirse Noonan bearing down on goal until a heroic block by Orlaith Conlon denied the Irish striker. Such was Conlon’s commitment that the fullback needed to be replaced by Lynn Craven having gripped her knee in agony after the collision.

It seemed like Wexford would go into their shell and attempt to just hold on. Molloy had other ideas. On 74 minutes she had a right foot shot blocked by Slattery before the ball bobbed around the Shels area before Molloy teed up Kennedy’s screamer.

Kennedy still had work to do, clipping Molloy’s soft header out of Noelle Murray’s attempted tackle before catching the shot as perfectly as anyone possibly could in a moment that added real quality to the occasion.

“Young girls watching this here now know about Wexford Youths,” said manager Eric Higgins.

They certainty know about Ellen Molloy.

Wexford: Gray; Doherty, Dwyer, Sinnott, Conlon; LM Grant, Clancy, Kennedy, Rossiter; Molloy, Murphy.

Subs: Craven for Conlon (60), Lynch for Grant (72), Taylor for Molloy (90).

Shelbourne: Budden; Gargan, Fox, Slattery, Mustaki; Ziu, C Grant, Graham, Stapleton; Murray, Noonan.

Subs: Larkin for Gargan, Kavanagh for Graham (both 80).

Referee: Paula Brady (FAI).

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