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Aidan Delaney Column: Decade Of Dominance For Youths As They Capture 4th FAI Cup

Last weekend at Tallaght Stadium, Wexford Youths grew up….

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Another national cup success was secured in a comfortable manner which belied the underdog status they were assigned before the first whistle. The newly crowned league champions, Shelbourne, were on for the double and the heart stopping nature of the season’s conclusion meant the momentum would come from the Northsiders.

But, goals from Lynn Marie Grant, Kylie Murphy and Edel Kennedy meant the trophy was destined to journey south back to the cabinet in Ferrycarrig which doesn’t stay empty for too long.

This latest triumph might just be the sweetest as well. Most in pink and black will never forget the penalty win in 2015 against Sunday’s opponents. Even then, there was a soaring nature to that squad where you felt success of some kind was inevitable.

Players who had only come together four years previously were now maturing into a side with a telepathic understanding and a knack for finding a way. This was confirmed with 3 more cup final appearances in the following 4 years, twice lifting the trophy in 2018 and 2019. There was no stopping the rise of the Wexford women back then.

Now, a lot has changed and the South East side find themselves tugging at the tails in a 3 horse race. The merger of Shels and Raheny United has made the Reds a force in women’s football while Peamount United’s talent factory is producing stars on a regular basis.

The emergence of the triumvirate makes for exciting viewing in the WNL with every minute mistake potentially catastrophic in the title race. Unfortunately a third placed finish was all Wexford could manage this year. It’s a position they are becoming accustomed to against their best wishes.

That’s why Sunday’s victory could prove to be one of the most vital in the short history of the club. Not only did it show that the elder stateswomen can still produce on the grandest stage but also that the appropriately titled Youths in the squad are leading the way in the creativity and productivity stakes. 

They are lead by the extremely cool, calm and collected presence of captain Kylie Murphy. What can you say about a woman who has consistently performed wonders at the top level now for ten years? Well how about the fact that she is bucking the trend when it comes to aging footballers.

While the likes of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard found themselves slinking backwards when time robbed them of their legs, the Carlow commander put herself further forward to get in on the action. After years of providing the cover and a platform for others to grab the headlines, Kylie is now the focal point and has proven an inspired choice in front of goal. She’s made the false 9 position her own and her 15 league goals will surely make a strong case for this seasons’ WNL Player of the Year judges.

One of the keys to success in the South East has been the consistency of selection over the last decade. This is something that doesn’t come easily in this cutthroat world of football. While the men’s side has often struggled to keep a group together, there are multiple double centurions who know nothing else but the Youths jersey.

Edel Kennedy, a hero on Sunday, has given her all to the pink and black and is finally getting the plaudits that often go missing for a player with such an unseen but significant. Behind her is Wexford’s own Nicola Sinnott, a defender with the heart of a lion and knowledge to burn. A teacher on and off the field, she’s the perfect foil for every young pretender trying to take the shirt from her back. 

Complimenting the experience is the excitement that only the young can bring. In this, there’s just one name bringing joy to the hearts of football fans all over the island. Magic Molloy. The Thomastown Torres, the Kilkenny Kaka, Wexford’s Wonderwoman. There was a tendency to hold back the praise for such an emerging talent last season when she was just 16 years of age but her confident and regular displays of brilliance mean it’s hard to ignore now. She’s a player that genuinely slows down time with the ball at her feet. A passer with an ability to see the future and bend it to her will. A magician with feet of gold dust and a striker that can score every type of goal imaginable.

Add to that the pinpoint accuracy of someone like Irish squad member Aoibheann Clancy and the never say die attitude of Della Doherty and Wexford have a squad that will fight on all fronts for years to come. Also remember the names Katie Law and Kira Bates Crosbie, they are potential stars for the future.

Okay yes, we do have to address the elephant in the room. The FAI have announced an investigation into the alleged ineligibility of cup final sub Teegan Lynch. Questions were asked when the holding midfielder’s name failed to appear on the official team list as she helped the Youths close out their 4th cup success.

There has been no suggestion of a deliberate action on Wexford’s part and all indications as of now point towards a genuine mistake on the administrations part. Sign up errors are no stranger to South East football fans but for this situation to happen at the showpiece event of the year brings more eyes and more raised eyebrows. We await the outcome but credit should go to Shelbourne who’s response was measured and full of common sense. Matters like this can turn parochial at times, but the Reds have taken the high road and know they can look forward to great days ahead. 

What can’t be denied though is that the decade of dominance has been richly deserved. Many who started this journey remain with the same heart and dedication that raised the club from the ground up ten years ago.

They don’t get the RTE interviews but the likes of Dave Cassin, Eddie Cullen and Nigel Fitzharris put in the work when the cameras aren’t watching. Many more have contributed to this success and shouldn’t be forgotten. Enjoy the celebrations Youths, but let’s make sure they’re not the last.

Featured Image Credit: Wexford Youths Women (Twitter)

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