It was a historic day for Wexford Albion as their Youths A team were crowned Premier Division Champions for the first time in the club’s history…
After a long slog of over ten years managing the team, Martin Kirby and Seamus Maloney have finally got their hands on silverware. Having come second on several occasions, and also getting to two cup finals, and several semi-finals, they were never able to get over the line until Sunday.
They had been left fighting an uphill battle having lost to title rivals Shamrock Rovers away from home 3-1 in early April. But like every good title race, there was bound to be a swing. The general consensus of the division was that it would be Albion and Rovers battling it out to be top dogs in Youths soccer. Their B teams, both in Division 4, had an amazing title fight themselves with the Enniscorthy outfit piping the Wexford Town men on the last day of the season. In order to avoid a similar situation in the Premier Division, work had to be done.
Albion bounced back and beat a good New Ross Town side 3-0, with the player of the year nominee Eoghan O’Lionain, U16 star Rory Dobbs and midfielder Shane Roche (who scored his first of the season) scoring the goals.
Currently applying their trade in the new and improved Wexford CBS Astro pitch Albion hosted Rovers on Tuesday night. A win for Rovers means they won the league. Albion had to win and then beat Barntown (which was played on Sunday the 15th) to clinch the title.
It was almost a reverse scoreline of the previous game. With Albion coming out 3-0 winners. Darragh Maloney scored a penalty, Cillian Towmey added the second while the first goal came via an OG. Albion played all the football and really showed their class against their title rivals. This put the ball back in Albion’s court.
With both sides having one game left, Albion sat top by just two points. Having to play a strong Glynn Barntown team on the last day of the season, it was never going to be an easy task.
Shamrock Rovers made the trip to Gorey, the day before and beat Gorey Rangers 6-0. This left them top, but with the Albion game on Sunday, it was all to play for. Would Albion be able to beat Barntown or would Shamrock Rovers be celebrating the day after?
So the equation was simple, a win, by any margin and the Wexford Town men would win the Premier Title. A loss would have handed the title to Rovers, the one thing that Albion did not want to happen.
In front of the biggest crowd of the year, it took Albion a long time to get going. Eventually, they opened the scoring through former Wexford Minor and U20 hurler Luke Murphy. A throw came in from fullback Ben English, it wasn’t dealt with by the defence and it fell to Murphy inside of the box, whose volley bounced into the goal past the Barntown keeper. 1-0 to Albion. Maybe this was the one to settle the nerves.
Then thanks to an Eoghan O’Lionain corner, Ryan Curran headed home to double the lead for Albion. There was a real sense that the title was in their hands. But Barntown pulled one back before half-time. Leading to a 2-1 scoreline at the break.
Anyone watching knew it was a tense game. With Albion not playing their usual free-flowing football. This suited the away side, and it suited Shamrock Rovers, whose manager had arrived at the far side to take a look at the game.
After the break, there was little change in tempo. Albion failed to improve on the pitch. They let Barntown draw level, who were now in control of the game. Everyone knew the situation. Albion had to get a goal from somewhere. With half an hour to go, delay tactics were deployed. Tape was brought in to fix boots and kick-outs from the away team began to take longer and longer. Albion were simply running out of time.
There were a number of penalty shouts, one as Murphy was hauled to the ground. Another where winger Luc Farrell was taken down but was booked for diving. It seemed as if it was going to be a draw, all signs pointed to a draw.
But not today. Albion weren’t lying down. This was the day they had the nerve to keep going. In what can only be described as Albion’s Aguero moment, a ball was played over the top. Murphy got himself between the centre-half and the keeper and slotted home. Queue mad celebrations. The team and the bench flooded to celebrate in front of the fans, who had been in good spirits all game.
What a turnaround. Albion had clinched the league with the last kick of the season. If Martin Tyler was on commentary he’d be saying “I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again”. The drive and commitment by all 16 players who got a run on Sunday. They showed what playing for Albion is all about. Even when your back is against the wall dont stop fighting.
A whiteboard with “If you get knocked down, get back up again” used to hang in the home dressing room of the Kennedy Park clubhouse, many moons ago. And this is what those boys showed on Sunday morning. They were down and out, title race over, but in the dying embers of the season, they found the will to keep pushing.
Club Chairman David Farrell presented the medals to the team, with the guidance of Captain O’Lionain. He was also presented with the trophy after the game by a representative from the Wexford Football League.
They have one more game left of the season. The STANNO Youths Cup Final is at 2pm on Saturday afternoon in Ferrycarraig Park. It is fitting that the cup final is taking place between Albion and Rovers.
It is set to be a fantastic game showcasing the two best teams in Youths soccer. Children are free while it’s €5 for adults to attend.