Shamrock Rovers secured their first win of the pre-season, beating Wexford Youths 3-0 at Carlow IT on Friday night, with new signings Sean O’Connor and Mark Quigley getting the goals.
An impressive crowd of around 200 turned out to watch this friendly encounter on a frigid evening in Carlow and they were rewarded with a robust encounter between a very strong Rovers selection and a Wexford team that were committed and well organised.
Trevor Croly picked a starting eleven that could well open up the Hoops’ league programme when they travel to Dundalk on March 8th with new arrival Mark Quigley operating slightly behind target man Ciaran Kilduff up front, and a midfield that had James Chambers and Conor McCormack anchoring in the middle with Sean O’Connor and Gary McCabe filling the wide positions.
Shane Keegan, meanwhile, had to cope without two of his attacking players, Aidan Keenan and Tom Elmes which, along with the departure of striker Danny Furlong to Cork City, may have explained their struggle to put any real pressure on the Rovers keepers until the latter stages of the game. Wexford began in a 4-5-1 formation with Dean Broaders playing as a lone striker and Shane Nolan working in the space behind him. Joe Mulcahy and Glen Hawe provided the width while Brian Nolan and Caolan O’Gorman were charged with the task of controlling the middle.
It was clear from the start that Wexford were not interested in providing soft sparring for their more illustrious opponents and there was a hint of spice about the game well before Gary McCabe’s sending off in the 20th minute for a petulant elbow that was as blatant as it was senseless. Before his dismissal McCabe had looked in sharp form, playing tight and creative football at close quarters with Quigley and Powell. Wexford fullback Shane Clarke will have been relieved to see him make his way to the dressing rooms.
Sean O’Connor and James Chambers both forced Graham Doyle into decent saves during the early stages while Wexford came closest with a Thomas Croke header from a corner. Rovers deserved their breakthrough when it came on 27 minutes. Conceding free kicks around the box when Sean O’Connor and Mark Quigley are around is a dangerous game and on this occasion it was Quigley who curled the ball around the wall and past Doyle.
Six minutes later and the Hoops had extended their lead following something of a goalmouth melee. Rovers broke through on the left and when the ball was delivered into the area James Chambers scooped the ball past Doyle only to see his effort whacked off the goal-line by a covering defender. Sadly for Wexford it fell to Sean O’Connor and his fierce response flew into the top left corner of the goal.
It was a bit harsh on Wexford. Yes, Shamrock Rovers looked the better team, and they were always capable of creating an opening, but Wexford fought with discipline and a level of organised commitment that ensured their opponents could never relax. On 38 minutes they almost got one back when Dean Broaders beat his marker to an excellent through ball from Joe Mulcahy, only to see his header drift narrowly wide of Barry Murphy’s goal.
The second half saw several changes on both sides but the game retained it’s integrity and Wexford continued to frustrate Rovers while fashioning occasional opportunities of their own, Brian Nolan thrashing a forty yard daisy-cutter just beyond Murphy’s far post on 54 minutes. But on the hour mark the First Division side conceded another free kick close in and Sean O’Connor stepped up to spin the ball into the top right corner with a minimum of fuss.
Wexford’s new signing Graham Delaney got a run out for the second half and the Wexford threat seemed to increase as the game went on. Joe Mulcahy, CJ Browne and Glen Hawe all shot over the bar when well placed. Rovers, for their part, introduced Danny Ledwith, Alan Kehoe and Dean Ebbe, all hoping to forge a place in a squad studded with quality.
Rovers looked most vulberable in the final minutes but sub ‘keeper Conor Winn kept Wexford out and Trevor Croly’s men will have been well satisfied both with their performance and the final score-line.
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle (Brandon O’Callaghan 73); Shane Clarke (Craig McCabe 46 (Shane Clarke 78)), Thomas Croke, Jamie Carr (CJ Browne 46), James Dermody (Shaun Corcoran); Joe Mulcahy, Caolan O’Gorman (Eric Molloy 46), Brian Nolan, Glen Hawe; Shane Nolan (Graham Delaney 46); Dean Broaders.
Subs not used: Daryl Power.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy (Conor Winn 65); Pat Sullivan, Ken Oman, Jason McGuinness (Derek Foran 46), Conor Powell (Alan Kehoe 83); Sean O’Connor (Dean Ebbe 83), James Chambers (Stephen Rice 46), Conor McCormack, Gary McCabe; Mark Quigley (Danny Ledwith 65); Ciaran Kilduff (Thomas Stewart 46).
Subs not used: Mark Sandford.
Sent Off: G McCabe (20)
Attendance: 200 (estimate)
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org