Sunday’s EVOKE.ie FAI Women’s Cup Final saw 3,053 fans come through the gates of Tallaght Stadium to see Wexford Youths claim victory over Shelbourne on a scoreline of 3-1.
The 47th fixture of its kind, this cup final was different in that that figure marked the biggest crowd for a women’s senior domestic football game in the Republic of Ireland of all time.
Conversation predating the result saw many plough through the discourse of the Shamrock Rovers’ home ground versus the national Aviva stadium debate, 2021 granting the women’s tournament match an autonomous outing, something which Youths’ captain Kylie Murphy credits as a fantastic feature.
“A standalone event is amazing” she said after she lifted the trophy for the fourth time in her career.
“I have to say, in the run up, if you had to have given me the choice, I would always say the Aviva because it’s your national stadium but you can’t take away from the fact that the atmosphere was unbelievable there today,” she said.
“It’s give and it’s take, but if I was to have my choice, I’d put it back in the Aviva. There’s something breathtaking about it.”
Three times in the past four years Wexford have replicated the very feat, but the excitement and shine of the achievement hasn’t quite worn off for the skipper just yet.
“It gets better every time, it really does. Absolutely unbelievable” she reflected on the outing.
A slow start to the game which Murphy describes as “absolutely terrible”, the opening goal came 31 minutes in when Lynn Marie Grant lobbed Amanda Budden.
Shels then retaliated down the other end just eight minutes later, doctor Ciara Grant providing the remedy to The Red’s woes, and it stayed as so heading into the interval.
Rousing words seem to have proved imperative at halftime, the Youths’ stalwart knew something had to change.
“At half time, we had a chat. We couldn’t get much worse, so for us we were on the way up,” she said
“We hadn’t implemented our game, we hadn’t done what we set out to do, we hadn’t done anything, only let Shelbourne play.”
“Look at the people who’ve come to support us; all the reporters, the TV, everything. You want to put on a show so for me, at half-time, it just wasn’t good enough.
“We weren’t at our very best in the second half, but we were a lot closer to what a Wexford Youths team is. That’s the difference.”
Her goal a contributing factor to that contrast, she downplays her input in that she “just snapped at it.”
In reality after some sensational build up play from eventual player of the match Ellen Molloy and her WNT teammate Aoibheann Clancy The Youths captain volleyed the ball into the back of the net with her first touch.
“I knew if I tried to swing at it and put power on it, it could have went anywhere. For me, it was just trying to get it on target. It kind of came behind me” she reminisced.
“My arse hit the floor and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ I couldn’t believe it went in.”
She wasn’t only dumbfounded by their attacking prowess either, taking the time to revel in their defensive stature too.
“My God what about our back line?” she smiled.
“That tackle from Orlaith Conlon… for me that was the winning of the game. That’s the difference. That’s why she’s a Wexford Youths player. I thought we were done – she came out of nowhere.”
A screamer from Edel Kennedy topped off the lot and clinched the title beyond doubt, and even with her grievances of their first half displays Murphy points out that her side “always want to set a bar.”
In doing so she also took time to express the oppositions strengths whom she described as a “class team”, from their fans cheering them on to their skills on the field of play.
“Shels are a class team. They could turn a game in a matter of seconds. Technically, tactically, they’re such a good team and superb players” she commented.
“You could feel it from the Shels supporters, the Wexford Youths supporters…“It means everything.”
The silverware may be the be all and end all to the 33 year old, but she is just that to her team, the Women’s National League and women’s football as a whole.
Not the end to the season we wanted but still a successful one. Well done to @YouthsWexford on their win.— Rachel Graham (@RaquelleG) November 22, 2021
Thanks to all the fans who came to support us throughout the season. I think we can stop calling them the ‘Men’s Fans’ now and start calling them ‘Our Fans’ 🐚🔴@shelsfc pic.twitter.com/q5IPnB38yq