Shamrock Rovers 1-1 Wexford FC

Report: Christine Allen

Rovers are still chasing their elusive first win of their SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division campaign after being held to a 1-1 draw at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday.

To the left of the South Stand ‘W’ Block, residents of Old Bawn were sure to have caught the hopeful cry of Dolores O’Riordan, The Cranberries ‘Dreams’ accompanying Collie O’Neill’s side in the warm up, the open North Stand dotted with flecks of purple amongst a smattering of green.

A head shorter than the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division trophy that shone proudly in the newly opened Megastore, The Hoops mascots kept themselves occupied by dancing to Dua Lipa on the touchline, stealing hopeful glances in the direction of their heroes.

There were no changes to the Rovers starting eleven from last week’s league opener at DLR Waves.

Summer Lawless once again took her place between the sticks in lieu of the injured Amanda Budden, who, along with Savannah McCarthy, vociferously instructed and encouraged her teammates from the West Stand.

Rovers started with a back three of Shauna Fox on the left, Jessica Hennessy in the centre and Melissa O’Kane on the right – Scarlett Herron and Aoife Kelly sitting just above their line.

Jaime Thompson and Lia O’Leary sought to exploit the visitors on their respective right and left flanks, while Aine O’Gorman, Stephanie Zambra and the lively Joy Ralph roamed up front.

A number of current Academy players and graduates secured their place on the bench, a testament to the clubs investment in grassroot player development and a nod to the pipeline of talent that has been forged by those who work tirelessly behind the scenes at The Roadstone.

In the opening minutes a battle for possession played out in the centre of the park, Herron displaying all the characteristics of a future skipper, clapping animatedly with each header won.

Melissa O’Kane made her presence felt and was impressive both in defence and attack, a clean yet robust challenge on Orlaith Conlon in the first quarter coinciding with the wail of a police siren that drowned out the Wexford benches protestations.

An assist from the 19-year-old almost put The Hoops ahead on the 17th minute, the ball grazing Zambra’s boot and bouncing harmlessly across the post and out for a goal-kick.

In what was always expected to be a close tie, Rovers shaded possession and pressed the women in lilac and yellow, Jessica Hennessy clocking an impressive shift for the home side.

Former Hoop Abby Tuthill battled with Thompson and Ralph in pockets, every ball a 50/50 toss up.

Ciara Rossiter, who netted two against Rovers last season, was kept unusually quiet, bearing the war wounds of a 2-0 defeat to The Gypsies the previous Saturday, her left knee strapped in white tape.

The threat of Ellen Molloy was equally nullified by Fox, O’Kane, Herron and Hennessy.

Displeased with his side’s setup, incoming manager Hugh Strong reprimanded his starting eleven audibly from the touchline, bellowing for the women from the South-East to ”get up high.”

The UEFA Elite A licensed coaches stern words had the desired effect, a heavy handed push starting Rossiter who came alive on the left flank and found Kylie Murphy in what was Wexford’s second only corner in the opening half hour, the veteran’s header bouncing off the crossbar and behind the white line in the 33rd minute.

A chance for Zambra just shy of the half-time whistle flashed wide of the post, the Shankill striker’s temple not connecting cleanly with the ball.

1-0 to Wexford at the break.

After the restart, Rovers looked a different side and raised the tempo – much to the delight of the screaming fans who kept Jayne Merren company behind the North Stand goal.

With Lia O’Leary’s driving runs and O’Gorman’s intuitive link up play with Zambra, O’Neill’s side dominated and looked certain to equalise as O’Leary whipped ball after ball into the danger zone.

The visitors looked fatigued and looked to slow the game down, disrupting The Hoops rhythm as the wind and rain began to swirl in Dublin 24, Ceola Bergin cutting a lone figure up front.

Rovers equaliser came in the 64th minute, when Monaghan native Herron muscled past the Wexford bodies in front of goal and headed O’Gorman’s sweeping delivery into the back of the net.


The Hoops sensed that three points were there for the taking and moments later O’Gorman fired a beautifully weighted pass from Zambra towards goal, only to be denied by an alert Merren, who pushed the ball against the right hand post and away to safety.

Joy Ralph was next to come close when O’Gorman’s cross wasn’t held by Merren, with Ralph reacting quickest to fire an effort towards goal, but her shot was deflected behind for a corner when it looked destined for the back of the net.

Wexford recovered in the final twenty minutes, Molloy and Lenihan pushing forward and shooting from distance on foot of their manager’s insistent cries.

O’Gorman came close to securing three points in style for the women in green and white, but was again denied by the in-form Merren.

Desperate not to leave Tallaght empty handed, the Youths threw bodies at the ball, Della Doherty making a crucial block against an O’Leary smash in the dying embers of the match.

The contest was to end in a share of the spoils for both sides, The Hoops likely to be the most disappointed of the two, given the number of chances created.

O’Neill’s squad will look to kick-off their opening fixture in Group C of the All Island Cup with victory over Treaty United in Markets Field next Saturday, before inviting Dominic Foley’s side to Tallaght for their first League meeting of the new campaign on Saturday 30 March, (KO 4pm)

All still to play for in 2024.