Under 13 Shield Winners
What a great day for the Shannonside Fc Under 13 Boys team. Most of this group of lads have played together since they were “smallies”, and all the hard work and training they have put in over the years paid off yesterday evening when they came out deserved 2:1 victors in an exciting Under 13 Shield final with Newcastle West.
The referee blew the whistle to start the match on a fine sunny evening, and on a perfectly prepared pitch in Rathkeale. From the off the Newcastle West boys showed that they were going to be a difficult side to beat, as they put the Shannonside defence under real pressure for the first 10 minutes. Their big, strong, and talented midfield broke our defence on a couple of occasions by running fast straight lines down the middle. They got a couple of shots off but nothing that Philip Carney in goals could not deal with. Once our lads caught on to the Newcastle game play the midfield boys, AJ and Aidan in the centre with Cillian Meade and Adam on the wings, tracked the Newcastle midfielders back, putting them under real pressure, and giving our defence time to deal with the threat. Cathal and Stephen shored up the middle of the defence and Euan and Cillian Reidy tracked anything coming down the wings. Apart from one scare, when a free kick hit the crossbar and rebounded wide off Philip’s head, the rest of the second half belonged to Shannonside.
AJ and Aidan settled well and began to dictate the flow of the game by varying the attacking options. One minute they would be splitting the Newcastle defence with clever through balls to Senan or Sean up front, or setting Adam or Cillian Meade out on dangerous runs down the wings. Adam O’Connor plagued the Newcastle West defence throughout the first half. His darting runs ghosted him through the defence on occasion, and when not driving good crosses into the box, he was prepared to have a shot himself. In fact, he was very unlucky not to score with one particularly good shot that just dipped over the bar.
However, it was through the middle that our first goal came. AJ Moroney put a foot on the ball and spotted Senan “the Tormentor” Walsh, free in the middle. His perfectly weighted through ball split the Newcastle defence wide open and set Senan running one on one with the goalkeeper. With the defence breathing down his neck and an on-rushing goalkeeper, Senan steadied himself and, cool as a breeze, slotted the ball past the keeper and into the righthand corner of the net. 1:0
I called Senan “the Tormentor” because that must have been how the Newcastle defence saw him. They just could not handle him. His ability to trap and move the ball in conjunction with his speed and skill, meant that he literally tormented the Newcastle defence throughout the match. Always looked dangerous. Sean Hourigan played his part up front as well, and although he did not manage to score, he always seemed a threat. When not dragging the defence around he was tracking back to help out his own defence. Worked tirelessly.
Newcastle West changed tactics in the second half with their forwards and strong midfielders trying long range, high and powerful shots, to try and catch out Philip in goals. Waste of time, Philip’s safe hands and height were a match for the shots. So, it was more of the same from Shannonside, and we continued to dominate it most areas. All the back line played brilliantly, keeping their shape well, tracking every attack, and covering each other well. Euan Sheehy, on the right, not only tracked and stopped most attacks down that wing but also pushed forward in attack, linking with the hardworking Adam and helping stretch the Newcastle midfield. But it was down our left side that most of the Newcastle attacks came. Here stood young Cillian Reidy to take the pressure. But on this day it was not about pressure for Cillian but instead a chance to shine; and that he did. He tracked and tackled defensively all day, and then showed some neat side steps and vision to turn defence into attack, on more than one occasion, linking with speedy Cillian Meade to put the pressure back on Newcastle. The two Cillians made a great combination.
As for coming up the middle? For Newcastle it must have been like seeing continuous re-runs of “Lord of the Rings”, with Stephen Carney and his cousin Cathal standing there telling them “thou shalt not pass”.
The only joy it seemed, for Newcastle, might come from set pieces. Although they struggled to break our defence they did manage to force a few corners. For these they crowded the box with their big midfielders and forwards, hoping for a break. It was a mark of respect to our lads that they did not once push up any of their defenders for the corners. Don’t think it would have mattered anyways because Philip Carney dominated the box and just plucked every cross out of the air. He was a rock in defence and his kick-out distribution was brilliant.
Our second goal, once again, came from a move through the middle. AJ and Aidan were a thorn in the sides of the Newcastle midfielders and defence, continuously linking with the forwards and applying pressure. It was during one of these spells of pressure that we drew the foul that led to our second goal. The free was awarded about 25-30 metres from the Newcastle goals. I don’t think I’m exaggerating as the ball was definitely nearer the half-way line than the goal. Up steps “the Tormentor. The defence sets itself, waiting for a ball into the box. Senan looks up, spots the keeper a couple of feet off his line, bang, high shot over the defence, dips under the bar and over the keeper. 2:0. Celebrations. 10 mins to go.
Newcastle ramped up the pressure. Shannonside did not panic. Instead, we kept our shape, squeezed up, continued to play our game and apply pressure. Alan starts to bring on the subs with Loughlin and Owen adding fresh legs in midfield. Unfortunately, a late goal from Newcastle meant that Paudie, Hal, and Norbert did not get a chance to play. However, like all the team, they have played their part in getting to this final.
The goal came out of nothing really. An attack out wide look liked it was being handled, but an opportunistic low hard shot, from a tight angle, just crept in at the near post before Philip could get to it. Powerful shot, good goal. Pressure back on. 2:1. But the only ones panicking were the coaches on the side-lines; the lads kept their shape, kept their cool and kept putting on the squeeze and pressure. Aidan O’Malley, alongside AJ Moroney, showed his great defending skills, and the whole midfield became our first line of defence. Newcastle West could not find a way through and when the final whistle blew it was the Shannonsiders who were celebrating. A great day for these fine young lads, their families and coaches.
A special word of thanks to Alan Moroney who has coached and nurtured these young lads through the seasons. His attitude and patience have given these lads the opportunity to develop at their own pace and we are now beginning to see the benefits of his approach. More than just teaching them skills, he is passing on his love of the game to the lads. There is more yet to come from this team.
Match Report: Harry Dickinson