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U14s Long Weekend of Cup Action   08/08/2017

The DDSL U14s (2003) entered both the Top Flight Dublin Cup at AUL, north Dublin and the DB Sports Summer cup at VEC, south Dublin this bank holiday weekend. Three days from of games against teams from around the country as the boys get back into gear as the mid season break nears an end.

The 14s have gathered a large squad of 20 players and would require all hands on deck with at least 8 and possibly 9 games over three days. For people that like statistics the Manager wore a fit bit during each day and clocked in and around 12,000 steps which is approx. 5.5Km so taking into account the running during warm ups and games the kids probably did double that each day and roughly did 60,000 + steps or 30Km which is close to a marathon providing them with a supreme pres-season opening weekend.

As luck would have it the team had 15 boys on Saturday and Sunday and the same 16 had one more on the Monday so it was a gruelling weekend of fun, football and fitness . . . and a brilliant team bonding experience.

The Dublin cup got off to a disastrous start with a very soft goal given away to Belurgan in the first 30 seconds. In tough wet conditions the boys struggled in the first half against the might of their Dundalk based counterparts. NTFC lined up with Tadg in goals, Adam, Mike, Deco and Ayo across the back from from right to left; Joe, James and Ruairi the midfield three; whilst Paul and Destiny provided the width right and left and Victor upfront.

Long drive, poor weather or early start but something was amiss as Belurgan scored a second against the run of play but before the break Victor pulled one back after good wide play by Ayo and a goal mouth scramble by James and Victor leading to Victor poking it home.

Few switches at half time saw Mark come on for Tadg in goals, Sam for Adam and Joe moved into the back; James moved into centre mid with Sean coming in for Joe and Colin replaced Paul wide right. NTFC continued to take the game to Beluurgan and again had the lion share of possession and played a nice the nice football but could break down the dogged defence. Deco then came on for Destiny wide left at 10 mins and with 5 mins left Destiny came back on for James and Paul for Sean and as NTFC threw everything at the Bellurgan boys they couldn’t find that equaliser.

A soaked NTFC team went to have a snack and regroup before the next game at 2pm. The Dublin Cup is a well run show but the lack of balls led us to loosing four and the 2 hr gap between games is a worry for cramp and fatigue but the NTFC lads showed learning direct from their Celtic experience and brought the right food and ate the right way at the right times to try and maximise their energy and the use of the dressing room was great team bonding and a bit of fun and chance for lads to get to know each other better.

Next up was Douglas Hall from Cork and another big physical looking team but a team that tried to play the ball on the deck albeit not from the back. From the start this was a faster tempo game as both sides went for it. It was 50/50 in terms of possession but NTFC were creating the clearer chances which bore fruit when Ayo scored the opener. A superb corner from Paul Roberts that everyone and his dog seen was over the lined was scrambled away for Ayo to pick up at the edge fo the box, turn and rifle into the top corner.

We lined up with Mark, Sam, Adam, Mike, Joe, Paul, James, Ruairi, Sean, Victor and Ayo. The interplay between the Midfield and the wide forwards was superb. The passing vision of James and Ruairi was a sight to behold, the work rate of the front 6 was excellent but 1-2s between paul and Sean, slide rule balls from James for Sean, tackles and battles by Ruairi and fine 30 yarders for the front men was a joy but an absolutely abhorrent challenge to sean by a defenders knee into his shoulder had at the time i thought ended his tournament but the fine people at St John’s ambulance patched him up and with in 24hrs he was back. Colin replaced Sean and added blistering pace and effort.

We took the lead into half time but the Cork lads got an equaliser and then from here on in the game was pretty much in the hands of NTFC and only for a mistake it seemed the victory was ours.. In certain areas we were finding the physical battle difficult but our counter attack was simply too fast and some of our passing as excellent.

The Lads from Cork got an equaliser against the run of play and as we pressed for a winner James was pulled down in the penalty box with no joy from the ref. The subsequent clearance from the keeper went wide and their line give us the free for the ref to give the other way. Their long throw went down the line and as Mikey shepparded it out their player pushed him in the back and somehow the ref gave them a corner. From the corner a scrambled clearance fell kindly for Douglas Hall to strike home with seconds remaining costing us the victory and the draw. It’s may sound churlish to blame the ref but we got nothing from wither in both games and some decision making really cost us in the second game.

Two games in and soaked to the bone the spirits will still relatively high. We were close, We know this would be tough. It’s sort of pre-season, the ref killed us but in fairness the style off football and the effort was there so despite the results pleasing all the same.

Sunday was another early start, in fact earlier as we took on Ballymoney Academy team from Northern Ireland who had already beaten Douglas Hall and Bellurgan. We lined up with Mark, Sam, Mikey, Joe, Adam; Paul, James, Ruairi, Destiny, Victor and Ayo. Despite the clatter yesterday Sean arrived to support the lads and in true Donohoe fashion as eager to play through the pain.

The east Antrim boys were a big team at a glance few were born before March 2003. From the stat the boys in yellow fro NTFC took the game to them and high pressure, high tempo and slick passing had them ran ragged. We created quite a few chances whilst they were kept at bay and were getting quite frustrated with the lack of opportunities but our wide men were full of running and the midfield again were pulling strings left right and centre.

Captain fantastic Mikey stepped out of our half with the ball and 10 yards into theirs hit such a clean strike the ball fizzed about 3 feet off the ground right through the boys in blue and a fumble by the keeper was a bit of luck we deserved and gave us the lead. Ayo and Destiny were destroying them down the flanks and superb full back play supporting them from Sam and Adam had us looking like a 2-3-5 formation rather than 433.

It was pretty much as you were despite a few changes and after some amazing play between Ayo and Ruairi, master brown got his goal and lovely volley and we took a two nil lead to half time. Despite the fumble their keeper was excellent and some last ditch and tough defending and old fashioned slide tackling kept the scoreline to 2-0 at half time.

What’s the story one of the so called best teams here and we were ripping them apart but again the ref wasn’t on hand to help us out for some reason. One parent asked was it a Dublin versus Country thing but it couldn’t be, our group we were all country teams – Cork, Dundalk and Ballmoney. Talking to the coaches of other teams and other teams we knew in the cup it was just that the standard of referring wasn’t great but in their defence they had a schedule to keep so the cup runs on time. Anyway, the refs have a tough job so stop moaning and get on with it.

The second half the Ballymoney keeper kept the score line down to a respectable level with two and I mean this sincerely, world class saves from Sean and Colin not to mention great saves from Colin, Ayo and Ruairi. A little bit of gung ho naivety krept in and the boys in blue pulled one back against the run of play but we seen the game out despite the added time from no where and the lads were elated to get such a good scalp and plays so bloody well. It was a joy to wacth and the kind words from the Ballymoney lads made it sweeter as they went onto play Scotland’s Inverness in the final.

Another mammoth wait and then as arm up started the rain belted down like it has never before as we prepared to take on Donegal’s Finn Harps from the League of Ireland in the 4th place final. The lads looked like drowned rats as the game kicked off. We looked must smaller physically and the game was pretty intense on the field as tackles were flying in.

Both teams were very evenly matched and both created numerous chances but good goal keeping and some wayward shooting had the game level at half time.

Again both battled hard and tried to play and the tempo was fierce as the ball flew along the wet grass but again a little naivety on NTFC part crept in near the end and as we pounded their goal with a series of corners and frees, for at least 7-8 mins, they broke with Adam back alone. Adam held him up but as another player approached he went to win the ball and it broke for the attacker who rather than pass for a simple clear goal hit a shot and the out-coming Tadgh saved with his legs. The rebound to Paul in the midfield who slipped it to Ruairi who went on a lovely mazy run down the left and sold the defender a lovely dummy brought the ball to his right and curled it in to give us a fabulous winner and a great ending to the Dublin cup.

Played two won two but wining the 4th place play off felt like a real achievement and as for morale set us up nicely for the DB sports cup the following day. It was great to play teams you just never get the chance too and teams you know little to nothing about. All the players did themselves and their coaches proud in their style of play and in the end the two victories were very sweet especially as were sort of down to 13 men on Sunday. The big winner was the camp bond and the learning for the coaches.

7am Monday morning bank holiday and you do wonder what on earth was I thinking as we entered our third day of competitive football. A min 4 games today so what we did on Sat and Sun all wrapped up in one long day to finish off the long weekend. Everyone on time and spirits high and Oisin joined us today and Seanie was feeling much better so whilst i’d have liked 1 maybe 2 more for rotation this was going to see how strong, how committed the lads are. Also I must say a big thank you to the folks who made sure the lads were ready, packed lunches, clean gear as it is very much appreciated.

First up was the mighty Cherry orchard premier, a mix of the few remaining premier boys who didn’t go to LOI and their all conquering U13 premier. Again we were late starters. Was it fatigue, naivety I don’t know but the orchard’s Sinclair and another kid who wore 6, the 15 then 9 and their keeper were a class above in ability and strength.

We got beat 4-1 but showed signs of decent play and for parts of the game were even and had moments were we outclassed them but they simply outmuscled us and the big forwards killed us down the flanks. Graham Taylor’s old POMO style of football was in full force but it was effective. It didn’t help we made two bad mistakes for two of the goals. It was no surprise Orchard went onto win the cup beating Shamrock Rovers in the semi and cruising past Swords Celtic in the final so despite the rumours of the LOI destroying them they will continue to be a force. The best thing from this game for us was that Colin Kelly scored his first goal since signing and a tremendous never say die exhibition of pace and power did it as hi won the ball and chased it down to fire home with his so called weaker left peg.

Next up was our old friends Liffey Valley Rangers and this was a right ding dong of a battle with parental intimation on the sideline and boots flying and tempers raised all over the pitch; however, the ref only seen fit to show yellow cards to our lads and have a word with us at half time.

The game was an exciting affair to watch for the neutral. They went one up against the run of play but we levelled it when Ayo flew up the right wing chipped it across to Destiny who dummied the right foot shot cut in and slotted it in with his left with absolute aplomb.

LVR got a dubious free and the high looping ball wasn’t cleared nor taken by Mark in goals and somehow went through all and into the net but soon after before the break James Kilbride scored his first goal since signing as great midfield play and as Victor pressed he won and poked the through ball to Jamesy who steadied himself an with his trsuty right foot curled it past the keeper and inside the post to level.

A quick word with our lads about patience, being tighter at the back and just maturity did the trick as we went into the second half and took control of the game as Liffey valley couldn’t cope with Ayo or Colin and Sam, Deco, Joe and Adam at the back had the makings of the LVR boys the rare time they got into the final third.

We took the lead when a free kick fro Ruairi was headed in by Colin and then we finished them off when Colin got his second and our fourth and the game ended more friendly that expected at half time. LVR like NTFC have recently joined the DDSL and they are a good bunch of players with plenty to offer and this was a very sweet victory against a a good team, a tough team.

Our next game was versus Kilmore girls U15s featuring a guest player and I hope this is not patronising but I was very impressed with how they tried to play, their sidelines atmosphere and in general the way they approached the games. Yes they were out of their depth but they tried to play out of the back and their guest player scored a great goal against us putting manners on our young boys who were slightly distracted.

We won 7-1 and did a little bit of experimenting as Adam played right wing, Paul got a few mins at Right back and Desto played left back but some of the passing was improved and it was a great training game for us. Goals from Colin (3), Ayo (2), Sean and Adam but with a semi ahead of us Mikey, Ruairi and Mark got a good rest whilst James, Oisin and Tadgh got full games. All in all the game time worked out pretty well this 3 days.

Our Semi was v our good friends Swords Celtic, NDSL premier and recent winners of the Celtic Cup in our own back yard. This was a cracking game to watch as both teams traded attacking play. Swords dedication to playing out of the back was in trouble as the pace of Ayo, Colin and Victor had them boxed in and early attempts from all three should have had us in the lead but fatigue was starting to creep in. There was nothing between us and we went in al square at half time but an injury to Mikey and niggles with Paul and Joe and Colin was a little worry and suddenly you could see why 1 maybe 2 more players this weekend, especially today would have gave us that extra bit of energy to go right to then end.

The lads upfront were torturing the swords keeper and back line. An over head from Ayo was the cream of the crop in the second half but as the game came close to the end the fear of penos was looking large.

Oisin came on for Paul, James for Sean, Sam for Mikey but a clearance was slowly closed down from a corner and the Swords lad pinged it into the roof of the net from outside the box with a few mins to spare. We went all out attack and had half a chance right at the death but it wasn’t to be. Semi finalist was our tag this day and proud tag it is. Defeat sucks we know that but I think the boys all knew how hard they worked and what good shape this weekend has them in for the season in September when it really matters as we have 9 games left to try and sneaky into second but defo aim for a third place finish in our inaugural DDSL season. If they continue to work hard and apply themselves like they did this weekend then it will all be in front of them and theirs for the taking . . . . if they want it?

Thanks and respect to Top Flight and DB Sports. Massive thank you to the families this weekend and the coaches for their time and dedication as that tells me you want it. This weekend we competed and were equal or better than teams from across the provinces and I am very proud of each and every player.

Well done boys!


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