U14 BOYS ARE ALL-IRELAND CHAMPIONS
Limerick Desmond (1) 3 (Tiernan Kelly, Brooklyn Delahunty 2)
Kerry (1) 2
(After extra time)
In last week’s notes manager Niall O’Connor concluded his preview by saying “Let’s bring home the Cup” and that is exactly what Limerick Desmond did with a three two extra time win over Kerry played in the splendid setting of University of Limerick. We witnessed history in the making as Limerick Desmond captured the inaugural SFAI U/14 Boys Inter League All Ireland Cup with a spirited and extremely hard-earned win over a good Kerry side. Finals can be tense but this is an understatement as far as last Saturday is concerned and definitely wasn’t for the faint-hearted supporter or indeed manager.
The management team of Niall O’Connor, Tommy O’Connor and Kevin Taylor gave a vote of confidence to the team that started the semi-final against NEC two weeks previous for the biggest game in the league’s history since 2016 when our U15 Boys beat NDSL 3-2 in Cahir. There was big support for the boys on the day and they gave plenty vocal encouragement throughout. We played with the breeze in the first half and dominated the possession stakes as a result of this. We started on the front foot and a good ball down the right came to the over lapping Ryan Foley who sent over a sweet cross to the back post where Dylan Buckley just failed to get a telling strike on goal. A Kerry attack was then halted by splendid covering by eft back Aaron Murphy. Back came Limerick Desmond and another foray forward by Foley saw him get to the end line and this time he sent over a volleyed cross which again came to Buckley but a Kerry defender was able to clear any potential danger. The play switched to the other end and the Kerry number eight got behind our defence and his low shot left footed that keeper Zach Bennis got his finger tips to the ball to make sure even though it looked like the ball was going out of play.
The game was beginning to open up now and a cross by the Kerry right winger was acrobatically put behind for a corner by Ben Hough which was punched clear by Bennis. We than had a good few minutes where we got on top and Sean O’Flynn brought a very good save from the Kerry keeper with the follow up by Eamon O’Sullivan blocked by their centre half. On fifteen minutes and against the run of play Kerry opened the scoring when a stray pass was seized upon by the Kerry left winger who powered into the area and his sweet strike with his left foot across the keeper and into the top right corner. Limerick Desmond now faced a mental challenge as it was the first time that they have fallen behind in a game but there is great character in this side and this was reflected when we equalized eight minutes later. Between the Kerry goal and our equalizer, we had a good chance when a surging run by Brooklyn Delahunty took the ball from inside his own half and went past a number of Kerry players before hitting a rasper that the Kerry keeper could only parry but he gathered the ball at the second attempt. On twenty-three minutes we were level. A cross from the right wasn’t dealt with by the Kerry defence, their number four seeing his attempted clearance get altitude more than distance, Brooklyn Delahunty back headed the ball to Tiernan Kelly. The Newcastle West Town player still had lots to do as he swivelled on the proverbial sixpence and wrapped his right foot around the ball and placed the ball low into the bottom right corner for his fourth goal in the competition. Kerry almost took the lead when their number seven came down the right and cut into the area but a great leg save by Bennis kept the sides level. Just before half time another Bennis save, this time Kerry broke in from the left with the keeper getting down well to parry the ball away at his near post and when the ball was played back in from the end line the keeper gathered the ball to bring the first half to a conclusion. Half time 1-1.
The second half started with Kerry doing the early pressing and using the breeze to good effect but our defence stood up manfully and rode out that early surge by Kerry. We responded and great work down the inside left channel by Dylan Buckley won us a corner but the corner was poor and gave Kerry the chance to break but nothing came of it on this occasion. There was a let off for Kerry eight minutes into the second half when a ball from Eoin Hennessy put Buckley behind the Kerry defence and he lobbed the keeper only for their number four to hook the ball over his head and clear the ball and their luck was in again when the ball bounced into the keeper’s hands. Fifteen minutes into the second half and Kerry were back in front. An attack down their right was whipped in low by their number seven, John Ross O’Reilly did well to cut out the ball but it only came to number six who squared the ball for the Kerry number ten to drill the ball low into the bottom left corner. Another test of character for our boys and they didn’t drop their heads even though it looked like Kerry were getting the rub of the green.
With twelve minutes left we were back level, a Kerry attack was broken up and the ball was played to Tiernan Kelly, who took the ball from deep in his own half and shrugged off two Kerry players before playing a delightful through ball to Brooklyn Delahunty who showed some deft skill to shift the ball onto his left foot and roll in past the advancing keeper. Game on again and soon after we had a great chance to go ahead for the first time when Buckley wriggled himself into space and brought a fine stop from the Kerry keeper. Play then swept down field and the Kerry number seven, and not for the first time in the game put in a great cross from the right but keeper Bennis grabbed the ball in the air when under pressure in a crowded goalmouth.
And so, onto extra time and as happened many times before extra time can lack the intensity and endeavour of normal time and this proved the case in the first period of extra time especially. The second period had everything, goalmouth scrambles, last gasp tackles, inspirational blocks and one fantastic chance that went abegging. Thankfully it was the latter that let us off the hook.
The first four minutes or so were dominated by Kerry as our defence led a charmed life on more than one occasion. A run from midfield by the Kerry number six saw him shoot low from outside the area, Bennis parried his effort before their number eight played the ball into the six-yard box where a combination of John Ross O’Reilly and Ben Hough somehow managed to clear the ball to safety. Another Kerry attack from their right saw the ball crossed in, sub Sheagh Mulvihill couldn’t clear the ball and when it bounced behind him their number eleven volleyed the ball well over the crossbar.
Then came the moment of magic which reverberated across the soccer fields of West Limerick and I still think you can hear the cheering and celebrating. Not for the first time in the game Tiernan Kelly was involved in the build up when he skipped past a Kerry player and took the ball on a few paces before clipping a diagonal ball behind the Kerry defence, Delahunty got onto it and chipped the ball over a defender before going past another defender and as the ball touched the ground the striker drilled the ball to the Kerry net. Cue pandemonium. After this Kerry threw everything at the Limerick Desmond defence in a bid to level the game up but our defence was resolute. However, we were lucky not to have conceded a penalty for what Kerry claimed was a handball by O’Reilly. From my angle it wasn’t. Willian on Sunday not so lucky. And so that concluded the action in UL on Saturday as Limerick Desmond U14s were crowned inaugural SFAI U/14 Boys Inter League All Ireland Cup Champions.
Limerick Desmond: Zach Bennis (Dromore Utd), Ryan Foley (Breska Rvs), Aaron Murphy (Abbeyfeale Utd), John Ross O’Reilly (Breska Rvs), Ben Hough (Creeves Celtic), Rowan Collins capt, (Shountrade), Eamon O’Sullivan (Shountrade), Eoin Hennessy (Breska Rvs), Tiarnan Kelly (NCW Town), Seán O’Flynn (Broadford Utd), Dylan Buckley (GB Rvs), Brooklyn Delahunty (Dromore Utd), Michael Kirby (Shountrade), Charlie McCarthy (Shountrade), Sheagh Mulvihill (GB Rvs), Mikolaj Pater (NCW Town), Thomas McMahon (Dromore Utd), Andrew Johnson (Shountrade), Cian Barry (Dromore Utd), Matthew Walshe (NCW Town).
Management: Niall O’Connor (Breska Rvs), Tommy O’Connor (Dromore Utd), Kevin Taylor (Breska Rvs)
Limerick Desmond Scorers over the campaign – Brooklyn Delahunty 7, Tiarnan Kelly 4, Dylan Buckley 3, Michael Kirby, Ryan Foley, Eamon O’Sullivan, Seán O’Flynn