U14’s survive in Connacht Shield thriller

I’ll try and keep this match report reasonably short and sweet as it’s currently 11pm and after Liam McCarthys visit to Burke’s bar and a few bevs in the belly, I’m sitting here with the intensity of the U14 Connacht shield match today against Knocknacarra in Colemanstown still strongly etched in my head.! What a match! Fielding without Ryan Noone & Michael Flattery, both injured; Liam Gormally holidaying abroad and then pivotal player Sean Hansberry made the announcement he had to go at half time to see Skehana who had teamed up with Mountbellew/Moylough play the Minor final in Pearse Stadium. That game ended in a draw by the way. All led to an eventful morning of soccer. David Gilligan, a lad whom one would scarcely see without a smile on his face, full of charge, optimism and full of enthusiasm, gathered the boys for the warm up and after a rousing team talk by the gaffer, the boys were pitch bound and Ned was ready for kick off.

From the word ‘go’, there was no larking about from the boys in green or in fact from the Knocknacarra boys either. Colemanstown started quite well knocking the ball about a bit and worked hard for each other. Jason Connolly was called into action early on with a super save while Sean Hansberry drew a great save on 16mins from Connolly’s opposite number with a low hard drill which was saved at the butt of the post by the keeper’s legs. Sean Hansberry who was in superb form had a long range effort from almost the half way line which was well held by the Knocknacarra keeper. A sucker punch for Colemanstown not long before the interval following a poor defensive clearance which Knocknacarra capitalised on and their striker’s fizzing effort flew in off the post. The Knocknacarra fans had scarcely time to celebrate though as Michael Ryan ran the dugout flank of the field, cut in across the box only to be taken down. Sean Hansberry held his nerve and dispatched the penalty with relative ease. 1-1 at half-time. It was decision time for Sean Hansberry: ‘Would he stay or would he go’ – he walked off the field Pearse Stadium bound and then changed his mind; he’d give it another 20mins much to the jubilation of the vocal Colemanstown contingent.

The 2nd half was only 3mins old when Jason Connolly made another super save after a period of sustained pressure from Knocknacarra. Sean Hansberry’s decision to stay was vital as he put us 2-1 up 7mins into the 2nd half after a long kick out from Jason Connolly was latched onto by Hansberry following hard work from Michael Ryan, Josh McGuire- Greaney and tough nut Michael Kelly. Kelly’s through ball found Sean Hansberry whose stride was as powerful as a horse climbing the hill approaching the finish line at the Galway Hurdle and he made no mistake as he finished neatly to the keepers right. Knocknacarra were marginally wide with a powerful header while Michael Ryan’s effort was saved after a good run down the far side of the field. At this stage Sean Hansberry was applauded as he departed the field; could we hang on without him?

There could certainly be no distraction for any of the Colemanstown lads even when a massive John Deere pulled out of Alfie Doyle’s road. The lads knew they’d have to put their shoulders to the wheel and they duly responded. Our defence were superb for the entire duration of the match – Darragh Hansberry, Luke Lally and Liam Molloy had their hands full but nevertheless were exceptional in their tackling and had vital interceptions at times. Darragh Roche & Conor Byron were far from peripheral figures and cleared the flanks on numerous occasions as the game was extremely intense. Mark Donnellan, Sean Hansberry and Michael Kelly (I don’t know what this lad is actually made of – full of energy and tenacity) refused to cave in. At one stage Conor Moran kicked the ball in the opposite direction in the closing stages when the game was at its highest intensity much to his father’s disgust!. It was a matter of hoofing it anywhere just to keep it away from the Knocknacarra onslaught which was at its peak at that stage. Josh McGuire-Greaney fought for every ball & Darragh Diskin and Conor Moran worked the ball fierce effectively. Colemanstown had a brief reprieve of pressure as Luke Lally’s vital interception found Mark Donnellan who was taken down on the edge of the box but Conor Moran’s free kick went agonisingly wide. Jason Connolly made another great save in the last kick of the game for Colemanstown to survive with an impressive 2-1 victory and advance to the next round of the Connacht shield. It must be said this team showed fight, great tracking back, marking and seem to have fallen under the spell of Gilligan and his assistant Niall Cunningham. The lesson learned was to keep going until the end and that is exactly what these boys did in an epic game in every sense of the word. Everyone loves a bit of banter and if you’re a grown man and you’re getting told off by the ref it adds a bit more spice to the occasion!!

So onwards and upwards, there’s still plenty of football to be played this season, they’ll be good days and bad days I’m sure. But for now the days are nothing but good.

Next Saturday sees our U12’s at home to Maree/Oranmore at 10.30; our U14’s home to Cregmore/Claregalway at 12:30 & A team home to Moyne Villa at 11am on Sunday.