EMMETS TAKE TITLE AFTER THRILLER
This was the way football is supposed to be. End to end, high scoring, plenty of drama and players free to express themselves. Welcome to the world of U14 football. This final was an epic encounter; you could see what it meant to the Slaughtneil players at the final whistle, the sheer joy. Glen were totally devastated, the fact that they had just participated in a classic had no significance with them.
Glen were eleven points down and came back into the game. With four minutes left they scored two goals to force extra time. Their body language as they virtually ran into the pre extra time huddle could have pre-empted that they would pull away in extra time.
This was not the case. Slaughtneil didn’t feel sorry for themselves; they showed real character, rolled their sleeves up again and in two pulsating periods of extra time edged Glen out to take the title.
In underage, getting off to a positive start is a must. Slaughtneil certainly did that. With the breeze at their backs, they took the game to Glen and set the tone for the day. Brian Cassidy opened the scoring with an early point. This was followed by a goal frenzy. Glen’s Conor Glass drove a ball forward, Brian Cassidy intercepted possession, launched an attack for Shane McGuigan to score a third minute goal.
One minute later the Glen net was bulging again. Sean Cassidy’s pass found Liam Cassidy who crashed home Slaughtneil’s second goal. It was a dream start for the Emmets. Brian Cassidy cut out another Glen attack, the play changed ends quickly and Keelan Feeney was bearing down on goal but ‘keeper Callum Young made a terrific save. The first of many, like his Slaughtneil counterpart, the Glen ‘keeper had a great game, despite the scoreline.
After Shane McGuigan tagged on a point, Slaughtneil hit their third goal of the game. Keelan Feeney won possession from the kick-out, his lightening pace taking him through on goal and this time made no mistake. So with just seven minutes gone, Slaughtneil were 3-2 to 0-0 ahead. Despite James McCloskey getting their first score two minutes later, Glen were in trouble, Slaughtneil were playing like a team possessed.
In the next period, Glen began to get a foothold in the game, with Declan McCusker and the midfield duo of Doole and Glass stemming the Slaughtneil tidal wave. However, against the wind Glen had to play a running game but were taking too much out of the ball.
Industrious midfielder Ciaran McGuigan capped off a fine run to score for Slaughtneil and Mark Doole responded with a free for Glen, the only two scores during a fourteen minute lull in the scoring. Trailing by ten points Glen had a spell of dominance of their own to get themselves back into the game. Conor Glass setting up Tiernan Flannigan for a point, before Declan McCusker and Paudie Fullerton put Mark Doole through for another as the half entered stoppage time.
A quickly taken free after a foul on Declan McCusker saw James McCloskey in on goal forced a terrific save by Slaughtneil’s James McRory. From the rebound Tiernan Flannigan went on to score the first of his three goals. The Glen full forward finished with a tally of 3-2 and was unfortunate to end up on the losing side. Conal Darragh tagged on another point and Glen were back in the game 3-3 to 1-5.
The half was not yet over. The next score was the game’s crucial moment and gave Slaughtneil a massive boost of confidence. A well measured pass from Prionsias Burke found Brian Cassidy in space. The Slaughtneil centre back hit an unstoppable shot to the top corner of the Glen net. It would have been better than anything they would have been raving about on Sky Soccer Saturday.
At half time, it gave everyone in the considerable attendance a chance to catch their breath. Glen were eight points in arrears, but this game was far from over. Little did we know how this game was going to pan out. Glen went route one early in the second half, but Mark Glass made a great interception and went on to have a terrific game. A brilliant tackle from Mark Doole back in defence started a Glen move that saw Conor Glass setup James McCloskey for a point.
Glen had a spell of missed chances and were guilty of taking the wrong option. At the other end Callum Young prevented another Slaughtneil goal. Slaughtneil were struggling to kick into the breeze, it was hanging as they attacked the road end at Pairc Sean de Brun.
With six minutes gone in the half, Glen got a much needed goal. A throw up on the 13 metre line, saw Glen win possession and full forward Tiernan Flannigan rattled to the net. They trailed by just three points and went on to dominate the game but were guilty of poor shooting. It’s a learning curve, but so high was the standard from both teams, we maybe tend to expect too much. We should remember these were only young lads developing.
In the twelfth minute Slaughtneil hit their fifth goal, Shane McGuigan’s effort hitting the post and Keelan Feeney making no mistake from the rebound putting his team 5-3 to 2-6. This seemed to inspire Glen even more and they were camped in the Slaughtneil half with ‘keeper James McRory commanding in the air.
Slaughtneil tried to make a counter attack but Glen corner back James McGuigan cut out brilliantly, if he had missed the ball Slaughtneil could have added another goal.
After a brilliant catch just outside the penalty area, Conor Glass cut the lead to five, but Shane McGuigan restored a six point advantage with a vital Slaughtneil point. Such was the pace of the game, a two goal lead was never a commanding one.
With two minutes remaining Glen were awarded a penalty for a foul on Mark Doole. Up stepped Conal Darragh and he slotted expertly to the corner of the net, reducing the gap to three points. Glen were not finished yet.
In the next attack Fergal Bradley’s kick was well caught by ‘keeper Callum Young, Glen built from the back, with Tiernan Flannigan played in on goal, his ‘rasper’ hit the bar and bounced into the net. The sides were level 4-7 to 5-4 and we were heading for extra time.
During the break, Glen were mentally buzzing after their comeback, but whatever was said in the Slaughtneil huddle certainly lifted their spirits.
So now for extra time. After points from Mark Doole and Brian Cassidy, Slaughtneil had another goal chance, but Young made another great save from Keelan Feeney’s shot. The 45 was worked short to the busy Sean Cassidy who scored a point, with a bit of help from the post. Tiernan Flannigan was the star of the show in extra time and was then on target with a point.
Shane McGuigan was having a terrific game for Slaughtneil and was on target from a free. While normal time saw big margins come and go, extra time was much closer and this game was obviously going to the wire. A great run and point from Keelan Feeney put Slaughtneil 5-8 to 4-10 by half time.
So it was down to the final ten minutes to decide the destination of the U14 championship. A Conor Glass free brought the sides level after two minutes and a replay wasn’t put of the question. A brilliant tackle from Mark Glass started a move, Sean Cassidy was fouled and a free from Brian Cassidy edged the Emmets ahead, with Liam Cassidy opening up a significant two point lead
A James McCloskey point made it a one point game once again and nobody was leaving Pairc Sean De Brun early. Glen again poured forward in search of an equaliser. Slaughtneil ‘keeper James McRory made terrific and crucial save from Conor Glass, and in another move, full back Mark Glass made a terrific catch which signalled the end of the game and the Emmets held on for a terrific win.
Both clubs have met in the U14 and U16 finals, with Glen also in the minor decider. It’s a great credit to the tremendous efforts put into youth development in these clubs.
Slaughtneil: James McRory, Rory McCartney, Mark Glass, Joseph McEldowney, Conor McAllister (capt), Brian Cassidy (1-3, three frees), Kieran Bradley, Ciaran McGuigan (0-1), Prionsias Burke, Keelan Feeney (2-1), Liam Cassidy (1-1), Fergal Bradley, Sean Cassidy (0-1), Shane McGuigan (1-3, one free), Jerome McGuigan.
Glen: Callum Young, Oran McGill, Jack Doherty (capt), James McGuigan, Stephen Glass, Declan McCusker, Tommy Mullan, Conor Glass (0-4, two frees), Mark Doole (0-3, one free), Conal Darragh (1-1, 1-0 penalty), Matthew Ferguson, Paudie Fullerton, James McCloskey (0-2), Tiernan Flannigan (3-2), Eoghan Young.
Sub: Shea McMath for Paudie Fullerton (38 mins).
Referee: Gregory McWilliams (Ballinascreen)