Mayo U15 0
Carlow U15 1
By Bob Howson
THIS SFAI Subway National Plate final between two old rivals was held at Mullingar Athletic’s excellent facilities in Gainstown on an overcast day with a strong wind blowing straight down the pitch, which made for tricky conditions for the players.
Carlow were attempting to retain the plate won by them last year and this match had all the hallmarks of an exciting one and that proved to be the case.
Mayo started with wind advantage and were the first to create an attack when their right-back Conor Kelly made a break down the right wing, but he was tracked by Peter Grogan, who got to the ball first and then Conor inexplicably pushed Peter over, to give Carlow a free-kick.
Carlow looked to pressurise Mayo, who had started hesitantly, and they were first to the ball after a good start, although a quick break by Kevin Hillerick was halted by a thumping tackle by Luke Murphy, which galvanised the whole Carlow team and showed their intent.
Jack Kenny, who was up against Mayo’s danger man Cian Gill, was on top of his game and he made a number of fine tackles to stop Gill before he could do any real damage.
Carlow’s first real chance fell to Peter Grogan, who picked up a ball from Jack Kenny and he turned Conor Kelly inside out, but then shot wildly over the bar from 25 yards.
Carlow were looking to turn what was a slightly ponderous Mayo defence with some long balls over the top, but it was a difficult tactic to master in the windy conditions.
Mayo’s other dangerous player was Cian Halpin, their central striker, who was leading the line well and he got behind the Carlow defence, but he wasted his chance when he shot into the side netting when it looked easier to score.
Carlow’s Liam Ryan, who was playing wide right, was starting to come more into the game, being fed by his colleague Andrew Vint, who continued his rich vein of form with some fine defending and strong attacking and the two combined well.
Mayo were guilty of over-hitting their passes, but a great run by Cian Gill saw him get to the bye-line and he pulled the ball back to Cian Halpin, whose strong shot was blocked by a couple of Carlow defenders at the cost of a corner, which went behind for a goal-kick.
Then Carlow came close to scoring when a long ball out of defence was latched onto by Peter Grogan and he beat the Mayo onrushing ʼkeeper David Dolan and his shot looked as if it was going into an empty net, but Adam Bouhound just managed to clear it off the line to prevent a certain Carlow score.
Mayo were dangerous on the break, but Carlow kept probing away, with Liam Ryan making some fine runs and Mayo’s Colm McHale was having a real tussle to contain these runs and from one of them Mayo’s ’keeper Dolan made an excellent catch under severe pressure.
Some great passing by Carlow found Liam Ryan wide on the right and his cross caused trouble in the Mayo penalty area, where the ball bobbled about, but no Carlow player could get to it and it was cleared by the Mayo defence.
On the cusp of half-time, Kevin Hillerick wriggled his way to the Carlow bye-line and he pulled the ball back, but blanket defending by the Carlow defence cleared the danger and half-time came with a 0-0 scoreline.
Carlow now had wind advantage and they were quickly into their stride when Peter Grogan made a good run and he tried a shot from all of 40 yards, but it went wide.
Then, straight after, he again picked up another loose ball in midfield and he fired in a terrific low shot from 35 yards into the bottom corner, which Mayo’s ’keeper Dolan got a full hand to, but he couldn’t deflect the ball wide and it nestled in the net for a vital 0-1 lead, which, on balance, was well deserved.
Cian Gill made another great run, but he was crowded out by a blanket Carlow defence and then, down the other end, David Dolan made a great catch under severe pressure by Carlow attackers.
Mayo introduced Fion O’Ruain and he was straight into the action in midfield as he broke up some Carlow attacks and also made some threatening runs.
Carlow won a free-kick, taken by Cian Gorman-Comerford, 25 yards out and he brought a great save from David Dolan.
Carlow’s captain James Boland was in great form and he and Cian Gorman-Comerford were two rocks that Mayo’s attacks foundered on and they were helped by Andrew Vint and Jamie Walker and of, course, the ever-capable Ben McCarron.
A poor kick-out by substitute ’keeper Sean Rabbitte was picked up by Peter Grogan and he slipped a pass to James Ingram, who mis-hit his shot and it was easily saved.
Liam Ryan was man of the match, which was fully deserved, and while it was a great squad performance, also on top form were Peter Grogan, Luke Murphy, Andrew Vint and Cian Gorman-Comerford, with great cameo performances from John Phiri, Cian Ray and James Ingram.
Best for Mayo were Cian Gill, Cian Halpin and David Dolan, who all had excellent games.