Playing in their second cup final of the season Downpatrick under 16’s had already exceeded all expectations in terms of what they achieved from their first year in the Lisburn League. Unfortunately this was a game too far, click on the link below to read more…
Saturday 9th May – Lisburn Invitational Junior League u16’s Cup Final
Downpatrick FC 0 v Willowbank 1
After Friday’s downpour it was surprising to see how well the pitch looked for today’s Cup Final. The boys began the match with hope and optimism, but, there work rate, desire and determination did not belie the fervour offered in the team talk. They were immediately on the back foot, as Willowbank were tenacious in every department, they did not allow Downpatrick to get any type of foothold in the game.
Every ball that was played or passed by a Downpatrick player seemed to roll in favour of the opposition. The boys were trying hard to get to grips with the play, but, it seemed they were still in the changing rooms thinking about what was wanted as a performance.
Even though the game was a cup final; it was much fractured with play being stopped for numerous free kicks by both teams. Downpatrick were trying to get the ball moving forward as quickly as possible with play down the channels, but, the forwards were guilty of straying offside.
Downpatrick were also held onto the ball too long and not releasing it quickly or just giving the opposition time and space to turn and play football. Willowbank were playing a little football and they created a couple of half chances, but, the shots were comfortably saved by Fintan Canavan.
Willowbank were showing more appetite for the fight and they were closing down space and breaking up play from Downpatrick. The defence were unable to deal with the aerial play and on one such occasion they never cleared they lines, which resulted in a shot which Fintan pushed over the bar for a corner.
From the resulting corner, the ball was only half-cleared; it fell to the oppositions number nine who had his back to the goal. He lashed at the ball and kicked it over his head from about twelve yards out. It looped over the goalkeeper and into the top corner, (0-1). It may have been a lucky goal, but, it was nothing more than Willowbank deserved.
I don’t know if it was a knee-jerk reaction, but, Downpatrick got the bit between their teeth. They started closing down space and not allowing the opposition to control midfield. Again, some midfield players would not release the ball early and the football play kept breaking down. However, Downpatrick were getting some half chances and playing football in the final third, but, again they committed silly fouls and ran offside.
Eoin Rooney, Caolan Bentham, Fintan Canavan, John Hill and Tom Smyth were showing well for Downpatrick, but, games cannot be won with a small number of players producing fine displays as a team. These players were working tirelessly by breaking up play, closing down opportunities and keep the simple with their passing.
Downpatrick’s only real chance in the first half came with play down the left hand side of the pitch. Good interchange play from John Hill, Ben Curran allowed the ball to played to John Patterson on the half-way line, he picked up the ball and ran past two defenders and closed in on goal, the end result was a poor attempt at goal where he toe-poked his shot. With a little bit more composure, he may have given himself a better opportunity. The first-half petered out with constant free kicks and Willowbank producing several delays by kicking the ball away or preventing quick restarts of play.
Half-time: Downpatrick FC 0 – Willowbank 1
After some harsh words and honest talking at half-time, Downpatrick took up the gauntlet and hit the ground running. They actually started playing with some pride and they got at the opposition from the first whistle.
The boys began to win the aerial battles and the majority of players were moving the ball quicker than they did in the first half. It was Willowbank’s turn to be on the back foot now. Downpatrick were beginning to dominate possession, but, the play kept falling down in the final third with some poor decision making, the ball not breaking kindly or wayward shooting.
A number of changes were made to personnel in an attempt to gain more momentum. Tom Smyth and Conor Breen were not missing much in the back line. Ben Curran, James McAleenan and Caolan Bentham were producing fine displays. Caolan was getting on the ball and running at players which resulted in numerous fouls on him.
Eoin Rooney, a young player brought in with Tom Smyth from the U14 panel, tried in vain to get the forward line working, but, he was a little naive at times. When he got an opportunity to get on the ball he ran at the opposition, but, the luck was missing today for him. He was being double-teamed and unable to create a solid chance for himself.
Eventually, a player was booked for bringing Caolan down just outside the penalty box. The resulting free kick was never attacked and the paly fell down. Ben Campbell began to offer more and he was winning some battles, one such tackle resulted in some open play being created down the right flank where Caolan and Ben Curran produced some good football and the resulting cross missed everyone and was then cleared.
Again, attacking play was created by Downpatrick, but, the forwards were constantly running off-side, giving possession back to Willowbank. With their delaying tactics and the referee not penalising the tactic, the game again was stop start. Downpatrick were beginning to play football with greater urgency and they were managing to beat the high defensive line set up by Willowbank.
One such attack led play down the right wing and the ball was whipped across, it went straight across the six yard line where the Willowbank keeper fumbled the ball and it broke to Rory Anderson who passed the ball back to Ben Curran who was five yards out, the ball just needed guiding into the net with his left foot, but, he chose to control the ball and it got tangled up in his legs. A melee ensued and the ball was cleared.
Another chance occurred where Ben Curran beat the off-side line and raced onto the ball, the Willowbank goalkeeper raced out of his goal and Ben lobbed him from 35 yards, but, the ball dropped and rolled towards the goal. It was a foot race between Rory Anderson and the Willowbank defender which resulted with the ball being cleared off the goal line.
Willowbank had a couple of opportunities and some strange decisions from the referee allowed Willowbank to gain some respite from the constant barage from Downpatrick. Again, slowing tactics, bookings for fouls, time-wasting and a spectator being sent off for Willowbank for not releasing the ball when it rolled out of play; provided further frustration for the boys in their attempt to get the game flowing.
Downpatrick were trying in vain to create chances, but, they could not break down a resolute Willowbank team, who hung on valiantly. Downpatrick gained a corner and Fintan Canavan raced forward, but, the delivery and attacking prowess from Downpatrick was lost. The game played out and the final whistle blew with no further goals. Willowbank sighed with relief at the end of the game because of the pressure Downpatrick had exerted in the second half.
Full-time: Downpatrick U16 0 – 1 Willowbank
There was bitter disappointment displayed at the end of the game by the team, but, I would say that 6 or 7 players tried to produce some football and only a handful could hold their heads up high. Although Downpatrick had the greater possession they could not make the play count. They huffed and puffed, but, were unable to produce the performances from the early part of the season.
Although, the boys were very dissatisfied with the result and outcome; as a young team in their first season as group of players they have exceeded all expectations. They were Shield Winners, League Runners Up and League Cup Runners Up.
This was acknowledged by the Lisburn League committee who were impressed from the showing from the players and the management team. Be proud of what you have achieved this year, you can look back with pride boys. You have been great ambassadors for the club. You are a credit to yourselves and your parents.