Sure signs of progression from our U15 A squad in this exhilarating Kerry cup tie. A scoreline of 6-4 suggests a classic and you know it really was. Despite very poor weather conditions, the pitch was in fantastic condition and suited our style of play.
We looked for a solid start but as has been so typical this season we conceded very early on. In the 5th minute, a corner swung in dangerously on the gale caught everyone out, including their strikers and ended up somehow in the back of our net. A hammer blow but we responded in marvellous fashion. Direct from the kick-off and keeping posession well we put together the move of the season. First time combination football from Owen, Kiwi, Gearoid and Conor saw up open up down the right hand side. A lovely cross for Lee storming through the middle saw a majestic first touch to control, a second to push the ball towards the goal and away from the defenders and a third to slot the ball so cooly past their keeper to make it 1-1. Level within a minute and playing into a gale force wind showed great character from the lads.
We played some lovely football for the next 15 minutes, including some very dangerous wing play from Eoin and Gearoid but the wind was a big factor. Ballyhar were strong in the middle and a great battle was looming when another corner caused mayhem ending in a fantastic save from Maciek. Maciek is our right back and not our keeper and so a penalty was rightly awarded making it 2-1. 2 minutes later, a quick counter attack from Ballyhar saw a weak cross come in from the right. The pitch played it’s part here and not in a good way for us, a terrible bounce off a divot at the very last second deceived our keeper David who had been having a super game and it was 3-1 to the home team.
David responded very well to this setback when right before half time he produced a world class save to keep it at 3-1.
The second half started very brightly for us and we were on the front foot right from kick off. Some lovely football on the right win involving Maciek, Conor and Gearoid saw us win a free kick 30 yards out. Lee hit a dangerous shot from the free kick which was too hot for the keeper to hold. Gearoid had followed up and his deft touch kept the ball away from the keeper now scrambling to recover and Conor swivelled to hammer home our second from close range.
Unfortunately, Ballyhar responded how we had in the first half and scored from their next attack 2 minutes later. Again the wind favoured the home side as a shot looked to be sailing high and wide until the wind caught in and guided it to the top corner. Character aplenty was need and it was shown by our lads. We applied serious pressure to Ballyhar through some fantastic football all the while resisting the temptation to knock it long. From a corner Lee swung in a deadly cross which the defence couldn’t deal with and the ball blasted into the net to make it 4-3. Shortly it was 4-4 as again flowing football opened up the defence and forced a free kick 25 yards out. Lee calmly slotted home a thunderous free kick to make it 4-4 and claim his first hat-trick for the club.
It looked certain the we would go on to win the game from here, 4-4 with 20 minutes left, the wind behind us and we were playing fantastic football. However, Ballyhar’s big players stood up and showed serious character and the game became a much more even battle. We still created chances through Conor and Lee, Owen hit the crossbar and we weren’t giving up any chance until Ballyhar struck with only their second opportunity of the second half. A cruel blow but again we played our way back into the game. Conor’s free kick was tipped onto the crossbar and Maciek’s rasping shot also clipped the cross bar, Cian’s run and shot forced the keeper again to produce a stunning save. Surely we would get the equaliser to bring the game to extra time. Quin and Jacob on the left combined well to put Lee clean through with 5 minutes left but a clumsy, hefty and poor challenge from their center half well inside the box went unpunished and the ball ran though to their keeper. From the kick-out Ballyhar drove up the right hand side and another mis-hit cross ended up in our net, this time through a deflection to leave the scoreline at 6-4.
A classy footballing performance again from us, building on the Mastergeeha game nicely. Guts and character were good to see too and the squad is developing nicely. These lads deserve some good fortune in the remaining league games, hitting the woodwork 4 times in a game that you score 4 in and where their keeper has produced several good saves says the lads played very well.
Sean and Alan were excellent in the center back pairing, Kiwi gave his best performance of the season with guts and skill galore. Owen showed his physical strength and deft touch all game long and Dylan broke the record for left back nutmegs in a single game as well as doing his job very well. All four wide men, Gearoid and Eoin and later Jacob and Cian played very well on the day and our full backs of Dylan and Maciek along with Quin were brave, resourceful and attacking minded all day.
David in goals patrolled his box very well and his quality delivery made lift easier. A few unlucky bumps and the wind playing tricks didn’t detract from an excellent performance.
Lee and Conor were simply outstanding up front scoring all 4 goals and working their socks off. We might be out of the cup but we’re moving in the right direction!