BY GER McCARTHY
THE curtainraiser to Sunday’s West Cork League mygaff.ie cup final between Crookstown and Dunmanway Town sees Ardfield going head to head with Clonakilty AFC for the West Cork League U18 Cup trophy.
It promises to be a high quality U18 decider between two sides that love to keep the ball on the ground that should make for an intriguing match-up. Clonakilty AFC are still in with a shout of claiming the U18 Premier Division League title whilst Ardfield have already annexed the Division B championship having won all nine fixtures en-route to lifting the league trophy.
The attacking tandem of Sean O’Reilly and Adam Barrett has combined for nearly 30 goals this season with O’Reilly netting 19 and Barrett hammering in nine at the time of writing.
Much of Ardfield’s hopes of winning this year’s U18 Cup trophy rest on those two players shoulders.
Yet, it will take a huge team effort to overcome Clonakilty and require the likes of Conor Scully, Mark Hodnett, Shane Enright and Joseph O’Sullivan to step up to the mark in what is likely to be a cup final decided by the smallest of margins.
Many of this Ardfield U18 squad has already tasted success at U14 and U16 schoolboys’ level so the Carrigroe side should not be in least bit daunted by another cup final appearance and push their opponents to the limit.
Clonakilty AFC’s late-season surge to the brink of claiming the O’Herlihy Bacon U18 Premier Division title owes much to a well-organised back four with the best defensive record in their respective league.
Centre-backs Ger Crowley and Shane O’Sullivan were particularly impressive in the recent 3-0 league win at home to Skibbereen, denying the Baltimore Road club the title. In midfield, the creativity of Martin Connolly and Chris Collins is neatly balanced by the pace of wingers Matthew Jennings and Ferdia McCarthy in what represents Clonakilty’s strongest area of the pitch.
As with Ardfield, the Ballyvackey side possess a wealth of attacking talent in David Jennings and Damien Madden plus Oisin Byrne that should make for busy afternoon for the Ardfield back four.
Clonakilty began their cup campaign with a quarter-final tie at home to Castlelack on January 31st in Ballyvackey and emerged 3-2 winners following an exciting tie. Damien Madden bagged a brace and Oisin Byrne also got his name on the score-sheet to book a place in the last four of the competition.
Lyre Rovers met Clonakilty in the semi-finals on Wednesday April 8th in Lyre in a cracking local derby where extra time and penalties was needed to decide the outcome. The Ballyvackey side’s star midfielder Martin Connolly scored a late equaliser as a closely fought encounter ended 1-1 after extra time. Clonakilty held their nerve in the ensuing shoot-out and ran out 4-2 winners to book their place in Sunday’s U18 Cup decider.
Ardfield’s cup odyssey began with a preliminary round defeat of Kilmichael Rovers in Carrigroe on January 24th. Goals from Adam Barrett, Shane Enright, Mark Hodnett, David O’Donovan and Peter Walsh plus an own goal secured a 6-2 win and quarter-final clash away to Bantry Bay Rovers.
The Carrigroe side travelled to Kealkil on March 21st and came out the right side of an evenly fought tie with a brace of Sean O’Reilly strikes cementing a narrow 2-1 win. Ardfield’s reward for knocking out Kilmichael and Bay Rovers was a semi-final away to Premier Division outfit Riverside Athletic in Castletownkenneigh on Monday evening where O’Reilly underlined his burgeoning talent with another two crucial goals.
Ardfield came from behind to win a hard-fought last four matchup 3-1 thanks to a superb Brendan Kingston strike and a converted O’Reilly penalty plus match-clinching header.
A terrific U18 Cup final is in prospect this Sunday so I would urge anyone intending on attending the mygaff.ie cup decider to get to Canon Crowley Park early as the curtain raiser promises to be a final worth watching.
Sunday April 19th
2015 West Cork League U18 Cup Final
Ardfield v Clonakilty AFC in Canon Crowley Park, Drinagh at noon
2015 West Cork League mygaff.ie Cup Final
Crookstown v Dunmanway Town in Canon Crowley Park, Drinagh at 2:45pm
TOMMORROW: West Cork League mygaff.ie cup final verdict