RIVERSIDE Athletic won the 2018 West Cork U18 League following a high-scoring campaign and comeback victory over Dunmanway Town in the play-off final.
Ten WCL clubs participated in this past season’s U18 league which began back in November and finished with the top four ranked side’s competing in semi-finals and a final to decide the championship.
Dunmanway Town U18s dominated from start to finish, remaining undefeated by winning eight and drawing one of their nine outings to top the league table. Skibbereen A and Drinagh Rangers finished third and fourth respectively while Riverside Athletic deservedly grabbed second place thanks to an impressive run.
The Castletownkenneigh-based side racked up some notable scores during the first half of the season, defeating Courtmacsherry 6-1, Togher Celtic 5-0, Clonakilty AFC 3-0 and Skibbereen B 6-0. Skibbereen A proved a tougher nut to crack at Riverside’s CKC Autograss Grounds in March but Athletic managed to eke out a 2-1 result and maintain their push for a top four finish.
Riverside’s solitary league loss occurred in Mohona on April 4th when a depleted line-up suffered a 2-0 reversal to main title-rivals Dunmanway Town. Athletic bounced back superbly however, gaining a walkover from Kilmichael Rovers before scoring ten goals in back-to-back wins over Drinagh Rangers and Castlelack.
Coach Gearoid Harrington points to the depths of Riverside’s squad and fellow coaches John O’Driscoll and Mark O’Driscoll’s input in helping the Castletownkenneigh-based side secure a U18 League semi-final berth.
‘Our squad played brilliantly all year and we only lost once to Dunmanway Town before going on to win the title,’ said Harrington.
‘I remember that we were struggling to field a team that night against Dunmanway and we only had ten available players due to GAA commitments. We won every other game apart from that one defeat though and reached the semi-finals where we faced a strong Skibbereen A team.
‘That game was actually the only fixture where we had our entire squad available to us. It was some game too but we managed to win it 4-3 after extra-time. We were 3-0 down after 40 minutes but scored just before half time. The lads managed to level it 3-3 in normal time and then we scored the all-important winning goal in extra-time.’
It seems strange that Riverside entered the West Cork U18 League play-off final as underdogs having produced such a dominant set of results. But standing in Athletic’s way of U18 glory was a team with an even better record and the only side to inflict defeat upon them earlier in the campaign.
‘We finished second to Dunmanway Town in the league but they had yet to lose a single game ahead of the U18 League play-off final,’ Gearoid Harrington explained.
‘It finished 1-1 after 90 minutes in a final we fell behind early on before Aaron O’Driscoll levelled the score just before half time. It was a fairly tight affair all the way into extra-time where we managed to edge the result 2-1 thanks to Harry Lillis’ goal five minutes from the end.
‘I took over coaching the team this year and was helped by John (O’Driscoll) and Mark (O’Driscoll). It was a very talented panel but tough to get everyone out for games.
‘I’d like a few to move on into the Riverside Athletic juniors even though we might lose some players to Castletown Celtic. There are still a lot of the squad U18 again next year which is great but we’d be hoping three or four move up into the first team.’
The Riverside Athletic West Cork U18 League title-winning squad includes David Curtin, Luke Hilliard, Cian Buttimer, Darren O’Donovan, Joe Crowley, Brendan Harrington, Michael Hennigan, Harry Lillis, Ryan Scannell, Aaron Draper, Brian Moore, Aaron O’Driscoll, Gerry O’Donovan, Niall Daly, Padraig McNamara, Cian Kelleher, Josh Barry and Darren O’Neill.