The Tullamore team
Sometimes in football the scoreline tells the story and sometimes it simply doesn’t. Tullamore Town’s U13 side finally bowed out of the SFAI National Cup on Saturday last, beaten by a Midleton side, who would admit that the 4-0 flatterered them.
U13 SFAI National Cup Semi Final
Tullamore Town 0
Tullamore dominated the game for long periods, but having fallen behind to an early goal, found that luck deserted them, being denied by the woodwork no less than three times as they sought an equaliser. Midleton finally pulled away in the closing stages of the game to put the tie beyond the reach of the Midlanders. The 4-0 final score told nothing of the game that had gone before.
The large contingent that made their way to Cork made the match feel like a home game. Tullamore had emerged from their dressing room onto the pitch through a sea of blue and white flags, held aloft by fellow players from other Tullamore underage teams in a fantastic show of support. Apart from a strong breeze, conditions were almost perfect, on a superb playing surface at Midleton FC’s impressive grounds.
The home side were first to settle and struck an early blow when a well hit drive by Ronan Mackessy from outside the box found the bottom corner, just beyond the reach of Ben Boland in goals. With plenty of time to go, there was no sense of panic and Tullamore started to find their rhythm. Dara Waldron, so often the driving force on the left wing was finding joy out wide and Tullamore began to find each other with their quick passing. With Steven Murrihy and Thomas Carroll stopping anything coming down the wings, Ronan Guinan and Adam Malone blocked and won ball coming through the middle.
In midfield Jamie Harvey and Calan Kinnarney were picking passes through the Midleton lines, while Scott Halloran probed and tested the back four, looking to play Adam Martin up front into space. As the half wore on, Tullamore were in the ascendancy and their supporters erupted in expectation when Mark Monaghan’s shot beat the home side’s goalkeeper, only to see the ball strike the foot of the post and be scrambled clear.
Shortly afterwards a long ball over the top of the Tullamore defence had Ronan Guinan scrambling as Midleton’s Alex Wilson raced clear. Just as the striker pulled the trigger, the Tullamore captain somehow managed to get a leg across and block the shot, his last ditch tackle sparing his side from conceding a second goal. 1-0 at half time and this was still very much game on.
Tullamore started the second half with renewed purpose and spent the next quarter camped in Midleton’s half, with their goal under siege. Calan Kinnarney’s drive from inside the box beat the keeper but not the crossbar and soon afterwards Mark Monaghan’s corner was met by the head of Kinnarney who watched in disbelief as the crossbar denied him again. Games turn on moments like these, and just when an equaliser seemed inevitable, Midleton struck again. A free kick on the halfway line was sent into the Tullamore box, and evaded the defensive line, the loose ball bounced in the box and was drilled home by Alex Wilson. It was a sickening blow for Tullamore against the run of play. That goal put Tullamore on the back foot, and Midleton, a very accomplished, well organised side snuffed out any opportunity for a revival.
With time running out for the Blues, a Midleton corner was met in the box by Ben Dumigan who powered a fine header home. Odhran Gilmartin, Adam Keegan and Fionn Kane were introduced for Tullamore to give fresh impetus to their side, but the game was slipping away at that stage. With just minutes remaining, Ben Boland made his second point blank save of the day but on this occasion Midleton’s Alex Wilson followed up to rifle the ball into the net for a fourth.
While the disappointment was evident in the Tullamore players at the final whistle, there was nothing but pride from their coaches and the large travelling support who cheered them as heroes. This young team had spared no ounce of effort, having given everything in a superb game of football. The coaches took time afterwards to express their thanks to all who had travelled to support the team, to their own club for really rowing in behind their side in this cup run and gave a special mention to Sean Hoey, the driver who brought the team to Cork.
When the disappointment of not reaching the final subsides, these players will surely reflect on the most exciting cup adventure they have ever experienced. They have won admirers throughout the country for the football they have played, and the way they have conducted themselves on and off the field. They have done themselves, their coaches, their club and their families proud, going further in the SFAI Cup than any Tullamore team before. Their coaches Patrick Murrihy and Jason Halloran deserve huge credit for the way they have developed the players and the team, a team with an unbreakable bond. They went toe-to-toe with some of the top teams in the country, and got to dream about what could be.
When the team bus pulled into Leah Victoria Park on Saturday evening, the group of boys that spilled out had already exorcised their disappointment. They had laughed and joked their way back from Cork, maybe already having realised what a special journey it has been.
Pictured is the Tullamore Town U13 team before they left Tullamore for their semi final in Cork. Back row: Mark Monaghan, Adam Malone, Adam Keegan, Ben Boland, Adam Martin, Scott Halloran, Dara Waldron, Calan Kinnarney, Jamie Harvey. Front: Odhran Gilmartin, Steven Murrihy, Ronan Guinan (Capt.), Thomas Carroll, Fionn Kane.
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