Offaly boys help Midlands outfit to tournament win in UK
A number of budding Offaly soccer players were involved as the Midlands Under 11 squad claimed the Blackpool Easter Cup last week.
The 22-man squad consists of players from across the Midlands area, including Tullamore's Damien Kurasinki; Maksymilian Zeniuk; Rhian Power; Clara's James McKenna; Isaac Ryan; Tadgh Maher; Gallen's Ruairi Woods; and Banagher's Oisin Lankoande. Two Midlands teams entered into the Under 11 Blackpool Easter Cup Tournament.
On Saturday, April 20, both teams played three group games in very hot but beautiful conditions in the grounds of the University of Central Lancashire, Preston. Midlands A team came 2nd in Group C, winning one and drawing two games.
Results: Midlands A (1) vs (1) Mill United Red (Scotland); Midlands A (5) vs (1) Pitfour FC (Scotland); Midlands A (1) vs (1) Dungannon United (Northern Ireland).
Midlands B team topped Group A, winning their three games.
Results: Midlands B (9) vs (3) Riverside Dandies (Scotland); Midlands B (10) vs (0) Portlethen Sports Club Dons (Scotland); Midlands B (10) vs (2) Pollok United (Scotland).
It was widely commented that both Midlands teams were playing some great football, in the style that they have been coached, with the goalkeeper playing out from the back and defenders linking up with their midfield and attacking teammates.
Midlands A team coming second in their group meant that both Midlands teams were drawn against each other in the Quarter Finals on Sunday, April 21.
This game was played in a great spirit with this starting by the coaches by keeping both teams together at the pre-match talk and at half time talk. However, with this being a competitive tournament and a semi-final place on the line, the players themselves competed tirelessly and fought for every ball.
In a game that was end to end action and was the most challenging match so far in the tournament for both teams, it was narrowly won by the Midlands B team, 2-1, with the Midlands A team hitting the post in the last few seconds of the game.
This result meant that the Midlands B progress to the Semi Final vs Shankhill Juniors (Northern Ireland) and Midlands A in the playoffs vs Camp Junior (Ireland).
Midlands A beat Camp Junior (Ireland) 5-2 in a very sporting game with both teams and coaches coming together before the game for a team photo.
The Midlands A progressed to play off for 5th position against a very good Portethen Sports Club Gunners (Scotland). Both teams were evenly matched however the hectic match schedule for both teams as well as the very hot conditions, took its toll. But the Midlands A played through and never gave up in a game that was end to end, with the Midlands winning 3-2. It was thought that this might end in penalties however the third goal coming in the last minute, with some great teamwork and work ethic, they never give up and scoring from a 1v1 with the GK. Midlands A won 3-2 to finish the tournament in 5th position.
Midlands B beat Shankhill Juniors (Northern Ireland) 13-0 in the Semi-Final and progressed to the Final where they faced a very tough Dungannon United (Northern Ireland).
The Under 11 Final, Midlands B vs Dungannon United (Northern Ireland), was a very tough game. Dungannon starting the brightest, scoring early on, but the Midlands then brought it back to 1-1.
They went 2-1 down before halftime. The game was being played at a very fast pace, with a couple of injuries, the hot conditions and the heavy game schedule taking its toll on the energy levels. At half time the players regrouped and with some inspiring words from their coaches, they started the second half strong and scored early on to bring it back to 2-2. However with a mix up at the back Midlands conceded a third to be down 3-2.
But these boys showed great belief, character and teamwork to bring it back to 3-3 and in the final minutes when it looked like it would go to penalties, the Midlands scored the winner to thunderous applause from their teammates and parents looking on, Midlands B won 4-3 to become cup champions.
The weekend was packed full of football and other activities as well as attending Wigan v Preston North End on Easter Monday.
In two days both teams played 15 games (14 competitive and 1 friendly) and only lost one game when they played each other.
Coaching Staff: Head Coach Glen Byrne, Assistant Coach John Nelson and GK Coach Jack Cullinan.
League Rep: Derek Collins, Midlands Schoolboy/girl League.
U11 Midlands Squad:
Abbeyleix Utd: James Thompson.
Banagher Utd: Oisin Lankoande.
Clara Tn FC: James McKenna; Isaac Ryan; Tadgh Maher.
Frankford FC: Jack Dunican; Jack O'Donoghue; Odhran Fletcher;
Gallen Utd: Ruairi Woods.
Mountmellick Utd FC: Eoghan Nelson; Eoin Coss.
Mullingar Ath AFC: Ted Ahern; Ross Tully; Sean Byrne; Will Scahill.
Tullamore Tn: Damien Kurasinki; Maksymilian Zeniuk; Rhian Power.
Willow Park: Dean Pringle; Samuel Byrne; Sean Whittaker; Senan Gilroy.