The Under 10.5s took park in the annual St. Gall’s May Day tournament at Milltown Road, falling gallantly at the final hurdle in the cup competition to a strong team from Kilrea.
The boys began with a robust challenge from near neighbours, St. Brigid’s. The game was essentially won and lost in midfield with Oliver Whyte combining with Fintan McArdle and Rory McConnell time and again to turn over an indecisive St. Brigid’s midfield. With assured kick outs from Shay Spillane providing a platform for attack, McArdle chipped in with a few points and the addition of a brilliant solo goal from Sean Duffy put them in a great position to win the game. St. Brigid’s did attempt to mount a comeback after a fortuitous goal but, an assured performance from Rory Armstrong, Gabriel McGowan and new recruit Ben Browne saw the boys over the line.
Next up was Belfast side Rossa who were expected to provide a stiff test which did not, in the end materialise due to a dominant first half display from our boys. Duffy was again to the fore with two goals and McArdle bagged himself 3 points, including a sublime effort out near the left sideline. The strength in depth was beginning to show itself with great contributions from Sean Young, Ethan Connolly and Rowan Whitford who chipped in with a point.
Our final group game was against Davitts GAC but our lads could not find top gear in the first half which turned out to be a stalemate with Whyte providing both scores before the break. The second half was a completely different story, the introduction of Dara Murphy helped turn the game as he delivered two sucker punch goals which ended the game as a contest. This was backed up points from Duffy and McConnell. With Browne and McGowan impressive again in defence, the boys made it over the line at a canter. Connolly made another solid contribution around the middle in the second half.
We were drawn against a big St. Paul’s side in the quarter finals in a game which turned out to be nip and tuck. The team had a lot to thank the backs for when the going got tough, especially in the first half when they dealt with a lot of high ball. Special mention here to Armstrong who dominated the St. Paul’s danger man with fine tackling. Trailing by a point at half time after two McArdle scores, the game turned with another solo effort from Duffy who struck the killer blow with a strike in off the keeper. With the help of late introductions, Young and Ryan McHugh the boys saw it out to make the semi final.
In the semis, we faced a talented St. John’s team but our boys got the better of the early exchanges to take an early lead, including a fantastic 45 from Whyte, who gave a mature performance at midfield alongside the endless effort of McConnell. A crucial save from Spillane in goals and increasing dominance by Browne and McGowan – the latter with some excellent blocks – led the boys to a strong position at the half. The game was ultimately decided by a bit of McArdle magic from way down in the left corner who somehow managed to find the corner of the goal to give our lads an unassailable lead with the clock running down – only he will ever know if he meant it!
Kilrea came through the other side of the draw taking out many teams from their own county along the way – no mean feat in tournament football. From the outset they looked assured in possession and had a few early chances but a slick McConnell point after an excellent cross field pass from Whyte put our lads ahead. After that until the break, it was all Kilrea as they hit four points without reply as, for once, the backs struggled to get to grips with the Derry lads’ style of play. The second half saw the Carryduff lads show great heart and resilience to battle their way back to level pegging with points from McConnell again, McHugh and Whyte. The next score would be crucial and it was Kilrea who got it, a shot to the roof of the net which put our lads on the back foot. In an effort to chase the game, we were left short at the back and the boys were made to pay as Kilrea picked them off for another goal and a point to put the tie beyond doubt.
The boys left disheartened but proud of their performance, much to build on for the challenges ahead during the rest of the season. Thanks to all mentors for their efforts also.
A great day out for all concerned, the future is bright.