It was a momentous afternoon for Carryduff U13s as they lifted the East Down A Championship on a bitterly cold afternoon in Bright. Not that any of the boys seemed to feel the chill as they defeated a strong Bryansford side in an entertaining game. The win was particularly sweet for many of the side who felt they had left the U12.5 championship final behind them just over twelve months previously.
Carryduff won the toss and elected to play against the strong breeze in the first half. The key would be to stay in the game by the break, but that was going to take a huge effort to defend on a big pitch.
Bryansford started brightly, their strong running half forwards asking plenty of questions of the Duff defence and they raced into an early lead with some fine scores. Ruairi McCann and Jacob Dixon were trying hard to contain some lively forwards, and Fergus McGrady was introduced early on to bolster the ranks, but the threat was obvious. However, the Carryduff midfield began to get on top and worked hard to protect their defence and when captain Rory Crosbie fired over an inspirational point, the gap was down to a single point.
Bryansford were pushing to extend their lead, perhaps a little over anxious with their shooting as they knew the importance of taking advantage of the conditions, and they were dealt a hammer blow mid-way through the half, when Carryduff struck for a goal. Oisin McGurk’s through ball looked to be drifting towards the Bryansford keeper, but that didn’t account for the determination of Tom McCarroll who nipped in to collect, rounded the keeper and fired to the net. When Eoghan O’Connor pointed his second free of the afternoon, shortly afterwards, the gap was three in favour of the Duff.
Bryansford needed a response and they got it with their best spell of the game as they fired over three unanswered points, including a couple of beautiful scores, to level the game. Indeed, it could have been worse for Carryduff but for a fine save from goalkeeper Fergal McNicholl who stretched to divert one goal bound effort over the bar for the concession of one, rather than three points. Bryansford had another goal chance sniffed out by a fine fetch from imposing full back Jamie Cunningham who protected his square well throughout.
As the half drew to a close and with the scores level, Bryansford were on the front foot, but in what was the theme of the day, every time the Duff boys were asked a question, they had the answer. O’Connor fired over the final two points of the half to restore a two-point lead for Carryduff at the break.
With the wind at their backs for the second half, Carryduff were in the box seat, but they still had to go out and seal the deal. Another O’Connor free and a fine point from marauding midfielder Ciaran McReynolds put them four ahead before Bryansford responded with a point of their own. The Newcastle men were still very much in the game and this was a proper contest. Many an attack was stopped at source by hard working half forwards Eoin Donnelly and Rory Maguire and if they were bypassed, they still had to face the solid Duff half-back line of Lorcan Swail, Jacob Kelly and Ryan Sherry who were all at the top of their game.
The result was still very much in the balance when Carryduff made what proved to be their decisive move with two goals in a minute. First, a long ball from McCarroll caused panic in the visiting defence and Eoin Blaney provided a deft flick to the net to put the Duff six clear. Bryansford needed a quick response and opted for a short kick out which went straight to Declan McArdle. The diminutive corner forward promptly chipped the ball back over the keeper’s head and in to the back of the net and there would be no coming back from this. Carryduff were on top and hit some great scores, McCarroll and O’Connor on target as well as Lorcan Swail with the pick of the bunch after a great jinking run forward.
Just went it looked like the game was well and truly over, Bryansford showed their mettle by striking back with a goal of their own and it took an almighty goalmouth scramble to deny them a second. Another dangerous ball in to the Duff defence was collected by Oran Teague, nominally a corner forward, but showing the team ethic evident throughout as he dropped back to help out.
Carryduff had been the better side and deservedly put their stamp on proceedings with the final two scores of the game. One came when Niall McGivern won good ball and fed Patrick McFarlane who set up McCarroll before, fittingly, the final point was O’Connor’s who finished with an impressive haul of 7 points.
The long whistle sounded on an entertaining affair with Carryduff victorious on a score line of 3-12 to 1-9. Captain Crosbie received the trophy, surely not the last time those words will be written.
Therefore, the season ends with the outcome we all wanted and credit is due to many people. Coaches Shane Donnelly, Aidan Hughes, Phil Doherty, Eugene McNicholl and Conor McCarroll have given much of their time to develop this squad, not only this year but also over many years previously. Credit also to the parents who have provided lifts, but more importantly support and encouragement to their young charges. Moreover, most importantly, credit to the boys. Not just the 24 who lined out on Sunday, but to the whole squad who have worked hard over an extended period, driving each other on and showing real commitment to the cause. The B team exceeded expectations in Division Two and played some quality football throughout, while lifting the Division One title was the icing on the cake. The squad have earned their Christmas break and will hopefully come back refreshed for their respective U14, and in some cases U12, campaigns next year.
Carryduff v Bryansford: Fergal McNicholl, Jacob Dixon, Jamie Cunningham, Ruairi McCann, Lorcan Swail, Jacob Kelly, Ryan Sherry, Rory Crosbie, Ciaran McReynolds, Oisin McGurk, Tom McCarroll, Eoin Donnelly, Declan McArdle, Eoghan O’Connor, Eoin Blaney, Fergus McGrady, Rory Maguire, Oran Teague, Lorcan O’Hagan, Lorcan O’Connor, Oran Donaldson, Patrick MacFarlane, Niall McGivern, Joseph Doherty