New six-a-side champions are the pride of Blackrock
THE Dundalk FC Cup, a competition specially organised for primary schools around the town, took place over a two-week period in Oriel Park and resulted in victory for St Oliver's of Blackrock.
Eight teams took part in all, with the teams being organised into two groups, and the top two from each group progressed to the final which was held earlier this month.
To say that there was a wealth of talent on display was an understatement, a sentiment that was shared by FAI official Mick Neville and Dundalk FC manager Stephen Kenny.
The schools fortunate enough to make the deciding stage were St Oliver's, Realt na Mara, St Malachy's and Scoil Muire na nGael. The matches were played at a hectic pace from the outset, with tackles, goals and skill in abundance.
The opening games saw St Oliver's and Scoil Muire emerge as tournament favourites, albeit by the skin of their teeth. St Malachy's proved stiff opposition for all the teams, while Realt na Mara had the brilliance, among others, of one Luke Savage in nets to thank for keeping them in the hunt.
Round two saw St Oliver's and Scoil Muire clash. After a cagey opening, it was Scoil Muire who took the lead with a cracking low strike from team captain Liam O'Callaghan.
However, St Oliver's bounced back shortly after and were unfortunate not to take the lead when Aidan Curtin broke free and unleashed a thunderous strike, only to see his effort rebound off the underside of the bar and out to safety.
This, coupled with the efforts of Flynn Kieran and Joe Mee in the St Oliver's and Scoil Muire nets respectively, meant that the spoils were shared at the final whistle. In a primary school six-a-side competition, this result was a reflection of the quality that was on show.
St Oliver's and Scoil Muire were now tied on four points from two, with St Malachy's still in with a shout.
Going into the last game, Scoil Muire needed to be clinical as they needed a huge goal haul against Realt na Mara to ensure that they retained the title for the second year in a row.
Enter St Malachy's. Trailing 3-0 to St Oliver's, the team better known as The Friary staged an unbelievable comeback. Led by the talented JJ Nwuabeze and the skilful Tom O'Connell, the boys fought hard to claw their way back twice and finish the tournament with a spectacular 5-5 draw.
This meant goal difference was irrelevant as Scoil Muire, despite being held for a long period by Realt na Mara, emerged as outright winners.
This tournament would not have been possible was it not for the hard work and dedication of Paul Johnston of Dundalk FC and Mick Neville from the FAI who provided medals, referees and pearls of wisdom for the competition.
A huge thank-you is due also to Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny for taking the time to chat to the players.
Thanks also to Eddie McArdle for allowing the competition to be played in Oriel Park which proved to be a fantastic venue for the tournament and ideal for staging similar such tournaments in the future.
Great credit also to the schools and teachers who participated, with a special mention for Gerry McDonnell from the CBS for organising this competition from its inception.
The array of talent on show suggests that the future for Dundalk football looks very bright indeed and, who knows, one or two of these pupils could be seen wearing the green and white of Ireland some time in the future.