Kerry's great odyssey in the FAI Inter Youths League Cup came to a disappointing end at Mounthawk Park on Sunday when they went down by the only goal of the game to the Dublin District Schoolboys League (DDSL) in a very keenly contested game. A cloud of controversy hung over the match winning goal as there were very strong claims that the goalscorer was offside when the ball was played to him.
The pitch was in very good condition despite the adverse weather and this was due to the splendid job done by the KDL in getting it ready for the big game.
The visitors were a much bigger side physically and this became a telling factor in the second half when they used they strength to better effect. However, Kerry turned in a very gutsy display and made the Dublin side work very hard for their victory.
The fact that it took Dublin all of 84 minutes to manufacture the debatable winning goal is a measure of the whole hearted effort Kerry put up but they just came up short at the end.
Kerry had a very lucky escape in the first minute of the game when DDSL attacked on the break with Derek Daly creating an opening for Malike Benrognibe and his shot struck the butt of the near post and went right across the goal line before been scrambled to safety.
Kerry regained their composure very quickly and with the excellent Ryan Carroll a tower of strength at midfield they made the Dublin side work very hard to get the ball. They forced a corner after 10 minutes which was floated in by Ryan Carroll and an effort by Adam O'Rourke was too tame to test the Dublin goalkeeper.
Then DDSL came down the other end and forced a corner out on the left from which Craig Hanlon rolled the ball back to Andrew Bracken but he fired over the top.
Kerry had a glorious chance to go ahead just before half time after a great move Paddy Collins flicked the ball on to Shane Lowth who drilled it across the goalmouth where James Duggan crept in at the far post and it looked like he had to score. Unfortunately he side footed the ball the wrong side of the post.
After all their hard work in the opening half Kerry began to feel the pressure in the second half as the DDSL began to get a grip on the game.
Kerry can thank their goalkeeper Eoghan O'Brien for keeping them in the game as he brought off three tremendous saves first to deny Craig Hanlon in the 55th minute and again six minutes later he got down to make a great from a Malike Benrognibe shot. With five minutes to go he again showed great athleticism to get down and save a Jamie Holywood shot from close range.
As the half dragged on everyone were hoping that Kerry could take the game to extra time and perhaps steal it in penos but all this changed in the 84th minute when the DDSL finally unhinged the Kerry defence.
Joseph Doyle set the wheels in motion at midfield laying the ball down the wing to Nathan Benson. He drilled the ball low across the goalmouth where Benrognibe appeared to be offside but no flag went up and he drilled it low to the bottom corner. Kerry were up in arms about the legality of the goal but their protestations fell on deaf ears.
Kerry did not give up after this and they tried their utmost to try and etch out an equaliser but by now they were running out of steam and it failed to materialise.
Despite going down Kerry can hold their heads high after putting in a great display against this strong Dublin side who are favourites to win out the competition. The controversy regarding the goal was a bitter pill to swallow for Kerry but they can feel proud of their performance and in the process they were great ambassadors of Kerry youth soccer.
It was a great overall team performance by Kerry with each and every player giving everything they possibly could. Their best performers were goalkeeper Eoghan O'Brien, who made three fine saves and handled the ball very well anytime it came his way, Sean Kelliher, who was superb at the centre of the defence, and Fionn Coakley, Cian Kennedy and Aidan Mulvany at the back. Ryan Carroll was outstanding at midfield and got great support from Adam O'Rourke. Shane Lowth and James Duggan tried hard up front but scoring chances were very scarce.
Kerry: Eoghan O'Brien (Fenit Samphires), Sean Kelliher (The Park), Aidan Mulvany (Killarney Athletic), Fionn Coakley (The Park), Cian Kennedy (Tralee Dynamos), Adam O'Rourke (The Park), Ryan O'Carroll (The Park), Jesse O'Sullivan (The Park), Paddy Collins (The Park), James Duggan (The Park), Shane Lowth (Tralee Dynamos). Subs: Ryan Dolan for Paddy Collins, Denis Cosgrove for James Duggan.
DDSL: Aaron Jackson, Nathan Benson, Dylan Moloney, Shane Whelan, Llyod Buckley, Craig Hanlon, Joseph Doyle, Andrew Bracken, Jamie Holywood, Malike Benrognibe, Derek Daly. Subs: Troy Carey for Derek Daly, Paul Bracken for Malike Benognibe
Referee: Seamus O'Mahony