Beaten Irish Cup finalists meet Olympic star
DROGHEDA underlined their arrival at the top tier in Irish junior water polo when - for the second time in two months - the club was represented in an Irish cup final.
Following the ground-breaking performance by the club's under-16 girls in Lisburn in January, this time it was the turn of Conor Mullaney's mixed under-14 squad to fly the flag for the Boyneside at the Irish U-14 Cup in Galway.
In the group stages, Drogheda began sluggishly as the early start and journey seemed to take its toll, but having fallen 3-0 behind they hit seven without re-ply to see off Galway side Tribes. The goals came from Teige Kelly (2), Bronagh Hanna, Aidan Mullaney, Abbey Tully, Andrew Healy and Jaymie Crone.
A subsequent 8-1 trouncing of Grads from Belfast - with the goals from Teige Kelly (2), Aidan Mullaney, Jake Cunningham, Conal O Ciobháin, Amaia Mc Donnell, Caoimhe Gradwell and Luke O'Callaghan Smith ensured Drogheda topped their group, setting up a quarter-final against Dublin side Sandycove.
And another masterclass from Mullaney's charges saw them storm through to the semi-finals on a stunning 13-2 scoreline. Kelly and Mullaney shared nine between them, while a Conal O Ciobhain goal and a Jaymie Crone hat-trick made up the rest of the scores. Leon Loughran marshalled the defence well.
Awaiting Drogheda in the semi were Clontarf, and this time the Boynesiders won 10-6, the scores from Caoimhe Gradwell (2), Aidan Mullaney (4), Teige Kelly (3) and Jaymie Crone.
Without Amaia McDonnell and Conal O Ciobháin through injury, a depleted Drogheda squared up to local favourites Corrib in the final and pomp and ceremony played a huge part in the build-up, with both teams being introduced to the attending dignatories. This seemed to take more of a toll on Drogheda for, despite taking the initiative with the first goal, they uncharacteristically then shipped six in a row.
Aidan Mullaney and Teige Kelly shared three goals to bring them to within two, and though the gap was back to four entering the final quarter, an Aidan Mullaney brace put Corrib on the ropes. Another Drogheda goal would have seen the pendulum swing decisively towards them, but with two minutes left a rasping Teige Kelly strike hit the crossbar and Corrib counter-attacked and scored, before adding another to make it 10-6.
The thrill of receiving their silver medals from Gergely Kiss, who scored the winning goal in the 2008 Olympic Final, made up somewhat for the players' disappointment of losing the final.
Drogheda: Cillian Hanna, Leon Loughran, Amaia McDonnell, Luke Callaghan-Smith, Teige Kelly, Conal O'Ciobhain, Aidan Mullaney, Caoimhe Gradwell, Jaymie Crone, Andrew Healy, Jake Cunningham, Bronagh Hanna, Abbey Tully.