Semi-final heartache for Park
FAI Youth Cup semi-final: The Park 0 St Kevins Boys (Dublin) 1
The Park were only a whisper away from taking this game to extra time at Christy Leahy Park on Saturday but they were dealt a lethal blow in the 3rd minute of added time when the visitors scored the only and decisive goal of the game.
It was a devastating finish to the game for the home side who on the run of play probably deserved to take it to extra-time. The Park came into this game very much as outsiders, but the were more than a match for their more illustrious opponents and gave them a torrid time not allowing them much time on the ball and displayed a great work ethic packed with a high degree of spirit, determination and enthusiasm.
While this was by no means a classic game but what it lacked in skill it was compensated by a whole hearted effort by both sides who contested every ball with great vigour and intent.
While the visitors dominated possession in the first half The Park were very much in control at the back with Shane Jordan and Cian Purcell outstanding in the heart of the defence.
At midfield Mervyn Shalemba was using his strength on the ball to good effect while the Ward brothers Adam and Aaron were working their socks off on the wings while Conor O'Brien was a threat up front
Their goalkeeper Conor Hayes had an excellent game making a few great saves at vital stages of the game while his handing of the ball under pressure was impeccable.
In a scrappy first half in which there was little continuity of play and scoring chances were very few and far between with most of the play confined to the middle third of the pitch.
The visitors had the first decent chance in the sixth minute when Lee McKevitt got in behind The Park defence but his shot was brilliantly blocked by The Park goalie Conor Hayes.
Five minutes later The Park got their first chance when Mervyn Shalemba used his strength to win the ball at midfield and after gliding past two opponents his rasper of a shot from 30 yards skimmed the crossbar.
Now the visitors were not having any success up front and began to rely on shots from distance to try and open their account. Efforts from Andrew Brogan, Cameron Brennan and Jack McMahon yielded nothing and going in at half time The Park must have been very contented with the way things went over the first 45 minutes.
They began the second half very encouragingly and they had an early chance, but Aaron Ward's shot was just outside the left hand post. Then when Conor O'Brien went down in the box they were claiming for a penalty, but the referee interpreted it differently and issued a yellow card for simulation.
The visitors hit on the break after this with Lee Mc Kevitt creating space for Gavin Harney but his shot went over the top. Down the other end The Park created an opening and Mervyn Shalemba's wickedly dipping shot was just outside the right hand post.
Five minutes later the Kevin Boys goalie Godfrey Yoro dropped an Adam Ward free kick from midfield but he had time to recover the ball at the second time of asking. After this The Park goalie Conor Hayes showed a great pair of hands to catch a Marcus Murphy free kick out on the side line.
Then James Sheehan created a chance for Adam Ward but he missed the target. As the game entered the final minute of regulation time St Kevins Boys piled on the pressure with Lee Mc Kevitt setting up Gavin Harney and his shot from 10 yards looked destined for the net but Park keeper Conor Hayes dived full length to his left making a brilliant save turning the ball around the post.
Now everyone was preparing for extra time and the big band of Park supporters on the sideline were in great voice urging on their side. However all this changed in the third minute of added time after the visitors forced a corner kick.
When the ball came in The Park cleared their lines but sub Dylan Kelly found a pocket of space and played in Lee McKevitt and in a packed goalmouth he drilled the ball low and hard to the bottom corner of the net.
Straight after the tip off the final whistle sounded and a shell shocked Park side could hardly believe they had lost the game in such cruel circumstances. They turned in a great team performance and it is regrettable that they were caught by such a late goal.
Despite going down the Tralee side should feel very proud of their performance in the national competition. If the Tralee club can keep this group of players together prospects for the future of the club will be very optimistic.
The Park: Conor Hayes, Ben Falvey, (Josh Wadding 84 mins), Andrew Breen, Cian Purcell, Shane Jordan, James Sheehan, Mervyn Shalemba, Kevin Brown, Adam Ward, Aaron Ward, Conor O'Brien
St Kevin's Boys: Godfrey Yoro, Lee Keely, John Barry, Tuluwalade Bello, Ryan O'Neill, Marcus Murphy, Gavin Harney, Jack Mc Mahon, Lee Mc Kevitt, Cameron Brennan, (Conor Pugh 75 mins), Andrew Brogan (Dylan Kelly 56 mins)
Referee: Robbie Broe (Limerick)