Ardkeeran go close in the Aviva
Dreams of national glory for Ardkeeran National School were dashed in the Aviva Stadium last Wednesday afternoon, but in the end it couldn't have been any closer as it came down to the width of the crossbar in the final round of games at the Spar FAI Primary Schools 5's national finals.
After recording one win and one loss in their first two matches in the boys section A (small schools) division, Ardkeeran kicked off their final round clash against SN Colmcille of Fintown in Donegal knowing that they needed to win, and they also needed a favour from Offaly side Clonlisk NS against Trafrask NS of Cork. Ardkeeran certainly looked after their side of the equation as they set about their business early. Niall Kenny fired in two early goals as he continued a remarkable day's play that earned him Player of the Tournament glory, and once Darren McKeon added a third, the Riverstown students were always in control.
However things weren't going well on the other pitch, as Trafrask raced into a 3-0 lead. Then it became 3-1, then 3-2, and once Clonlisk levelled, everything was on the table. The Offaly side continued to pile on the pressure but the closest they came was a thunderbolt of a shot that rebounded out form the crossbar, and so Trafrask were crowned the champions.
"We had so many chances in the second game to beat that Trafrask team but we just didn't take them" said principal and coach Edel O'Dwyer, ruefully.
"We knew we could have won it, we came so near to doing so, there was literally a kick of a ball in it. Initially there was a lot of disappointment on the boys' part, but now they look back on it as a fantastic experience. They were privileged, they were the lucky ones to be there" she added.
A remarkable comeback in their first game against Clonlisk set the stage for their run to glory.
After falling 2-0 down to the school from just outside Birr, Niall Kenny rattled in five goals to secure a 5-2 win.
That left them set up for a decisive clash with Trafrask, where two goals from Ruairí Kelly proved to be not quite enough as they fell to a 3-2 defeat.
That left them needing favours in the last game, favours that couldn't quite be delivered.
There was nothing only positives from Edel O'Dwyer however, who paid tribute to a lot of people who helped to make the occasion into a fantastic celebration of football.
"From our point of view it's a fantastic competition that's run by the FAI, the amount of work and organisation that goes into it is second to none.
"We have to acknowledge the sponsorship too, the fact that Spar sponsor a bus means that it's not an overly expensive day for parents and supporters to go up and get behind the team.
"We were there last year and three of the team that were there last year were back again this. Actually three of the four teams that were there last year were back again this year, and Trafrask were the runners up a year ago.
"We were lucky to be there twice, but we've a good bunch of players, coming from an area where soccer is very strong".
O'Dwyer also thanked the local Arrow Harps club, who have established a fine tradition of coaching and development in South Sligo.
"Arrow Harps who would have trained those boys up along, they do incredible work here in this area" she continued.
"The coach on the day was Darren Kelly, who is also one of the coaches with Arrow Harps and it's great to keep that connection going.
"The boys would have played with them all along so it's a combination of Arrow Harps and the school playground where they learn the game. They showed on Wednesday that they are a very talented bunch, and we're all very proud of them here, they really couldn't have done any more for the school" she concluded.
Ardkeeran NS Panel: Jack Brehony, Darragh McKeon, Matthew Potter, Jack Tuohy, Ruairí Kelly, Troy Kelly, Niall Kenny, Seán Kelly. Teachers/Coaches: Edel O'Dwyer & Darren Kelly.
Results: Ardkeeran 5 Clonlisk NS 2; Trafrask NS 3 Ardkeeran NS 2; Ardkeeran NS 6 SN Colmcille 4.