02 Apr Athlone District Schoolboy League WINS Manchester Easter Cup 2016
Manchester Easter Cup 2016 – Day 1
Good Friday, 25th March 2016:
Not so bright but very early and at about 4.45am 18 players from the ADSL U-14 Development Academy started to gather in eager anticipation of our trip to Manchester and to take part in the Manchester International Easter Cup.
This is all part of our continuing preparations for the 2016 Kennedy Cup.
Most of the Group are veterans of our trip to Cardiff last summer for the Welsh Super Cup and also took part in the Galway Cup.
However we have a few players making such a trip for the first time. Luke B missed last summer due to injury while Rob, Aaron and Dominik have come in making us a better squad and team.
It was a beautiful morning which lifted already high spirits. It was a very happy Group that set off shortly after 5.00am. We had a bit of music and a bit of a sing along which shortened the journey. We made good time and in no time at all we were in Dublin Port.
It was very busy with loads of buses full of players all heading over the water to take part in various competitions. We were second onto the ferry and soon up on deck looking forward to the crossing.
It was great to see our lads mixing so well with the other Groups. There is a large Group from Dungannon across several age-groups. The North Tipp League Under-13’s are also heading to Manchester. There is also a Group from South Belfast. It all made for an easy journey and a very smooth crossing on a simply beautiful day.
The weather forecast is not great but today is just magnificent.
We were soon in Hollyhead and back on the bus ready for the next stage. That came as a bit of a surprise to at least one who thought we were sailing directly to Manchester! Geography not a strong suit there!
Again we had for what passed for some form of music with the thump thump considerably enhanced by the purchase of various speakers on the crossing. We stopped off in Chester for something to eat. The place was packed but we were well hungry.
Then it was a short trek into Manchester.
Now there were more than a few misgivings about our first stop. For some there was more than a penitential element to it considering the day that was in it. For others this was just fear, hesitation and trepidation. A step into the unknown. A venture to places most would not rather tread. This was an exercise in facing up to our prejudices, facing down our demons and firmly exiting our comfort zone.
We were going to Old Trafford!
We first went to the Museum. It was very impressive but nowhere could we find that famous grey jersey from that Southampton match!
We had great Guides. They gave and took great banter and suddenly and almost unbeknownst to us all we were actually enjoying this!
To be fair it is a magnificent Stadium and reeks of history and occasion. We had access to all areas, including the home and away dressing rooms and the tunnel area, the media room, the VIP area, the trophy room, the Directors box and many other places. It was brilliantly done and hugely interesting and engrossing. Can you imagine one day running out onto that fantastic pitch in that packed cathedral of football to play a game! Wow!
You could not but be impressed and we were.
We finished up in the Megastore but only a few made any meaningful purchases. It might be a great place and a great tour but you can hardly expect us self respecting people to be subsidising the evil empire!
A few did start a campaign urging the powers that be that – “Van Gaal Must Stay”.
We think he is doing a fantastic job and should be given more time!
Anyway we were back onto our Bus and off to our hotel.
The Britannia Country House Hotel is in the Didsbury area of Manchester and is excellent. We were soon checked in and allocated our rooms. The hotel is very good. The rooms are big and spacious and all are happy.
After a short time to settle in we were down for dinner for 7.00pm.
The food was fantastic and there was loads of it.
There is a great buzz around the hotel. North Tipp are staying here as well. There is also a team from Canada and an Indian wedding. The place is heaving!
Then we had a team meeting. The team for our first game tomorrow was called out and we reviewed some tactics and bits and pieces. It was all very positive and we cannot wait for tomorrow.
We play 3 games tomorrow. We start against the San Jose Earthquakes from the USA. Where would you get it?
We are looking forward to tomorrow. We are adopting the Conor McGregor motto – “We are not here to take part. We are here to take over”.
It was then early off to bed. Most of us are up more than 17 hours now and sleep should come easy.
A very good first day. Made with news that Ireland beat Switzerland tonight in Dublin.
Now we look forward to tomorrow.
Manchester Easter Cup – Day 2
Saturday 26th March 2016
The forecast bad weather has not yet arrived and it is a beautiful morning.
We are down for breakfast for 7.15am. Yes mother, 7.15am. On a Saturday! During school holidays! Unbelievable Jeff!
Breakfast was very good. Loads of variety, and plenty of it. We are not allowed a fry. We are elite athletes!
There is a great sense of anticipation around the hotel now. There are supposed to be a few scouts in the hotel. Somebody said a Chelsea scout is here. The Tournament has a reputation. Andros Townsend and Chris Smalling played in it and they have done alright.
We were on the bus and on our way by 8.15am. Our first of three games today kicks off early. The excitement grew as we made the short journey to the venue. The Tournament is being played at the Platt Lane Sports Complex, and which is the old Manchester City Training and Academy ground. It is now owned by Manchester Metropolitan University. It is very impressive. The place is buzzing. There are loads of teams and from all over. English of course but also Americans, Scots, Canadians, French and there is a shower over from Ireland!
We soon find a dressing room. Then we get our playing gear. Cillian sadly is out and will likely play no part this week. He is injured and gutted. We all feel for him.
Before we head to the pitch we meet up with Val Keenan. Val was an outstanding player with Athlone Town and gave great service in the early to late 2000’s. He was a firm fan favourite as he gave everything on the pitch. One of the good guys who helped Athlone win promotion. Val is here with a Cabinteely United U-15 Team. It was good to see him.
Our heads however were now firmly set on our first game, against the San Jose Earthquakes all the way from California in the USA. This is their U-14 Squad. Last week they played LA Galaxy in the MLS. Today they play the ADSL!
ADSL 1 : SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (USA) 0
A result to send shock waves around the sporting world!
What a great start! We got into this game right from the first whistle. We played at a high tempo and had all the early pressure.
That early pressure soon told and we scored after just six minutes. Adam L did very well with a fantastic ball into the path of Niall who had cut in from the right and then he calmly lifted the ball up and over the big advancing goalkeeper into the far bottom corner. A great goal!
The cheer from the large ADSL support might not have registered on the Richter Scale but it was still great to hear it. (Sorry! We will try to leave out the “Earthquake” puns).
The Americans came more into it after that. They are neat and tidy on the ball but we held our shape and the structure we had spoke about last night.
Aaron was having a great game on the right and made one fantastic run but he had to come off injured. Adam L and Dominik were running the show from midfield. Roan was outstanding at the back ably assisted by Mark and Ronan meaning that Paddy had not a shot to save.
We had a few more chances. Niall was very good out on the right. Matthew was doing well down the left. Ben was linking up the play with loads of lovely touches while Luke F was a huge handful up front.
It was almost the complete performance. The only negative was that we could not score more but one was enough and it was a great win to start the Tournament. It is easily our best performance since last summer.
We are buzzing now! It almost feels as if the earth is moving! ( Sorry again! That is the last one! Honest!).
In between games we try to relax. Some meet Clinton Morrison. The 36 times capped Irish international is here to watch his own son play in the U-9 Category. He promises to watch our next game.
Meanwhile there is a “keepy-uppy” competition. There are football boots up for prizes for the most keep yuppies in 30 seconds. Almost all the lads have a go. Roan is the best of the ADSL crew and the early overall clubhouse leader with a score of 66. Com’on Roan!
Soon our minds turn to our second game of the day.
ADSL 0 : ROCHDALE AFC DEVELOPMENT 1
We did not play as well as in the first game but we played well enough to easily win this game.
True, Rochdale did hit our crossbar in the very first minute but thereafter we just battered them but just could not score.
First Luke F and then Matthew had chances but failed to hit the target. Then Niall put in a great run down the right and delivered a magnificent cross to the back post but Luke F just could not get on the end of a glorious chance.
Then Ben was twice narrowly wide with good shots the second of which came off a mazy run. Next Matthew had a great effort blocked. Then Adam L showed great strength and belief to create a chance for himself but his shot failed to find the net. At the other end we were largely untroubled. Luke O’R comfortably fetched a couple but otherwise it was mainly one way traffic. But we just could not score.
We came to rue all those missed chances. On a rare Rochdale attack we gave away a cheap and needless free to the right of our penalty area. We were expecting a delivery across goal but the free kick, whether by accident or design, somehow crept in low at the near post.
Still we kept going and fashioned a few more great chances. Ben came close off a free kick and Matthew was denied by an incredible save.
It was just not to be and that was hugely disappointing. There was much merit in much of what we did but we just have to put the ball in the net.
However we could not dwell too much on it.
We then headed off for something to eat. We went into the city and after headed back to the venue for our last game of the day.
Before that we all had a bit of a heart to heart discussion. We know what we did wrong and know what we need to do to put it right.
We were a fairly determined outfit as we headed out for our last game and just as the weather appeared to be turning and the awful weather forecast finally coming true.
ADSL 3 : Edgerton Sports (England) 1
What a response!
We started very well with Adam L leading by inspired example.
We almost scored in the third minute when Adam L thundered a mighty shot off the crossbar. We were really on top and playing very well.
We opened the scoring in the next minute. Mark N played a great ball to Niall who scored with a fantastic finish and for his second goal of the Tournament.
We kept pressing and pressing. Adam L was outstanding with Matthew and Roan doing very well in the midfield three. We scored again just three more minutes later. It was hardly a thing of beauty but Adam L’s free kick found the net down more to error than anything else but 2-0 better reflected our total dominance.
Then however we switched off. We stood off and never made a tackle as they scored almost straight away. It was a poor goal. We wobbled a little bit then for a little time.
However we soon got back into it. Again Adam L drove us on. We almost scored when Adam F put in a great ball to Niall but he was just wide with a low screaming shot.
We were now back on top and emphasised this with a super goal. Adam L went on a great run down the left cutting inside, all the time skipping past defenders. His shot was brillantly saved but Adam recovered to collect the rebound, turn and then lash the ball into the top corner. This was a superb goal. This itch has seen many great players but I suspect not many better goals.
We comfortably saw out the game now in the pouring rain. But we did not care. This was a great performance and it really lifted all our spirits.
It was a happy group that headed back to the changing rooms to get into some dry clothing. Then back to the hotel still in the pouring rain.
There was time for a shower and some spare time before dinner.
Dinner was magnificent. The food was fantastic with loads of choice and all of it good. Aaron has turned into our culinary expert with a detailed analysis of the various types of Yorkshire Pudding.
Then, after a short break we headed to the hotel pool. Craig took us for a very good recovery session before a great bit of fun with the North Tipp boys. We finished up with a few stretches to complete a great and very enjoyable session. Fair play to the Tipp boys. They are good craic!
We also discovered that Ronan has a twin brother playing for North Tipp! The resemblance is amazing. Imagine two Ronan’s!
Of course we were again starving after the pool but were eventually rescued by a timely pizza delivery.
Does life really get much better than this?
We might lose an hour tonight but we have gained some great experiences and great memories after a fantastic day.
Good night and don’t forget to put the clock back! Or is it forward? I’m sure somebody will have sorted that out by the morning!
Manchester Easter Cup 2016 – Day 3
Easter Sunday 27th March 2016
This is a very special day and a very special time for Ireland and for the Irish everywhere.
Today our country commemorates the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Whatever one thinks about the rights or the wrongs of what happened 100 years ago it cannot be denied that the Rising was the spark that fired the start to our national independence. It was a seminal and significant event in our history.
We also must acknowledge the sacrifice made by those brave men and women who knew they had little hope of success in the face of the might of the British Empire but hoped that their selfless stand could inspire a people to assert “their right to national freedom and sovereignty”. Their Proclamation has been hijacked in the past by some who chose to ignore its appeal that its aspirations not be dishonoured. It is right and fitting that 100 years on, we the Irish people of an independent state, should honour and commemorate those brave men and women and honour all those, on all sides, who gave or lost their lives. We can only hope that we prove worthy of their efforts.
It is also a measure of the progress made in the last 100 years that we enjoy a great relationship with our nearest and best neighbour and such that we can be given such a warm welcome here and enjoy our short time here in England. Today we commemorate all of the above and all those brave men & women.
We are very conscious of all that in Manchester this morning.
Despite the lost hour we were up good and early to be down for breakfast for 7.30am. We play our next game at 9.15am.
We were on the bus and back at the venue all in good time. Everyone seems up for it. We know what we need to do.
ADSL 2 : Tadcaster Albion JFC (England) 0
The tricolour flew proudly from our dugout on a beautiful sunny if chilly morning.
The parents managed to make it as well giving us a big support despite the early hour. Sky News was reporting that they had a late and long night! Sponsored by Mi-Wadi apparently! They were rewarded for their effort.
Again this was another very good performance. We got at them from the start and created a host of good chances.
Luke F was unlucky with a powerful header off a Ben O’Carroll corner kick. Next Luke F had a great shot saved by the keeper with the aid of his post at the expense of a corner. Then Roan picked out Matthew who played it into Luke’s feet who did well to play the ball out to Niall but his low shot was narrowly wide.
Adam L was next to go close with a shot off a well worked short free kick routine with Ben. Then Ronan made a great over lapping run from full back and put in a great cross for Luke F to volley which was deflected off a defender making for an easier save for a good goalkeeper. Good and quick feet by Ben created yet another chance while Matthew had a shot go just wide.
Still there was no goal to show for all of this. Yet the team did not panic, stayed focussed and kept playing.
It took until the last few minutes to make a deserved breakthrough.
Matthew played a great ball out to Niall who skipped past and clear of his marker and then put in a great low cross for Luke F to score with a tidy finish.
Luke F then had what looked a perfectly good goal ruled out for what nobody really knew.
The result and the points were finally secured when good play and a super pass by Dominik to Matthew who picked out Ben’s run. Ben cut inside and then curled a super low shot into the far bottom corner beyond the reach of the keeper’s despairing dive. A good goal to secure a good win.
It was a good performance. We created loads of chances and took a few. We played at a decent tempo and passed the ball well. We defended well when we had to. Luke O’R was solid in goal and his distribution was excellent. Luke B and Roan were immense. Special mention must go to Rob who again was faced by another giant but he again rose to the occasion!
So, one game to go.
We have a bit of time before that game so we headed back to the hotel to rest up for our last game.
What a great day!
The ADSL U-14 Academy are the Manchester Easter Cup Champions!
We returned to Platt Lane for our final match. Rochdale had lost and drawn their games today so the winning of the Tournament was in our own hands. A win would be enough to win the Tournament. The coaches knew this but chose not to tell the players and allow them just concentrate on the game itself.
In fairness to the Coaches, and to their eternal credit, and notwithstanding the importance of the last game, we did not change our rotation policy. Like the first day we remained faithful to the policy that every player in the squad of 18 would start at least one game each day. That was a great vote of confidence in the squad.
As kick-off time approached, the weather just got worse and worse and soon it was pouring rain. Soon we would be singing in the rain!
ADSL 4 : PFA (England) 0
PFA are the Professional Football Academy from Manchester.
We tore into this game from the start. All over the pitch we were up for this. We almost scored in the first minutes when both Adam F and Ben could just not get on the end of a Niall cross from the right.
Niall again was provider setting up a chance for Ben but his shot was well saved.
They threatened from a free kick but we looked solid at the back. We had our next chance when Adam L ‘s shot was just over. We were looking the most likely to score.
That goal arrived soon after. Niall picked up possession and drove at PFA. When the chance opened for him he just kept going and then picked his spot, drilling the ball to the net. 1-0.
It was not long before that lead was doubled. Matthew’s shot was brilliantly saved but Adam L reacted quickest to the rebound pouncing to score to make it 2-0. We were well on our way.
It nearly got better when Adam L went very close with a magnificent curling shot that skimmed past the far post.
We went 3-0 up from a corner kick. There was a bit of a scramble and a suggestion that the last touch was by a PFA defender. Mark was having none of that and is claiming the goal. We agree. It was Mark’s goal. (The fact that he promised this writer a pound if we said he scored is totally irrelevant).
By now the coaches had informed the players that a win would win the trophy. There was a growing giddy excitement as the Bench was also emptied to get everyone on the pitch for this famous win.
The icing was put on the cake with a fourth goal. Niall was brilliant and seemed to just laser in on his spot and just let fly firing the ball into the top corner. 4-0.
The final whistle heralded a pitch invasion from the full squad with the few remaining starters only then becoming aware of the significance of the win and the fact that we had won the Manchester Easter Cup. Magnificent!
The large support of parents and other family members joined in the celebrations. It was fantastic to see and to be a part of.
This Squad deserved this. They finished runners-up in the Welsh Super Cup Final in Cardiff last July and then were again runners-up in the Galway Macron Cup last August in a Final destroyed by a howling gale. They were both tough to take. This was sweet.
We finished with 12 points out of a possible 15. We could not be caught but had to wait for the last game to be played before the presentation. By then the heavens had opened and it was pouring heavy rain together with thunder and lightning and the presentation was moved indoors to the Astro-Turf dome.
It was a great moment to see each player receive their individual winners’ medal to the acclaim of the large travelling support. It was an even better gesture to send up Cillian to accept the Trophy. He was devastated not to be able to play and hard to see him tog out for each game in the forlorn hope of a miracle with a light warm-up. He could not kick a ball but he would receive the Cup. That was a very popular decision and spoke volumes for the Group and the ADSL.
Then we were back onto the bus and off to Pizza Hut for a late celebration lunch with the Trophy a very special and welcome guest. These were special moments with huge smiles plastered across every face. It is great to have this reward after such huge effort.
It was a great reward for those players who stuck with the Group and hopefully good preparation for the Kennedy Cup in June.
We were then back to the hotel. We had hoped to go swimming but the hotel would not let us in. That crass decision has cost them our custom this July when the ADSL will return to Manchester with over sixty players from our U-12 and U-13 Academy when we will stay elsewhere for those five nights. Not good business but you will not spoil the mood for us.
We had time for showers and some down time before a late dinner. These players are never full. Then we are off to the cinema. “Batman –v- Superman”. I am shouting for Superman. We had 18 of them today!
Well done to the ADSL U-14 Development Academy – the 2016 Manchester Easter Cup Champions!
This is one of those special days!
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