Skibbereen start with a win over Bantry United in U15 cup.
SKIBBEREEN got their 2017-18’ season off to the best possible start with victory over local rivals Bunratty United in the Skechers SFAI U15 National Cup at the Baltimore Road last Saturday.
Two teams hoping for positive campaigns in this year’s SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys U15 Premier League served up an entertaining opening round tie in Skibbereen.
Conditions were ideal at kick-off, a perfect playing surface and little or no wind permitting the hosts to dominate much of the opening quarter.
Bunratty shot wide in their first attack but it was Skibb who came closest to breaking the deadlock with Isaac Harte twice missing the target from distance before the award of a freekick after 10 minutes. James O’Neill’s delivery was met by a Dylan McCarthy header but the Skibbereen striker is could only look on as his attempt looped inches over the crossbar.
That effort preceded a terrific period in which a flurry of chances was created at both ends of the ground.
Bunratty’s Adam Johnson was denied a goal by a perfectly timed James O’Neill challenge prior to Jamie O’Brien tipping away a Dylan McCarthy shot at the opposite end. Opportunities kept coming with United’s O’Brien the busier of the two goalkeepers, repelling Fiachra Collins and Isaac Harte in consecutive attacks as Skibbereen settled into the tie.
In defensive mode for the majority of the opening half, Bunratty made three (rolling) substitutions before half time in an attempt to break Skibbereen’s dominance. Although dangerous on the counter-attack, the Schull club were made to work hard by Skibbereen’s neat approach work. Isaac Harte, Dylan McCarthy and James O’Neill repeatedly stretched United’s four but a combination of competent defending and goalkeeper Jamie O’Brien’s excellence ensured the sides changed ends tied 0-0.
Bunratty continued to soak up plenty of pressure during the early stages of the second half but reminded their opponents of their attacking threat with a breakaway that ended with Adam Johnson narrowly missing the target after 43 minutes.
Micheál Sheehy had to be quick off his line to prevent Johnson from finding the net once again two minutes later as an entertaining game remained delicately poised heading into the closing quarter.
Skibbereen continued to dominate but an inability to breach Bunratty’s defence meant the home team were restricted to long-distance attempts, including a Dylan McCarthy daisycutter that deflected inches wide. McCarthy was Skibbereen’s most potent attacking threat and only a point- blank Jamie O’Brien stop prevented the striker from opening the scoring after 50 minutes.
The Baltimore Road side increased the pressure during the closing stages where two goal-line clearances and another O’Brien save preceded Skibbereen finally making the breakthrough. A handball offence on the edge of the penalty area presented Skibb with a free-kick from which James O’Neill’s attempt was blocked. Dylan McCarthy reacted quickest and smashed the ball into the net from close range.
Not content to sit on their one-goal advantage, only wasteful finishing and Jamie O’Brien’s heroics prevented Skibb from making it 2-0 before the home team were punished in the final minute of the game. With nothing to lose, United poured forward and forced a corner from which John Leahy pounced to smash the ball into the roof of the net to take the tie to extra-time. The boost of scoring a late equaliser inback jected Bunratty with some muchneeded confidence, Darragh O’Driscoll and Luke Watson’s combined efforts keeping the visitors on the front foot. Yet, Skibbereen saw out a difficult spell and retook the lead during the second period of additional time when Jack O’Brien released Jamie O’Driscoll and the striker made no mistake.
It proved the winning goal of a thoroughly entertaining National Cup game.
Dylan McCarthy and Jamie O’Driscoll who each found the net in Skibbereen’s 2-1 victory over Bunratty United in the opening round of the 2017 Skechers SFAI U15 National Cup at the Baltimore Road last Saturday.