Dalkey Utd U11 (Red) faced Finglas Celtic in the final of the Tony Hackett Cup on Saturday 16th May. The venue was the AUL complex near Dublin airport. The match had to be postponed from the previous weekend and as a result Mike Wride the team coach was “gutted” that he was unable to lead the team onto the pitch as he was abroad. The club hired a ‘team bus’ especially for the day and most of the players and their excited supporters made the trip together - lots of good banter mixed in with a few nerves.
The pre-match warm-up session also included getting familiar with the low flying planes that were coming in just a hundred metres above as they landed over the road at Dublin airport. Once the match was underway the planes were all forgotten as both teams concentrated on the task at hand.
Having met four times already in league games Dalkey were familiar with what a good team Finglas Celtic were and our two wins and two draws reflected tight matches. The tension built as the teams walked towards the pitch in two lines side by side.
From the off it was clear that both teams were out to win. Dalkey applied some early pressure with Duffy making a number of strong runs up the right wing and crossing the ball into the box. Ballance was also making a menace of himself with surging runs down the left and into the box firing in on-target shots that were stopped by the Finglas defence and goalie. Finglas were strong on the break and their number 8 in particular was proving a handful to deal with. Thankfully Mason and Woods were in top form and limited their shots on goal to a few half chances that Greaney was able to handle with ease.
Cronin was another player turning in a stellar performance. In his centre midfield role he had brilliant long range shot that was went just over the bar. His defensive play was also superb – winning back procession of the ball on a number of occasions and turning defence into attack. Greaney was his usual handful up-front and was unlucky when he received the ball with his back to goal and got away an on-target shot as he spun around and off of his Finglas defender.
At the end of the first half it was still 0-0. Both teams were focused and putting each under pressure right from the kick-outs. Finglas came out in the second half fired up and put the new Dalkey defence pairing of Norton and Flynn under great pressure. They managed to hit the woodwork three times but their best chance was missed by mere inches as their right wing passed the ball across the goalmouth just beyond the out-stretched leg of their centre forward.
Dalkey held their nerve and continued to push forward. Wride had replaced Cronin at half-time at centre-mid and did well in receiving the ball and playing it through to Duffy, Balance and Greaney. Eventually it was another of Duffy’s probing runs down the wing that broke the deadlock. Having stepped outside and got past two Finglas players he swung in a beautiful ball that gave the Finglas goalie no chance. It went in off the far post and Dalkey were in front 1-0.
Cronin had come back on to the pitch for the last 7-8 minutes and his strong physical play made Dalkey more difficult to contain. Following a long Greaney kick-out Cronin had a second cracking long-range shot that left the cross bar shaking. However it rebounded into the path of Duffy who showed a cool head and no small amount of skill to hit a volley past the Finglas goalie to make it 2-0 to Dalkey.
Finglas now piled forward and there were a couple of times where the players put their bodies in the way to block strong shots from the Finglas attackers. As with Woods and Mason in the first half, nothing was getting past Flynn and Norton in the second half. With only a few minutes to play and Dalkey now feeling more confident the third goal was a real team effort.
Flynn took a quick throw-in to Wride who managed to get his pass away to Duffy and moved forward to receive the pass back - a move straight off the training pitch that his Dad would be proud of! As Wride approached the edge of the box he drew in two Finglas players. This freed up space for Balance who he passed the ball to. Balance took one touch to control it and then slammed it pass the goalie to make it 3-0 and seal the cup final for Dalkey. The referee blew for the end of a memorable match and the celebrations began.
Finglas had provided stiff opposition and showed some very skilful play along with solid tactical positional play. They were worthy opponents and are sure to see more success in the future. The Dalkey U11 (Red) team remain unbeaten all season but have to await the outcome of Finglas vs. Lexlip to see if they have secured the double and win the league. Here’s hoping Finglas can push Lexlip every inch of the way and do us a favour!