Report to follow
by Roisin Phillips
It has been a frustrating 2013/14 league campaign for Drogheda United Under 19s as dogged by managerial changes the side had little preparation ahead of the league start. United signed manager Shaun Maher just two weeks before the beginning of the season leaving him with the tough task of recruiting and preparing in a very short space of time.
Maher’s new squad consisted of players who had not played together previously and this, together with the short preparation time, showed as their season got off to a poor start with six straight defeats. The true strength of the squad has really come to the fore in the cup competition and in more recent league results. Along the way they have had some impressive wins such as their defeat of Shamrock Rovers in October, 2-1 win over Sligo Rovers and 7-0 demolition of Athlone Town at the end of January and more recent defeat of St. Pat’s.
But it is the cup results that are a testament to the character of the players. The opening round saw Drogheda dismiss local rivals Dundalk in Oriel Park after a nail-biting final 15 minutes during which the hosts scored once only to be trumped by two goals from Ryan Burns and Dean Cregan. In the second round away to Mervue United, Ciaran O’Connor was the hero of the day for Drogheda as he scored a 90th minute goal to add to Jordan Harmon’s brace and secure a 3-2 win and a place in the quarter-finals. The Brandywell was the venue for a convincing defeat of Derry City and one of the stand-out performances of Drogheda’s season. Their recent league and cup performances belie their lowly league position and one wonders whether with a little more pre-season preparation this could have been a team that challenged at the other end of the table rather than one that now faces relegation. Their late season league form and cup form would certainly suggest so.
Drogheda’s journey to the final has not been without controversy as having pushed table toppers Shelbourne very hard in the semi-final in Dublin, Drogheda lost the game 3-1. Within days however they were declared finalists when Shelbourne were ousted from the competition due to fielding a substitute not listed on the team sheet.
Four members of Drogheda’s squad have been signed by the club on dual registrations and it is clear that Maher and first team manager Robbie Horgan have seen the potential in these players – Dylan Connolly, twins Sean and Ciaran O’Connor and Fionn Reilly. Indeed Ciaran O’Connor has been in the first team squad for their last three games.
Captain Roy Kierans comes from a great footballing family, his brother having captained United’s U15s to FAI Cup glory in 2008, and he will be keen to secure another cup medal for the family. Both Luke Coates and Dominic McMahon played for the Ireland U15s representative side in the Umbro Cup and individual experiences such as this will stand to the team on Wednesday.
Overall this is a team that should really challenge next season with eight of the current players still eligible to play at underage level and having the benefit of a bedding-in season. Drogheda United has announced a scholarship programme with Dundalk Institute of Technology commencing in September 2014 and this will also be a big draw for the brightest and best at underage level.
With Shaun Maher now taking over first team coaching duties, the task of preparing the squad for next Wednesday’s final falls to recently appointed Under 19s manager Darius Kierans. Kierans is no stranger to the Drogheda’s youth system having coached the A Championship squad for several years and having been Youth Development Officer with Drogheda United from 2008 – 2010. In 2010 he became caretaker manager with Drogheda United’s first team following the departure of Alan Mathews. He then took up the assistant manager position with Dundalk FC in 2011 and was appointed their first team manager in mid-2012 following the departure of Sean McCaffrey.
“It’s been quite easy for me coming in towards the end of the season having worked with Shaun previously at Dundalk and also having a good relationship with both Robbie Horgan and Derek Boyle (assistant manager). I’ve watched the U19s play most of their home games this year and after a poor start it was evident the work both Shaun and Derek had been doing with the boys on the training pitch and the marked improvement in both results and performances in the second half of the season. Cobh will provide a stern test as they are both organised and have some very talented players in their ranks. We know it’s going to be a very tough game and a lot will depend on how both teams perform on the day. We hope we can bring the Enda McGuill Cup back to Drogheda.”
K. O’Flynn (Dave O’Gorman 90)
G. Gill (Danny Barry 82’)
Keith O’Flynn 40’& 52’
Seán O’Mahony 44’
Dominic Mahon 4’
Shaun Bannon 80’
Seán O’Mahony (yellow) 31’