MSL U-14 GIRLS
Last Saturday saw the Portlaoise AFC U-14 girls make the long trek to East Galway United for their first ever competitive league game.
Nine out of the 14 girls that travelled only started playing the beautiful game this season and two of the girls in total have experienced competitive soccer.
The girls started well, with Chloe Keenan and Latefaat Ganiyu on either wing, using their pace and strength to get at the East Galway defence.
As the game went on, East Galway settled and started to attack in waves, keeping the back four of Róisín Fitzpatrick, Katie Galvin Farrell, Lauren Traynor and Caoimhe Hewitt very busy indeed.
The midfield trio of Ella Geoghan, Nuria Trefus and Orna Tynan battled tirelessly to try and stem the flow. Layla Mullally in goals was the busiest of the two keepers by far, but deserves a lot of credit for sticking to her task and not shying away from her job when the going got tough. Her shouts of encouragement and advice were brilliant.
When Portlaoise did get forward, it was through sequences of good passing and interlinking play and mostly ended up with the very skilful Keeva O'Reilly running with the ball at pace making the East Galway defenders have some scary moments.
When called on, the subs for the day Hazel Whalley, Shauna Traynor and Alesha Gallagher worked as hard as the girls they replaced.
The final scoreline of 9-4 doesn't reflect the workrate the Portlaoise AFC girls put in. They never stopped trying, regardless of the score.
There are more positives to take from the game. Some mistakes were made trying to do the right thing, and that's perfectly OK. That's how these girls will learn and develop. It's worth remembering it won't be often where a team scores four and loses.
Just a few of the highlights of the game would be Shauna Traynor's pressing, harrying and tracking a girl for 20 plus yards to try and win the ball back. Katie Galvin Farrell's recovery run and last ditch tackle that saved a goal.
Latefaat Ganiyu's crunching challenge in the last few minutes. Chloe Keenan's last goal, it was a real team goal with a number of passes leading up to it. Caoimhe Hewitt's determination and bravery in winning the ball off girls twice her size more than once and making use of possession.
PAFC goals were scored by - Latefaat Ganiyu assist by Chloe Keenan; Latefaat Ganiyu assist by Hazel Whalley; Chloe Keenan assist by Katie Galvin Farrell; Chloe Keenan assist by Keeva O Reilly. Refs Player of the Game was Latefaat Ganiyu.
Coaches player of the game was a tough call as there was a number of contenders, but eventually went to the girl who had one assist and two goals, Chloe Keenan.
A huge thanks to the parents for their support and driving today. Thanks for the pictures and keeping track of our scorers and assists. It was a long trek, but worth it
It may only be September but the Portlaoise Athletic U-11s have already played as many matches in glorious sunshine as they did in the whole of last season.
The fine weather obviously suits these boys as they put together another fantastic performance when they entertained St Aengus at Rossleighan Park on Saturday last.
With sixteen players available, the decision was made to split the squad in two and have eight players contesting each half of the game, despite both sides having the requisite number to follow the player development pathway recommendations of side by side 7-a-side matches.
While the season is still in its infancy, the level of inconsistency among clubs in the implementation of these initiatives means it is almost impossible to get any momentum going and it is the players who inevitably suffer as a result.
The opening half here saw both sides test each other out for the early exchanges, with neither achieving any sort of dominance.
The Portlaoise Athletic management continued with their philosophy of giving players game time across many different positions and this is having a huge positive effect on their game play and decision making.
These attributes were key to the opening goal. Jack Murtagh, lining out on the left side of midfield, read the game superbly well to intercept a St Aengus pass. He continued his run and when the ball bounced his way again he made no mistake with a fine finish to the bottom corner.
Ben Peacham and Jack Phelan were also pressing hard at this stage, with Dawid Nowodka covering a lot of ground in both attack and defence. Cian Fitzpatrick and Dee Harding worked well together at the back, but the fine movement and passing of the St Aengus players resulted in a number of goalscoring chances being created.
On another day they could have easily put one or two of these away but Ethan Kelly in the Portlaoise goals was in inspired form. There was nothing he could have done about the equaliser as a corner was headed home unopposed with the defence asleep.
That was to be it, however, as a combination of sharp reflexes and athleticism saw save after save being pulled off by the impressive Kelly, much to the frustration of the visiting players and management who were sure they had taken the lead on a number of occasions.
Kelly's heroics had an inspiring effect on his teammates as they managed to keep St Aengus at bay and cause some problems of their own at the other end. Phelan was working hard on the right, with Nowodka also more of an attacking threat.
It was Sean Conka, continuing his fine form of recent weeks, who grabbed the all-important lead goal on the stroke of halftime with a smart finish after a good passing move. Alex Moore took over in goal for the second half, producing his own collection of fine saves on the rare occasion that Kayden Carroll, captaining the side on his birthday, and Eoghan Kennedy were exposed at the back.
The midfield trio of Ryan Greene, Artiom Volkov and Josh Dempsey provided a great balance of pace, power and endeavour. Darren Mbeng was proving the perfect outlet up front, his selfless running and excellent touch contributing to numerous chances.
It was after a surging Dempsey run on the left that Mbeng extended the Portlaoise lead, firing home on the turn. Volkov powered in a fourth after the Portlaoise workrate won possession back in the midfield.
Dempsey was exhibiting the full range of his game at this stage, some fine dribbling, pin-point passing and tough tackling combined with a number of powerful shots that went close, including one off the top of the crossbar. St Aengus still had their moments, however, and but for a last-ditch Dempsey tackle, after chasing back the whole length of the field, would have had a second.
Dempsey got his rewards only moments later, smashing home the goal that his performance deserved. Luke Fagan almost added his name to the scoresheet, firstly after a goalmouth scramble and then with a powerful free-kick after he himself had been fouled.
Chances came and went for both sides as full-time approached but neither side could find that all important scoring touch.
MSL U-15 East Division
Portlaoise AFC 3
Both sides came into this one with 100% records from league matches played this season, but bright and crisp were words that could only describe the morning better than this game played at Rossleighan.
It was going to be down to whoever could win out a scrappy game and it went the way of the home side on this occasion.
Portlaoise AFC took only three minutes to get on the scoresheet after Cian Moore’s corner found Colin McEvoy on the edge of the box. Colin had time to turn in a crowded area and he fired the ball past the diving Killeigh keeper, making it 1-0.
Two minutes later Kieran O’Donnell was through on goal after a mistake in the Killeigh back line from a Conor Brown kickout but he just pulled it wide to the left.
Portlaoise AFC produced a good period of possession and link up play but no shots came their way and the game was just looking for a lift at this point.
That lift came from the visitors on 12 minutes when an inswinging corner was well finished into the top right corner after a bit of scrambling in the box and the score was 1-1. In truth, Killeigh had been getting some success down their right side as they found plenty of space and their Number 7 was getting a lot of free space without being picked up.
The next shot in anger came on 16 minutes when Portlaoise AFC’s Ben McDonald let fly from outside the box but it just went over the bar on the right side.
Portlaoise AFC started to find a better understanding amongst themselves in the next period and on 20 minutes the Killeigh keeper and defender pulled off a double save and block with shots from Ben Doyle and Kieran O’Donnell trying to stick the ricocheting ball into the net.
Two minutes later though and the strong pressure paid off. AFC took the lead at 2-1 with a shot from Ben McDonald just escaping the keeper’s clutches from outside the box.
After 26 minutes Killeigh had another lifeline. They were awarded a penalty after some hesitation at the AFC back let a ball fly across the box and the attacker was hauled down in the box when running in on goal.
No fear though for AFC as keeper Conor Brown was the hero pulling off a good save and the ball was cleared for a corner by Ben Doyle. The corner was cleared but the follow up passage of play resulted in a follow up shot that sailed over. AFC survived that bit of Killeigh pressure.
In the last few minutes of the first half good perseverance from Thomas Swords sent a good ball into Kieran O’Donnell but he shot wide right.
Just before the half-time whistle Killeigh had another shout for a penalty as the ball popped up off debutant Conor Brown’s foot and hit his hand but it was never a penalty. It was 2-1 at half-time and both teams were well in this game, even though it was not a classic.
Almost immediately after the restart there was a free from Killeigh but it swung over the bar. There was a good response from AFC winning a corner a few minutes later and Thomas Swords was unlucky not to finish for the third goal.
The intensity of the game lifted in the second half and to be fair to Killeigh they did not give up at all and had plenty of desire. This probably drove AFC on themselves too as they also started to pass a bit better.
On 53 minutes on the clock and outfield debutant Conor Brown did some very important defending helping his namesake in the AFC goal as he took out two attackers and cleared a very dangerous ball popping around the box.
Another positive for AFC saw the return of Robbie Farrell to the side after illness and on 56 minutes a free in by Robbie was just over the heads of all waiting in the box.
The next chance for the cushion goal came on 58 when a high ball in from the left was directed towards the goal by Ben Doyle but the keeper was in the right place to gather.
Killeigh then nearly punished a mistake through complacency from an AFC defensive point but the shot went wide left.
With five minutes left on the clock it was 3-1. Debutant Conor Brown outmuscled the advancing Killeigh keeper after Colin McEvoy fed Lee Smyth who sent a super ball in from the right wing. Lee may have thought it was already over the line but sideline analysis confirmed it was definitely a yard outside before Conor headed it in. Sorry Lee!
AFC finished stronger and had a few chances from Robbie Farrell and Ryan Mitchell getting in around the box.
Imran Shitta then cleaned up at the back as keeper Conor Brown’s kick out went straight to a Killeigh attacker but Imran took care of the threat and the score stayed at 3-1 at the final whistle.
Portlaoise AFC maintained their 100% start with four wins from four and had a fine Man of The Match performance from defender Colin McEvoy who bagged an early goal and was solid throughout the game at the back.