Tuesday, January 31, 2023

FAI Schoolboys Midlands Division

The Clonaslee College panel which won this season’s FAI Schoolboys Midlands Division title

Naas CC         0

Clonaslee College   4

CLONASLEE College travelled to Celbridge to play Naas Community College on Thursday last. This was the second year in a row that Clonaslee College had reached this stage of the competition, the FAI Schoolboys Midlands Division.

Soccer was only introduced as a sport in Clonaslee College two years ago so this was a phenomenal achievement for a school of its size to reach the final again. Clonaslee had lost the previous year’s final and had also come out on the losing side in two other finals in hurling and football so there was a great deal of pressure on them.

The Clonaslee side came out of the blocks fast and took the lead after just three minutes. A Clonaslee free kick was partially cleared to the edge of the Naas penalty area but fell to Cian Callaghan who chested the ball down and burst into the box and rifled a shot past the Naas keeper.

This goal settled the Clonaslee team and had the opposite effect on the Naas side who were fortunate not to concede two more before 15 minutes were even on the clock. A Cathal Lee free kick was spilled by the Naas keeper and two Clonaslee attackers got in each other’s way when a tap in seemed certain. Minutes later a pass from midfield released Cathal Lee and his shot hit the outside of the post and bounced away to safety.

This turned out to be the main pattern of the game – Naas very finding it very difficult to break through due to the work of Noah Flynn and Cian Callaghan in particular who worked tirelessly throughout and stopped a lot of the Naas attacks.

On the rare occasions that Naas did break through Tom Smith and Fionn Owens defended resolutely and were helped well by the full backs, Jack Smith and James Dunne. Apart from a couple of free kicks and corners which the defenders and the goal keeper, Paul Mulhall, dealt with, Naas could not get a clear sight of goal.

The first half finished on that scoreline but Naas came out in the second half with more intent and put Clonaslee under sustained pressure for the first 20 minutes or so of that half. Again the Clonaslee defence was resolute and stood firm, but the supply line to the forward line wasn’t working as well with several passes going astray. Manus Dunne was causing Naas all kinds of trouble on the wing and was fouled repeatedly, and he was the player that helped lift the pressure at a time when Clonaslee had lost control of the game.

However, a 1-0 score line is always dangerous when entering the final stages of a game but that was to change in last twenty minutes. Peter Doyle and John Murphy came on and added fresh legs to the attack. The second goal came from a pass from Padraig Glancy who made his way to the Naas goal line and despite the attention of the Naas backs managed to send the ball across the box where Cathal Lee volleyed home. This sparked scenes of delirium among the Clonaslee team and supporters. There was finally some daylight between them and Naas. The third and fourth goals soon followed.

Naas had no choice but to push forward to try and score which left spaces for the Clonaslee midfielders to exploit. The third and fourth goals were scored from outside the box within minutes of each other. Noah Flynn passed to Cathal Lee who hit it first time and it went in off the underside of the crossbar and the fourth (Lee’s hat trick goal) came from a pass from Peter Doyle. There were scenes of great joy when the ref blew the final whistle. It was a huge relief to win after the previous year’s disappointments.

Overall Clonaslee College deserved their victory. They worked hard for each other and demonstrated tremendous teamwork – nobody shirked their duty, and they were determined that this was not going to be lost. It was a proud day for Clonaslee College as it isn’t very often that the school wins a competition of this nature. They had beaten Scoil Dara from Kilcock in the semi-final and Naas Community College in the final. They now go into a Champions League competition and will meet Dublin Metro North in the next round, at home.

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