The Gallen United team before their victory in the CCFL U-19 Cup final in Ballinahown Sports Park last Saturday.

Gallen hold on to claim U-19 double

Gallen United 2 St Francis 1

By Matt Scally

After beating St. Francis comprehensively in last week’s Shield final, Gallen United picked up their second trophy in seven days with victory over the same opposition in last Saturday’s CCFL U-19 Cup final at Ballinahown Sportspark.

This encounter was an altogether much tighter affair with the result in doubt right up until the final whistle.

After a somewhat scrappy start, St. Francis (fielding their U-18 team) took control of the opening 15 minutes and looked fired up to put the previous week’s result right. Their first real chance came on 12 minutes when Sean Minnock floated a free kick to the back post. David Westman helped the ball back across goal with his head to Brendan McCormack who should have scored but saw his close-range header clear the bar.

St. Francis had been playing most of the football so far. Gallen hadn’t really got going yet but they would take the lead against the run of play on 17 minutes with a beautifully-crafted goal. Picking the ball up in midfield, Charlie Gibson played a neat reverse ball to Eoin Tighe who cleverly stepped over it letting it run to Luke Kelly. Jason Rushe emerged from his line but Kelly lifted the ball over him to give the Ferbane side the lead.

From here the game evened out. Luis Clevett shot wide for St. Francis on 20 minutes while, down the other end Tighe and Kelly both went close – Kelly in particular really should have made it 2-0, his shot flying inches wide having beaten the offside trap.

On 32 minutes, Gallen had the ball in the net again when Darren Cullinane headed home from a corner. Referee Ultan Beaumont adjudged that there was some pushing going on, however, and disallowed it.

On the stroke of half-time, though, their second goal did arrive when Gallen’s other centre-half Ruairi O’Neill rose unchallenged at the far post to head home from Aidan Jordan’s corner. That left it 2-0 for Gallen and a crushing blow for Francis just before half-time.

But within four minutes of the restart, it was game on again when Brendan McCormack was brought down in the penalty area by Fergal Bracken.

Bracken dusted himself down to save Luke Sylvester’s resulting penalty but the ball squirmed back across the goal with the linesman perfectly positioned to adjudge that it had crossed the line.

On 63 minutes, Gallen nearly repeated the trick of their second goal. This time O’Neill’s header from a corner flew inches wide.

Rata Shakhnazargan, having been introduced at half-time, was by now making a big impression on the game and he went close on 63 and 64 minutes as the Athlone outfit desperately sought the equalising goal. The first saw Fergal Bracken pull off a brilliant save while the second was a blistering half-volley from distance that just wouldn’t dip in time.

Pave Lipinski did likewise with 15 to play – his volley flying inches wide with Bracken rooted to the spot once again.

The final 15 minutes of the game were played out in a welter of excitement with Francis pushing hard for the equaliser and Gallen hitting them on the break.

On 83 minutes, the big chance arrived for Francis when Brendan McCormack got in along the endline before pulling back to Luke Sylvester, who looked certain to score only to see his first time shot fly over the bar.

Down the other end, Luke Kelly should have scored when a corner dropped short to him but his shot flew into the side-netting. Sylvester had another chance from a header late on but saw the ball fly over the crossbar and with that went the Athlone side’s last hope. Gallen would hold on to complete a cup double.

Man of the match: Darren Cullinan (Gallen United). Gallen’s centre-back was a colossus for 90 minutes. He never put a foot wrong all game, organised his defence expertly and won some vital interceptions when St. Francis were putting the pressure on.

GALLEN UNITED: Fergal Bracken, Barry Finneran, Ronan Greene, Ruairi O’Neill, Darren Cullinane, John Dunican, Sean Carroll, Charlie Gibson, Eoin Tighe, Aidan Jordan, Luke Kelly. Subs: Brandon Delaney for Tighe (57 mins), Alex O’Connor for Carroll (57).

ST FRANCIS: Jason Rushe, Cian Kenny, David Westman, Jack Mulvihill, Ethan Kelly, Abdul Bassit, Sean Minnock, Luke Sylvester, Luis Clevett, Luke Farrell, Brendan McCormack. Subs: Rata Shakhnazargan for Bassit (half-time), Pave Lipinkski for Farrell (53 mins).

REFEREE: Ultan Beaumont.