Rovers on the double: U14 and U15 complete league and cup double
IT WAS an unforgettable weekend for the Shamrock Rovers Academy as their U14 and U15 boys sides achieved a double success in the EA Sports National League.
While the U14s – managed by former Hoops star Graham Gartland – defeated Finn Harps 6-0 in a league decider at Roadstone on Saturday, their U15 compatriots reigned supreme at their age grade courtesy of a 4-1 final round triumph over Cork City at the same venue a day later.
Having also come out on top of their respective cup competitions earlier on in the season, these results ensure the two sides ended 2022 as double champions in their own right.
There were just 17 minutes gone on the clock when the U14s broke the deadlock against Harps – Ade Solanke supplying the finishing touches to a Hoops attack.
Brody Lee subsequently doubled their cushion to propel them towards a 2-0 buffer at the end of the first period of play.
Instead of two halves of 45 minutes each, this game was split into three periods of 30 minutes apiece. Rovers were in a strong position to push forward for the victory they craved, but continued to pursue additional goals nonetheless.
Although the Rovers defence were forced to clear a dangerous Harps effort off the line in the second period, the gap between the teams was eventually extended on 56 minutes.
At the end of a breakaway move, Charles Akinrintayo fired home to give Rovers a firm stranglehold on the proceedings.
Just before the whistle was blown to bring the second period to a halt, Goodness Ogbonna fired home from close-range to place the outcome beyond any doubt.
Cian Kenna subsequently added to their advantage, before Lee contributed his second of the tie on the stroke of full-time as Rovers claimed the silverware on offer in spectacular style.
Having gotten the better of them in a Cup showpiece, the Rovers U15s were confident of overcoming Cork in the Tier One league title decider on Sunday.
The Leesiders were ready to throw a spanner into the works, however, and Jayden O’Donovan squeezed them in front with a superb 11th-minute finish from outside the penalty area.
Despite this set-back, the Hoops responded immediately through an Ike Orazi equaliser and gained a numerical advantage when opposition player Humphrey Canty was issued with a straight red card.
In his absence, Rovers squeezed back in front on 21 minutes courtesy of Orazi’s coolly-struck penalty.
Like the U14 showdown on the previous day, this game was split into three different sections.
City kept themselves in the reckoning for large stretches of the second period, only for Rovers to ultimately pull two goals clear as a result of a Kian Dignam finish in the 55th-minute.
This put Jason Shields’ side into a powerful position and it got even better for the hosts at the beginning of the final period.
Rising to meet a free-kick on 64 minutes, Barry Kealy headed to the net to put the seal on a magnificent victory that helped the Hoops to finish three points clear of Cork City in the league table.