Castle United v Cullen
Late Castle Strike Stuns Undefeated Cullen
Under 14 Div1 03/02 15:00
Castle United 1 - 0 Cullen

After a series of postponements that have dogged the soccer calendar this winter, Castle United and Cullen finally got to meet in Martinstown this Saturday last. Cullen, undefeated this season, and playing attractive free-flowing football, looked to consolidate their position at the top of the ladder, but faced a home side hell bent on showing exactly what they can offer themselves after solid recent outings. The fact that the single goal was all that could separate the sides was testament to the closeness of the teams, the spectators witnessing a pulsating encounter throughout, Castle winning out with barely five minutes left in the match.

As a nasty little hail shower passed overhead, Castle began playing into a slight breeze. An early free kick to Cullen delivered from the right brought keeper Darragh Considine out assertively to take the ball, but the danger from the speedy Cullen right winger was obvious, winning the free as James Connelly tackled late. Castle’s first real chance saw Christopher Costigan fed the ball by left fullback Niall Ryan in the middle of the field, who then played a direct ball to striker Max Fogarty. He in turn spun the ball for James Philpot to follow but he was adjudged to be offside. Less than a minute later Castle were awarded a free kick out on the left flank, which Christopher duly delivered, the ball curling over the defensive wall, central defender Scott Coscoran rising unopposed to it but unable to put head to ball, as the goal beckoned. Central midfielder Killian Aherne scampered toward goal on one his customary snaking runs, but his shot was deflected up into the visiting keeper’s grateful arms. Twelve minutes in and two successive runs down the right flank by Shane Connery saw the Cullen defensive line back-pedalling, the first cross intercepted by the keeper, the second clearing all players until it reached Christopher, who fed Shane once more, but the keeper was alert to the threat. Twice in quick succession Cian Gubbins on the left found space to run past his marker, turning each time to feed Christopher and Killian respectively, though the contests on this side of the field were proving evenly matched.

Cullen too were looking dangerous, especially down the right wing, Niall and James needing to have their wits about them. A visiting corner from the right saw Killian clear only for the ball to be launched back into the box, again Darragh snuffing out the threat. Twenty-three minutes played and Cullen were awarded a free-kick eight yards to the left of the danger area. Christopher found himself with the ball after it had been swung in, advanced into midfield, then played a lovely diagonal ball up the right wing for Shane to run onto. Beating the defensive line, he advanced quickly toward the corner of the penalty area, but as he steadied to shoot the Cullen keeper sprinted forward, cutting the angle, and more importantly deflecting the shot wide of the post. It was the home side’s best chance of the half. Two corners at the end of the half, one to each side, came to nothing as each defence held firm, the whistle then announcing the half time break.

Commencing the second half management made the tactical switch putting Max out to the left wing, and moving Cian up to the central striker role. Almost immediately Cian was sprinting on to a Killian pass before the angle to shoot was dramatically closed down in the nick of time. Shane too continued to cause havoc down the right wing, on the eight-minute mark being sent on his way by fullback Michael O’Dwyer. His shot when it came was high and covered by the visiting keeper, only for Niall to try his luck from distance with the rebound, the shot going low but wide. Two minutes later lovely interplay between Killian and Niall found Max, whose shot with his left again went wide. On the fifteen-minute mark a series of short passes in midfield opened the Castle defence down the centre channel. Castle’s keeper sensing the obvious danger advanced, his foot thrust out to block the shot, before falling gratefully on the ball before the rebound could be played. Substitute Jack Carroll arrived for Max on the left as Castle pressed once more, the bulk of the first period of the second half play with Castle camped in the Cullen half. Christopher then played a super cross out in between the visiting fullback line and keeper. Cian, trailing through, shot hard and low with his left, only for the keeper to get down swiftly and deflect it wide. Almost immediately Cian had a second chance, after excellent lead up work from Jack, the ball ricocheting off his head in the build-up, this time Cian’s shot clipped off his toes at the vital moment. Twenty minutes in, and again Darragh was called into play this time charging out of his box to clear as the Cullen forwards tore at him. Barely sixty seconds later a Cullen shot spun wide, though Darragh looked in control had the shot been on target. Rory Light then replaced James up front, the clock showing little more than ten minutes to go.

Then, as each defence looked to have achieved their aim for the day, the deadlock was finally broken. Twenty-nine minutes on the clock gone, and the through ball again turned the Cullen defence backwards. Cian, as he had done all game found himself in behind, and shot, the keeper instinctively falling and blocking brilliantly. The ball however bobbled back out, and Rory trailing in Cian’s wake was there to poke it home in and under the keeper’s grasp. Cue massive celebrations, but also instructions from the sideline that Castle keep their heads as much as their shape and composure. Cullen, now desperate to hit back, suddenly shifted a gear and attacked with purpose. A free-kick to the left of the penalty box for Cullen cleared the wall and the defensive line but was too strong for the visiting forwards to capitalise on. As the last minutes played out, Cullen again found space down the centre, and one last shot brought the best out of Darragh in the goal, diving to his right spectacularly. A final corner was defended stoutly, the ball booted toward the touchline, and Castle had survived the late barrage of Cullen attacks.

So, a first loss for the visitors this season, but a just reward for the home side, who probably shaded the match in terms of possession and attempts on goal, particularly in the second half. This will breathe more new life into the u14 competition, as matches become increasingly closer to call, and the gap between each closes.

For the victors, Cian was consistently dangerous and lively on what was a slow surface for football; Shane on the right made hay and looked to be enjoying himself thoroughly in the process; Darragh was resolute and assertive in the goal; and a shout out to u13 defender Rory, who will no doubt dine out on his winning goal for a month. Though this was undoubtedly a team effort, and all 13 players must be acknowledged. Well done Castle.

09/02/2018 11:57