Herbertstown v Castle United
Castle Go Down in 9-Goal Thriller
Under 14 Div1 02/05 18:30
Herbertstown 5 - 4 Castle United

Castle United’s very faint hopes of a title challenge in u14 Division 1 were extinguished last Wednesday evening in an absorbing contest in Herbertstown. The hosts, a position higher than Castle in second place, roared back from a three-goal deficit to hit the lead, eventually running out 5-4 winners and securing second place spot to runaway leaders Cullen. For Castle, including no less than seven u13 players in their starting line-up, it was an extremely positive result considering the changed line-up, and in the wake of a 5 nil thrashing at the hands of Herbertstown earlier in the season.

Choosing to play with a strong breeze at their backs under lovely evening sunshine, Castle started brightly, midfielder Christopher Costigan releasing striker Max Fogarty on a searching but ultimately unfruitful run. Herbertstown showed their class when intricate and precise passing on the right unlocked Castle’s defence, Anthony Kelly clearing desperately in the nick of time. Again Christopher won good ball in the centre of the pitch, this time inviting last week’s five-goal hero Cian Gubbins to chase, but again the defence closed in on him. Perhaps fortuitously Castle then found the opener, Christopher’s midfield partner Killian Aherne winning a 50-50 ball and advancing menacingly toward the home box. His shot from distance seemed initially to have been perhaps premature, when he might have been better to continue with his run. But in getting down to the dipping shot, the keeper only managed to parry the ball forward, and there was Max following in, like any good striker is instructed to do, to tap home.

Immediately Herbertstown launched another clever raid, winning a corner, but the resultant shot from distance flew wide. A second attempt saw central defender Scott Coscoran (the lone representative of the usual starting back four at this age group) clearing when the ball seemed destined to be goal bound. Keeper Niall Ryan then needed all his wits about him when advancing and gobbling up a ball, when the defensive line had been breached once more. Killian, strong in midfield played a delightful ball for Cian to chase. He was in and around the keeper at the top of the box, but the backtracking fullbacks did just enough to put him off his stride, the ball deflected for a corner. Again the home side responded, fullback Jack Carroll turned, but strong enough to track back and apply enough pressure to force the strike wide. Another raid down the right and another shot struck wide, and the home side might well have been thinking what might have been had their shots been on target.

Castle’s lead then doubled when Niall’s goal kick found Killian near half way with his back to goal, but cleverly playing the ball on with the back of his raised foot over the defence closing around him. Cian, one-on-one with fullback, feigned left and right, causing doubt in the defender’s mind, then unleashed an unstoppable left foot strike into the top left corner. A minute later the lead increased further as Killian struck a thirty-yard free kick into the top right corner. The keeper could only get outstretched fingers to the ball as it flew past him.

Anthony, fellow defender Ryley McAuliffe and right winger James Philpot combined to thwart another home attacking raid, yet another corner conceded and defended. Killian then played successive passes through for speedy winger Aine O’Leary to chase, the former cut off, the latter played back to Killian to feed Cian, who couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet in time to shoot. Leading 3-0 and approaching half time, Castle could congratulate themselves on their fine finishing being the difference between the two sides, but equally cognisant of the Herbertstown danger. And so it proved to be. Scott stuck a foot out to deny the opposition from a viciously crossed corner, then from the resultant corner, Castle just couldn’t seem to get the ball out of their defensive area. Eventually the shot came, from distance, this time ricocheting in off the post to give the Herbertstown team the lifeline they had fought for, all on the stroke of half-time.

If the goal prior to half time was deserved, then it also served to galvanise the home side, giving them the much needed impetus to start as they meant to, in clawing back the lead from Castle. Two minutes in and a seemingly innocuous ball was played back over the defensive line on the right flank, yet just enough to put keeper Niall in two minds as to whether to advance or not, the pause all the home winger needed to steal in and play the bouncing ball over Niall’s head as he did decide to come. A minute later and it was all square at 3 apiece. With no time to adjust to the previous goal, the defence were unable to clear from the box, and crucially stood watching as the shot from the top of the ‘D’ came, too high for Niall to reach. Injured Ryley then made way for another u13 player Rory Light in defence as Castle looked to steel themselves for more defensive action.

Three may well have become four for Herbertstown as the ball was won on the right and crossed invitingly, the header from the six-yard spot sent inexplicably over the crossbar. Two corners followed in quick succession, as Herbertstown attacked with menace, looking to capitalise on all the possession as Castle were forced back time and again with last ditch defending. Both times Jack got his head to the ball, and for the moment at least Castle had weathered the storm.

Then midway through the half Herbertstown found the lead. Clever play down the left caused confusion in the Castle back line, Scott heading the ball out for a corner, momentarily giving his defence the chance to regroup. The low, curling corner beat the first couple of jumpers, but was headed powerfully home from three yards out, and Herbertstown had won their lead. Despite the wave of home attacks, and the strength of the wind against them, Castle were at least now finding some headway into opposition territory. Rory found Cian on the right who fed Christopher in centre-field. His exquisite pass to Aine looked to have sent her in, but last gasp defending stopped her turning to shoot. Once more Christopher found Aine, this time she squared enticingly for James to chase, but it proved just too far from his reach. Yet the Castle resolve to find a way back into the match was rewarded, ten minutes remaining on the clock, as Killian produced one of his trademark jinking runs, all the time protecting the ball at his feet after Christopher had invited him to run onto the ball. From the left, he held off three would-be defenders as he entered the penalty area, the keeper coming to cut the angle, but Killian still managing to squeeze out a left-footed strike that beat all and rolled into the unguarded net.

4-4 and the match was again in the balance. Immediately Herbertstown were on the attack again. A cross from the right was powerfully headed into the crossbar and straight down onto the goal line. Four times the ball was cleared and returned only to hit the backs of players, legs, heads and bodies, not unlike pinball. The winner came five minutes from time, as keeper Niall was adjudged to have overstepped in his goal-kick clearance, the free kick awarded a yard outside the box, slightly to the right of goal. The shot, forcefully struck, skimmed the heads of those in the wall and, ever rising, soared into the top left corner of Niall’s goal. It was a harsh way to lose the lead again. Castle did have time to draw level, Killian making another great run down the left before being cynically taken down as he neared the penalty area. Christopher’s free-kick just cleared the cross bar, putting an end to an entertaining and pulsating encounter, though very much a game of two halves.

Castle, despite losing, will take heart from a sturdy performance, especially in the first period, and also when having weathered the storm of the early parts of the second, when Herbertstown looked likely to draw out of sight. Crucially with more than half the 14’s team missing in action, the positives of clever attacking play and stout defending were very much evident against a very talented Herbertstown outfit, and are there to see in such a close contest. Well done Castle.

Herbertstown 5 – 4 Castle United

(Max Fogarty 8; Cian Gubbins 21; Killian Aherne 23, 61)

06/05/2018 18:08