Shamrocks 2-9, Valley Rovers 1-11
Shamrocks came out on the right side of a bruising first round U21 football championship tie at wind swept Riverstick on Saturday afternoon. Our opposition was the formidable Valley Rovers who have a pick of 40+ players for U21 competitions, versus Shamrocks 19. Nevertheless Shamrocks led by outstanding captain Sean Kidney stood up to the task and played some outstanding football at times and defended with great determination when required. Shamrocks played with the gale force wind in the first half up the hill at Ballymartles splendid 2nd pitch. We needed to build a big lead going in at half time and Andrew O Grady led the way with the first score after 25 seconds. As the backs stood up well to limit Valleys to wayward shots, the forwards responded at the other end with the first major marked by Brendan Crowley, a poachers goal from inside the small rectangle. The second major was a splendid one, Mark Hitchmough released Shane Downey with a 40 yard pass in behind the defence. Downey who looked dangerous all day, collected the ball inside the 45 yard line, bore down on goal and fired a rocket to the roof of the net. Further scores were added by the impressive Cillan Hayes, Andrew O Grady, David Andrews and Downey to leave Shamrocks with a half time lead of 2-7 to 3 points.
It was always going to be a game of two halfs and script read that way in the 2nd half. When skill and invention was required in the first half, work rate, determination and heart was required in the second. The Valleys onslaught began in the second half and it was backs to the wall for this young Shamrocks side. Led by the acrobatic Criostoir Corkery who pulled off some great saves and the steely characters of Kidney and Dave Barry, Shamrocks stood up when needed. The half back line of Joesph O Keeffe, Hitchmough and Shane Kelleher carried ball forward when required. The O Grady cousins at midfield, Andy and Coby, compliment each other well. Andy the scoring chief coupled with Cobys outstanding work rate helped Shamrocks get a foot hold around the middle. Dave Andrews led the attack with intelligent running aided by two young minors Cillan Hayes and Daniel O Mahoney. Hayes popped up with an important score in the 2nd half one of two we managed to manufacture. The second was an unorthodox effort from Hitchmough but they all count at this level. Downey and Crowley were limited in terms of possession but they were not found wanting in terms of work rate. Shamrocks held out to record a one point victory and now move on to face the winners of Courcey Rovers and Crosshven next Saturday afternoon. The absent Darragh Scriven and the returning from injury of Ruairi Meghian, Damien Allen and David O Sullivan along with young Cathal Murphy and Shane Flavin will strengthen Shamrocks for the next round. The future is bright with this young Shamrocks squad. Shamrocks Abu ☘