2011/12 season review
|Thursday, 03 May 2012 13:23|
As we come to the end of the first season of Aitricity U19 League of Ireland, we look back at Rovers' overall performance.
The Under-19 season comes to an end this evening when Rovers visit St. Patrick’s Athletic for the 25th and final game of the season. Here we reflect on how the last eleven months panned out for the group.
A re-structuring of the League of Ireland by the FAI saw the end of the A-Championship and Under-20 League in favour of an Under-19 League. This meant that the club had to look at the players that had won the Under-20 League in 2010 and re-evaluate, as some now became overage in the new structure. This also meant we lost some talented individuals that had been nurtured to be replaced by a new group of players.
The players that remained from the Under-20 squad formed the nucleus of the Under-19 team in the 2011/12 season. Jack Memery, Donal Branagan, Garry Comerford, Charlie Kenna, Jason Murphy and Ciarán Byrne were all retained and the squad was supplemented by new, fresh, hungry and talented players that would add an excitement and vibrancy to the group. Players that had been successful at schoolboy level, both Club and Internationally. Just the type of player that suits a football club like Shamrock Rovers.
Other players from that squad have moved to different clubs in the League of Ireland and are enjoying life as first team players while Seán Gannon is currently a member of the first team squad here at Rovers.
When the new intake of players arrived at the club, they hit the ground running as some were thrust straight into A-Championship action, immediately gaining invaluable experience playing against, and alongside, senior professionals. With the European success enjoyed by Rovers last season, less first team players were made available to the A-Championship side so the new Under-19 squad effectively doubled up as the clubs’ reserve side. The young players acquitted themselves admirably to the task and were eventually defeated in the A-Championship semi-final by eventual Champions, Derry City, at the Brandywell.
This experience put the players in good stead for the commencement of their own season and on August 27th Tallaght Stadium hosted its’ first ever Under-19 Elite Division fixture that saw the Young Hoops defeat Mervue United 4-1 with Dean Ebbe scoring the historic first goal.
Over the course of the season, the team played 22 League games and 3 Cup games that led the side to Runners-Up spot in the Division and the Quarter-Final of the Cup. Going into tonight’s game, the team have conceded the least number of goals in the Elite Division (20) and scored the second highest amount of goals (49). 13 was the number of goals scored in the 3 rounds of the Cup the team were involved in. Of the total goals haul, Dean Ebbe contributed 19 with Seán Dixon on 14. Rovers currently lie 7 points ahead of third placed Waterford United and will look to increase that to double figures tonight. The team have been actively encouraged to play an open, exciting brand of football by the team management and anybody that seen the team play this season will surely attest to this.
First team manager Stephen Kenny has taken a very keen interest in the squad since his arrival at the club and this has been borne out by the team that lined out against Bohemians recently in the Leinster Senior Cup. On that occasion four of the Under-19 squad started the game (Jack Memery, Donal Branagan, Lorcan Shannon and Seán Dixon) with another seven on the substitutes bench (Dean Ebbe, Niall Forrester, Paul Moffatt, Thomas O’Rourke, James Mullaney, Marc Keeley and Lee Steacy). Indeed, injuries to Gary McCabe and Chris Turner early in that game meant Ebbe and Forrester got an extended run out in the game. The Hoops goal that night was scored by Seán Dixon.
Throughout the season, every member of this squad showed just why they were brought here. Players such as Dean Power and Karl McGrath have been powerhouses for the team all season and have been very dependable when called upon. Four of the younger members of the squad will be available again next season. Kelvin Jackson, James Mullaney, Steven Foy and Dean Ebbe are all exciting young prospects that will only improve in the future.
Manager Declan Hevey has a reputation for attracting the finest young talent available and improving them to the next level and beyond. The season just finished is no different. The experience he has gained over the years at Manchester United and at International level with the Republic of Ireland underage set-up meant that these players were in the best hands available and Declan has proved to be a vital and valuable asset to the football club.
The coaching staff of Shane Connolly and Tony Hession are also very experienced and have helped nurture the players throughout the campaign. Shane’s work is not just confined to the training ground as he combines this with the role of team co-ordinator and puts in many hours of unseen work in the background to ensure everything goes smoothly. Tony, or ‘the Cat’ as he is affectionately known by the squad, concentrates on the goalkeepers and has been able to impart his knowledge to the young netminders based on his experience in the game. As said previously, the team conceded the least number of goals in the Elite Division and Tony can be rightly proud of his contribution to that.
The team physio is Willie Conlon and his work has been crucial to keeping the players fit and available for selection throughout the long season just passed. Willie has also spent many hours working with individual players to ensure their recovery from injury is swift and their rehabilitation programmes are appropriate to each player’s own needs. This has included many extra ‘one on one’ sessions with players outside the regular team schedule.
The final cog in the machine has been provided by Seán Moran. The work Seán does is also unseen but is crucial to the coaching staff when analysing matches and individual players’ performances as he is the teams’ very own ‘Stat Man’. Every pass, assist, tackle, goal, etc. that a player makes during a match is painstakingly recorded and collated and made available to the management by the next day.
Manager Declan Hevey sums up the season as follows: “I’d like to congratulate and thank the players for their efforts, attitude and sacrifices that contributed to a successful season. I’d also like to wish them the very best for their future careers. I’d like to say a special word of thanks to all the coaching staff, to Robert Goggins, Paul Jones, SRFCTV, George Kelly and Alan Gibbons for their tireless support in the background. I’d like to thank the Board of Shamrock Rovers who ensured the players had everything required to perform at this Elite Level. Also, the interest shown by Stephen Kenny, and his attendance at our fixtures, has been a great boost to our group and is very much appreciated. Finally, a special mention to the supporters of Shamrock Rovers that have attended our games and provided the special atmosphere for the young players that only the Hoops fans know how to, all season.”
Shamrock Rovers F.C. would like to congratulate the players and staff of the Under-19 team on their achievements this season. You can all be rightly proud your work throughout 2011/12.
Note: A presentation will be made to the U19 team in the Glenmalure Suite prior to the first team game v UCD on Friday May 4th.