SSE Airtricity Under 17 League Final
Finn Harps 3-0 Shamrock Rovers
Were Finn Harps that good that they beat a much-fancied and more likely the favourites Shamrock Rovers in the final today at Maginn Park, Buncrana? It would be most disingenuous to say that Harps didn’t deserve to win this game. They held excellent shape throughout the game, stuck to their game plan and worked very hard for each other. They also had a very strong breeze in their favour in the first half which made it difficult for the Hoops to cope with but perhaps most importantly they also punished Rovers for what proved to be costly errors.
The Hoops rarely got going during that opening forty-five minutes. Perhaps the occasion got to some of the players. They found it hard to settle on the ball and retain possession, especially in the middle of the park during the first half. Harps did their homework well and made it difficult for Rovers to make any serious advances on the wings. When they did and got the ball into the box they found a well-drilled defence who kept them at bay. Certainly, Gavin Bazunu had much more to do than his opposite number Eoin McGing.
The Donegal side took the lead in the 17th minute when Joel Bradley-Walsh punished Rovers with a powerful free kick close to the touchline. It certainly wasn’t what the Hoops needed but they had plenty of time to get one back and there was no need to panic.
On 32 minutes Thomas Oluwa evaded some close marking on the left to pick out James Clarke in the box. Clarke connected immediately and stuck a shot that came off the bar. That proved to be a defining moment, had the Hoops equalised at that point the pressure would have been eased and it could very well have changed the course of the game. They had a further great chance in the 35th minute when Oluwa and Clarke combined in a quick move attack which saw Clarke bore down on goal but a great tackle by centre half Bradley-Walsh thwarted Clarke completely and no doubt proved to be a contributory factor in the Harps player being awarded the Man of the Match. Rovers weren’t creating many clear-cut chances overall and those misses proved to be costly. Finn Harps doubled their lead with five minutes to go to half time when Gabuiel Aduaka got clean away and beat Bazunu with a powerful drive.
So, the Hoops went in at half time with a 2-0 deficit but even with that it wasn’t beyond their reach to get themselves back into the game in the second half especially with a strong breeze behind them. They made two changes at half time bringing on Jack Kelly and Conor Behan. They started brightly and Harps responded like a team that had fully expected some early pressure from their opponents. It was imperative for the Hoops that they could get a goal back quickly but a costly slip let Conor Black get away from his marker and as the Hoops struggled to compose themselves it was Black who drove the ball past Bazunu from the left to make it 3-0. For the Hoops to overcome the mountain they faced after that would have been too much of an ask. They did try in vain to get something back with James Furlong going close with a free kick that whizzed past the far post but Harps defended in numbers and did a good job in keeping the Hoops out. It was all Rovers for a lot of that period but McGing was well protected by his defence.
Many people felt before the game that it would be a close affair on the day but unfortunately the Hoops showed little of the flair and skill that won them the Southern Section comfortably. It just wasn’t to be their day today for whatever reason. What’s important now is that they learn from the experience. Congratulations to Finn Harps on being crowned champions. On the day hardly anyone could deny they deserved it.
Thanks to everyone who made the long journey to Donegal today and to the family members who made a great effort throughout the season in support of the team.
Shamrock Rovers: 1. Gavin Bazunu, 2. Martins Olakanye, 3. Alex Dunne, 4. Andrew Spain, 5. Cian Kelly, 9. Danila Bogdanov, 10. James Clarke, 16. Thomas Oluwa, 17. Jordan Tallon, 19. Toby Owens, 20. James Furlong.
Substitutes: 25. Shane O’Rourke, 6. Conor Behan (for Clarke h.t.), 7. Dean McMenemy (for Olakanye 84 mins), 11. Jack Kelly (for Dunne h.t.), 14. Emmanuel Odeniyi (for Tallon 67 mins).
Photo’s here thanks to Robert Goggins.