DE La Salle’s hopes of All Ireland soccer glory came to an end last Tuesday when they crashed to a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Oatlands College, Mount Merrion at the ALSAA Sports Grounds in Dublin.
John Flanagan’s Under-14 side earned their shot at this Leinster semi-final with a well deserved win over Dunshaughlin Community College in the previous round and it looked good for the ‘Dela’ boys when they raced into an early lead.
Oatlands drew themselves level in first half injury time but the Dundalk side regained the lead when Dylan O’Hanlon scored a truly magnificent goal but when the Mouth Merrion men made it 2-2 De La Salle seemed to lose belief in their ability, and two late goals sealed their fate.
Former Dundalk hero Flanagan named an unchanged side from the one that overcame Dunshaughlin. Anton Reilly, son of former Lilywhites striker Anto Reilly, started up front alongside O’Hanlon with Cody Magill and James Dunne – both so effective in the quarter-final tie – charged to run the engine room.
Paddy Geoghegan, who impressed when moved to a centre forward position in the previous round, started on the left with Niall Craven on the right flank. And it was Geoghegan’s involvement that led to the opening goal after just nine minutes.
With their first attack, De La Salle probed down the left and Geoghegan’s wicked cross flashed off a defender to go for a corner. Dunne’s delivery was headed clear but Geoghegan’s return ball caught the Oatlands goalkeeper in no man’s land, and with Mulligan applying the pressure, Cody Magill was left with an easy task to slot the loose ball home from close range.
Oatlands will have felt aggrieved to have slipped behind. The Dublin side, led on by powerful holding midfielder Fionn Geoghegan, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession before Magill’s strike and they responded well to going a goal down.
Daniel Tobin headed over Matthew Corcoran’s crossbar in the 15th minute and minutes later they sprung a quick counter attack which saw Adam O’Connor outnumbered by three Oatlands players. It looked ominous for De La Salle but O’Connor made a fantastic tackle to stop Matthew Breen dead in his tracks.
The crunching challenge seemed to breath fresh impetus into his team-mates and Reilly smacked a 20-yard effort at Dean Madden after Paddy Geoghegan did well to knock a poor clearance by the goalkeeper into the Shamrocks’ man’s path.
Despite having much of the ball, Oatlands were struggling to break down a well marshalled De La Salle defence with full-backs James Renaghan and Shane McGaughey sniffing out the threat of the Merrion school’s wingers. Corcoran was yet to be called into real action and he watched a Matthew Breen effort sail well off target in the 25th minute.
Arguably the game’s turning point arrived four minutes later when De La Salle squandered the chance to go two goals in front. O’Hanlon chased what looked like a lost cause on the left to win a McGaughey throw. His cut back from the byline was perfect, picking out the incoming Magill but, with the goal at his mercy, the talented midfielder could only side foot his effort straight at Madden.
The opportunity was to prove even more decisive as Oatlands equalised in first-half injury time. Adam O’Kelly broke past McGaughey to fire a vicious effort across James Renaghan. The Dela goalkeeper did well to push the stinging effort away but Breen was on hand to tuck the ball into an empty net.
Urged on by Flanagan at half-time, the Dundalk school restored their lead after just 45 seconds of the restart – and in spectacular style. A long ball forward was cleared high into the air by Merrion centre-back Danny Kane. O’Hanlon had time to size the difficult chance up but he made it look easy, his cracking first-time volley from 30-yards whistling over Madden and finding the roof of the net. A goal worthy of winning any game.
The lead however lasted just two minutes as Oatlands hit back in style. Sean Tinkler’s precision pass cut the De La Salle defence open and Breen was in the right place again to beat Corcoran with an assured finish.
It was anybody’s game at this stage. De La Salle were starting to get a grip on things in the centre of the park with Magill and Dunne growing in stature but they never quite did enough in the final third to suggest a third goal was on the way.
When another goal did come, it arrived at the other end. A scramble in the box resulted in the ball falling kindly for Dermot O’Kelly – one of triplets in the Oatlands team – to stab the ball past Corcoran to put the Dublin school in front for the first time.
With 14 minutes to save their cup hopes, Flanagan threw Magill forward and the number eight went close with a long range effort from distance but the result was put beyond doubt in the final minute when Tinkler rode two challenges to guide an unstoppable effort past Corcoran from 20-yards.
DE LA SALLE U14: Matthew Corcoran; James Renaghan, Cillian Mulligan, Adam O’Connor, Shane McGaughey (Sheriff HT) (Stephen Finnegan 65); Niall Craven, Cody Magill, James Dunne, Paddy Geoghegan; Anton Reilly, Dylan O’Hanlon. Subs not used: Sean Matthews, Jordan Mackin, Owen Farrell.
OATLANDS COLLEGE MOUNT MERRION: Dean Madden, Mark O’Kelly, Cillian O’Shea, Danny Kane, Daniel Tobin, Fionn Geoghegan, Adam O’Kelly, Sean Tinkler, Keith Dalton (Reynaldo Guzman 67), Matthew Breen, Dermot O’Kelly. Subs not used: Daniel Swan, Jamie McDevitt, Patrick Byrne.
REFEREE: Brendan Coleman.