The Dundalk Schoolboys League U14 team returned home on Sunday last after a very successful week at the 40th Gothia Cup tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden.
This was the sixth time a team from Dundalk entered the Gothia Cup - now known as the World Youth Cup. With 1660 teams participating, from 73 different nations, it is the biggest youth tournament in the world.
The Dundalk team had the prestigious honour of representing Ireland and flying the tricolour at the opening ceremony in front of 55,000 spectators at the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg last Monday evening.
The stadium is famous for the fact that Pele made his World Cup debut for Brazil at the ground in the 1958 World Cup finals.
Seatown FC’s U16 team represented Dundalk in the Gothia Cup in 2013 and reached the U16 B final but, this year, the Dundalk U14 team qualified for the A section after finishing as runners-up in their group before going on to qualify for the last 32 out of 209 teams in the U14 age group.
Dundalk were narrowly defeated by French side Senlis USM on Thursday afternoon, going down 3-1. Senlis USM went on to reach the final but were beaten by a top academy team from Stockholm, IF Brommapojkarna who trained four times a week to prepare for the tournament.
The 20 Dundalk players and parents who travelled had the experience of a lifetime during the week long football activities in Gothenburg and will have experiences and memories to carry with them forever
Dundalk got their tournament off to a flying start on Monday afternoon with a comfortable 5-1 victory over Hittarps IK from Sweden).
Daniel Corcoran gave Dundalk the perfect start with a goal after three minutes and James Prendergast made it 2-0 before the half-time whistle.
Chad McEneaney made it 3-0 early in the second half and Ardee Celtic player Tristan Knowles added two more for a convincing win.
Dundalk then suffered a 2-0 defeat from eventual group winners Bele Barkarby FF of Sweden on Tuesday morning.
Dundalk had the majority of possession in the first half with Colm Bracken and Daniel Corcoran threatening to break the deadlock but it was the Swedish team who opened the scoring early in the second half after a defensive error.
Jack McKenna smashed a free-kick off the Swedish crossbar but Dundalk were caught napping in the last minute and conceded a second goal to lose 2-0.
On Wednesday morning Dundalk quickly bounced back with a terrific 6-0 win over Swedish side Qviding FIF to confirm 2nd place in the group to qualify for the A tournament.
Two goals from Kizito Ekwueme and one from Daniel Corcoran, Chad McEneaney, Tristan McEneaney and a delightful chip from Mark Kilgallen completed the scoring in Dundalk’s big win.
Dundalk’s next game was four hours later against ZA’BA FC from Malaysia. Chad McEneaney was Dundalk’s scorer as the game finished level at 1-1, the tie going to penalty kicks.
Prior to the competition, Dundalk had prepared in Bellew Park for a penalty shootout and seven superb penalties from Mark Kilgallen, Liam O’Callaghan, Jack McKenna, Chad McEneaney, Peter McStravick, Mark Byrne and Neil Kerr put them in the driving seat. The Malaysian team also had superb penalty takers but Dundalk goalkeeper Mark Byrne saved their sixth kick to send Dundalk into the next round.
BEST OF THE WEEK
Dundalk’s next game was on Thursday morning against local side Eskilstuna City FC.
The game was played before a large hometown support but Dundalk produced their best performance of the week with a tremendous 4-0 win.
This was the highlight of the week for Brian McGuinness’ team with every player on getting a touch of the ball in the opening minutes to set the standard.
Dundalk’s Player of the Tournament, Liam O’Callaghan earned a corner on 12 minutes and the delivery from his Rock Celtic clubmate Aidan Curtin was volleyed home by Kizito Ekwueme to open the scoring.
Liam Jackson made it 2-0 from another Curtin corner just minutes later before Chad McEneaney made it 3-0 after the break and Glenmuir United’s Peter McStravick made it 4-0 when he won the ball at the edge of the penalty area and hammered the ball past the stranded Swedish ‘keeper.
END OF THE ROAD
Dundalk then had to play a second game on Thursday afternoon against Senlis USM from France.
The French side had scored 26 goals in their previous five games and were in confident mood going in to the game. They soon raced into a 2-0 lead but the Dundalk players showed great character to level the game at 2-2 after only 16 minutes of play. Dundalk’s first goal was one of the goals of the tournament. Started by full-back Mark Kilgallen, he set up Chad McEneaney who skipped past his marker and whipped in the perfect cross to find Ekwueme who scored with a diving header into the top corner for one of the goals of the tournament.
Dundalk then equalised with another brilliant goal when Liam O’Callaghan’s cross was headed home by McEneaney with a superb looping header.
Dundalk were unlucky not to take the lead before half-time when Mark Kilgallen crashed a free kick off the French crossbar.
It was more of the same in the second-half with Dundalk piling on the pressure, looking for a winner and and should have been awarded a penalty following a blatant foul on McEneaney inside the penalty area. The referee, though, gave a free-kick on the line and it was the French side who regained the lead with their first attack of the second-half to advance to the last 16 of the tournament.
Dundalk Schoolboys League U14 squad: Mark Byrne (Glenmuir United), David Hayes (Glenmuir Celtic), Aidan Curtin (Rock Celtic), Neil Kerr (Ardee Celtic), Daniel Corcoran (Rock Celtic), Dylan Owens (Shamrocks), Jack McKenna (Glenmuir Celtic), James Prendergast (Quay Celtic), Morgan McCaughey (St Dominic’s), Liam O’Callaghan (Rock Celtic), Mark Kilgallen (Glenmuir United), Tristan Knowles (Ardee Celtic), Odhran Kieran (Quay Celtic), Colm Bracken (Redeemer United), Jamie Doherty (Glenmuir Celtic), Liam Jackson (Ardee Celtic), Tom Jackson (Ardee Celtic), Kizito Ekwueme (Rock Celtic), Chad McEneaney (Glenmuir United), Peter McStravick (Glenmuir United). Manager: Brian McGuinness. Coaches: Ciaran Taaffe and Stephen Lally.