The Seatown FC U16 Gothia Cup team. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
A tired group of 18 players and three adults arrived safely back in Dundalk on Sunday evening after a memorable week at the Gothia Cup in Sweden. The Seatown, team made up of players from the Dundalk Schoolboys League, made it all the way to the B final, but were beaten 1-0 after playing nine games in five days.
This was the 10th occasion that Seatown/Dundalk Schoolboys League teams have participated in this prestigious tournament in Sweden, where players representing 1731 teams from 80 countries come together for an explosion of football and fun.
Sweden is experiencing a heat wave since early June with mid-day temperatures reaching over 30 degrees most days which made conditions very difficult for the players.
Seatown played a total of nine games (25 minutes each way), winning six, losing two and drawing the other, keeping five clean sheets, scoring 18 goals, whilst conceding just the eight. The squad of 18 players only played two friendly games in Dundalk before the tournament and only had about 10 training sessions over the past few months due to commitments to their clubs and exams and even struggling to get a venue to hold their training sessions.
However, when they reached Scandinavia, they played quality football and scored some amazing goals and will have lifetime memories from their experiences throughout the week.
Top scorer and the Seatown Player of the Tournament was Quay Celtic’s Thomas Daly, who scored seven goals.
Seatown’s first game on Monday ended in a heavy 4-1 defeat to local side Utbynas SK, but they secured a hard-earned point on Tuesday with a 0-0 draw with Vake-WIT from Tbilisi in Georgia.
The Dundalk boys got their first win of the week on Wednesday morning, beating Skijebo SK from Stockholm, 5-1, with goals from Darragh Malone, Thomas Daly (2), Terence Kelly and Mark Agnew, which left them third in their group; therefore qualifying for the Gothia B cup section of 92 teams.
All games were now at the knockout stage, but Seatown came through with flying colours in their next game on Thursday morning, beating Swedish side IFK Kumla 4-0. Goalkeeper Eddie Maguire produced an important save early in the game, but Mark Agnew scored before half-time and Terence Kelly’s 35 yard pile driver put Dundalk two up. Daly and Ryan McDonnell added two more to complete the victory.
Seatown’s next game was five hours later on Thursday when they faced a top Mexican side C.F. Internacional. A delightful passing move involving Brian Brady and Adam McMahon set-up Kyle Connolly who fired home 15 from time to stun the Mexicans. The next challenge facing the Dundalk boys was three games on Friday in order to qualify for the final on Saturday morning.
The preparation was now vital, with rest and recovery and diet etc. and the Dundalk boys were determined to stay in the tournament and responded like professionals to the task. The Friday endurance test started with a 1-0 win over Mexico Elite FC with a goal from Travis Crowley and just three hours later Seatown were in the quarter final and once again they produced a stunning performance to beat Sarvagens FF from Norway 4-2 with goals from Daly, Brady, Crowley and Mark Agnew.
The semi-final took place four hours later on Friday evening with Seatown facing Eneybergs-IF from Sweden. The Dundalk boys somehow found energy to play the game in a high tempo and never allowed the Swedes to gain a foothold on the game. Two terrific goals from Daly (2) and one by Mark Agnew earned Seatown the win.
The final was played at the SKF arena in Gothenburg city on Saturday morning with a 10:30am kick-off against Stryn TIL from Norway who went on to win 1-0. The players gave everything they had left in the final, but it was just too much as they suffered a narrow loss.
It was very tough on the players to lose the final hurdle, but they were all magnificent and amazing throughout the entire week on and off the pitch and had an experience they will never forget.
Seatown: Adam McMahon (Dromin Juveniles), Aaron Crawford (St. Dominic's), Brian Brady (St. Dominic's), Darragh Malone (Dromin Juveniles), Dylan Cahill (Quay Celtic), Edward Maguire (Glenmuir Utd), Graham Stevens (Quay Celtic U17), Jack Conlon (St. Dominic's), Kyle Connolly (Glenmuir Utd), Marcos Francesco (Glenmuir Utd), Mark Agnew (Glenmuir Utd), Michael Hanlon (Bellurgan Utd), Óisín McCumiskey (Quay Celtic), Ryan McDonnell (Quay Celtic), Seán Maguire (Rock Celtic), Terence Kelly (Quay Celtic U17), Thomas Daly (Quay Celtic), Travis Crowley (Bay Utd)
Manager: Brian McGuinness. Assistant Managers: Ciarán Caldwell & Niall McGuinness