Carrick Rovers

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Ulster Cup Report.

Carrick Rovers Under 18’s Lose out in Ulster Cup Final.

Carrick Rovers AFC Under 18’s quest to create history for the Club by winning its first Ulster Senior League honours, came to an end on Saturday afternoon when they were beaten by a superior Buncrana Hearts FC side in the Final of the Ulster Youths Cup. The game was hosted by Aileach FC from the Inishowen League at its fantastic facilities at Lakeside Park.

Rovers began the match brightly, aided by a blustery breeze they made good use of the extremely large pitch and should have opened the scoring after 6 minutes when Dylan Ward raced onto a terrific ball played in behind the Hearts defence by Aidan Rahill. Ward gained control before slipping a clever pass into the area where Sean Finn found himself with only the on-rushing keeper to beat but his effort failed to hit the target and was cleared from danger. After this initial scare Buncrana began to settle into the game and it was clear that they were a well drilled side who all looked comfortable in possession. They had the Rovers defence of Adam Lynagh, Aaron Kearney, Pauric Russell and Robert McCloskey stretched at times with their clever interplay and movement and Thomas Marron in the Rovers goals had to be alert on a number of occasions to race of his line to avert several dangerous attacks. The tall Keeper had to stretch every bit of his body in the 16th minute after Rovers had conceded a corner and when it was delivered a Hearts player rose unmarked to head the ball towards the bottom corner of the net only to see Marron spring to his left to finger-tip the ball behind for another corner-kick. Buncrana had the majority of possession but Rovers looked a threat on the counter-attack with the pace of Ward, Finn and Jack McMahon up front always causing a concern for the Hearts defence.

In the 27th minute Rovers opened the scoring from one of these counter-attacks after Barry Kierans won possession in midfield before releasing Ward away down the left wing, he pulled the ball back to the edge of the area where Jack Gillick was striding forward. Gillick controlled before firing goal-wards but his effort struck the arm of a Hearts defender on its way. The Referee had no hesitation pointing to the penalty spot. Ward coolly stroked the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net, sending the Keeper the wrong way in the process. Despite this setback Buncrana still were setting the pace and asking a lot of questions from the South Monaghan lads. In the 36th minute Marron was again called into action to finger-tip a stinging drive over his crossbar and 3 minutes later he could only look as a Hearts player headed the ball just passed his upright from an inviting cross. Despite all the pressure it looked as if Rovers were going to go in at the interval with a slender lead but a minute into added on time McCloskey needlessly gave away a free-kick just outside the Rovers area on the right. The Buncrana player’s drilled delivery was whipped across the area where it only needed the slightest of touches to send it flying into the back of the net, leaving Marron helpless.

Half-time: Buncrana Hearts FC 1 Carrick Rovers AFC 1.

Rovers came out for the second period aware that the next score was going to be crucial and they had Buncrana on the back foot early on with their dangerous frontline of Ward, Finn and McMahon interchanging passes and causing the Hearts defence all sorts of problems. Ward came close to regaining the lead for Rovers in the 52nd minute when he connected with a pinpoint cross from McMahon, but his effort was just off target. Finn struck a long range shot off target in the 58th minute as Rovers looked to turn possession into a score. It was Buncrana who did manage to take the lead when their tricky left winger slipped passed Donal Rahill, who’d replaced Lynagh at half-time, and whipped a cross into the heart of the Rovers area where it was coolly slotted home by one of the Buncrana midfielders. This setback seemed to rock this Rovers side as their opponents began to dominate possession from here on. Sean Burns came in for the injured Gillick on 68 minutes but before he could have any influence on the match Rovers fell further behind when Hearts put a flowing move together down the Rovers left side. When the ball was delivered it was a Buncrana player who was first to the ball to place it passed the outstretched Marron’s reach. Rovers heads dropped again after this setback but to their credit they continued to press their opponents at every opportunity and with McMahon moving inside the again became more of a treat going forward. With time running out Rovers introduced their remaining substitutes with Fionan Cassidy, Jordan Whyte and James McMahon coming on for Aidan Rahill, Finn and McCloskey respectively. Rovers Barry Kierans had to leave the pitch after picking up his second caution and Buncrana rubbed salt into the wounds by scoring a fourth goal with only moments left on the clock.

Final Score: Buncrana Hearts 4 Carrick Rovers AFC 1.

A “Bridge too Far” for this Rovers side after the great achievement of reaching a Provincial Final for the first time but they came up against a well organised and drilled Buncrana side who were just too good for them on the day.