Rovers 14 Premier side had the chance to claim a unique Premier League and Cup double on Sunday last. Rovers were facing BJD in the final, a good ball playing determined outfit. Rovers started like a rocket. Within one minute Rovers had forced a corner and when Jerome swung the ball to the back post, Eddie rose highest and directed it goal ward. With a number of BJD defenders blocking, Lorcan stole in and directed the ball to the net. This put BJD on the back foot and Rovers pushed for a second. On 5 minutes Rovers gained possession in the middle of the park and fed Seanie who immediately found his strike partner Jerome, Eddie had made a great run down the right and Jerome slid a beautiful ball into his path. Eddie strode into the box and with composure fired past a bewildered BJD keeper.
With being two goals to the good Rovers were passing the ball about really well and forcing BJD onto the back foot. On twelve minutes BJD conceded a free some twenty plus yards from goal. From this position there was only one person going to hit it, up stepped Tommy who beautifully curled it around the wall and found the far bottom corner. To the Rovers player’s dismay, the ref had blown for a BJD player encroaching inside ten yards and made Tommy take it again. His second effort just cleared the cross bar. This let off seemed to inspire BJD, they upped their tempo and started having a real go at the Rovers back four. They won a succession of corners which Rovers defended well and were thankful on Thomas whose handling all day was excellent.
The back four of Aaron, Lee, Fionn and Cathal were now working overtime to halt the flow of BJD attacks. From one such attack BJD were awarded a free some 25 yards out in a central position. With a number of options available they went for goal only to see Thomas pull of another good save. From the resulting play, Rovers moved the ball through Peter and Cathal on the left and across to Seanie who had moved out right to give Edward a breather. With two touches Seanie had released Jerome who sped beyond the back four of BJD and was now in 1 on 1 with the keeper. He elected to shoot and his effort skimmed the post. This was only a small break as BJD continued to pile on the pressure trying to find a way back into the match before half time. Rovers were forced to defend deep and soak up loads off pressure for the remainder of the half, hitting on the counter attack when they gained possession. The management were happy to get them in at half time 2 up.
The second half started like the first ended with BJD piling on the pressure and forcing Rovers into turning over possession. With the game still in the balance Thomas in goal pulled of three tremendous saves, firstly blocking a shot from close range and quickly reacting to push away the follow up. But the game changing moment came when Aran Reilly cut inside Cathal and fired a great effort which was flying into the far bottom corner. Somehow, Thomas sprung to his right down low and with a real strong hand pushed what seemed to be a certain goal around the post. With ten minutes gone Rovers started to empty the bench, Ryan, Oran and Moggie was introduced into the back four and Dylan onto the left wing.
Rovers also had to make a few positional switches to accommodate all the introduced players. This gave Rovers some fresh legs and the switches seem to work. Rovers won possession in the middle of the park and switched it to Ryan at right full, he moved the ball across the back four and up the left wing through Dylan, he switched it back into Tommy who found Jerome at centre forward. He swivelled and placed a ball into the path of Peter who beat the advancing keeper. This seemed to knock the stuffing out of BJD who had to this point dominated the second half. Rovers were now dictating most of the play and worked a number of openings only to see the BJD keeper foil Lorcan, Jerome and Seanie on more than one occasion.
The goal of the game was saved for the end. Rovers won a throw wide on their left, the ball was played to Dylan who went back ways to Oran. Oran came inside and fed Tommy who played it wide right to Seanie who released Peter in behind the full back. Peter got his head up and delivered a delightful ball to the back post where Lorcan ghosted in to powerfully head to the net. The remainder of the game was played out with both teams having a go at each other. The Rovers players were delighted to hear the full time whistle, with this being the fourth final in four days for the majority of the team to play in. The energy levels were low by the end of the game. The best of luck to all the High School players and team who won the Ulster schools final on Friday and play in an All-Ireland semi-final on Tuesday.
Team: Thomas Duane, Aaron Kearney, Ryan Nelson, Lee Butler, Fionn O’Callaghan, Liam OgMurray, Cathal McEneaney, Oran Martin, Peter McElroy, Dylan McCahey, Tommy Byrne, Lorcan Murnaghan, Eddie Walsh, Sean Burns and Jerome Abekyamwale.