North Tipp U12s play in SFAI All Ireland Cashin cup final in Littleton on Sat 21 May

by Bobby Lynch, NTSFL PRO

”….. Biggest day ever for North Tipp Soccer ….” comments Dave Rooney NTSFL Emerging Talent Co-ordinator

All roads lead to Littleton next Saturday 21st May next, as the North Tipperary Schoolchildrens Football League (NTSFL) under 12 representative team conclude an astonishing season as it comes to a thrilling conclusion with an appearance in the SFAI u12 Jim Cashin (All Ireland) Cup Final. ”It is the biggest day ever for North Tipperary Schoolboy/girl soccer, commented Dave Rooney, North Tipperary Schoolchildrens Football League, Emerging Talent Co-ordinator.

In what can only be described as a remarkable rise through the ranks, The North Tipperary Schoolchildren’s Football League – who many would argue have been in the bottom levels of Irish schoolboy soccer competition for many years – has reached its first major soccer final and the mighty Waterford Schoolboys League stand in the way of a dream season finale.

Five years ago almost to the day the then NTSFL management committee embraced the newly formed FAI Emerging Talent Programme that was being rolled out to counties nationwide. A small band of dedicated coaches and managers supported by the management committee of the league and with guidance from James Scott, FAI North Tipperary Football Development officer, set about changing the sporting landscape in North Tipperary and introduce a truly professional approach to soccer and sport in general. The initial squad of 30 has risen now to over 200 children being involved in Emerging Talent led programmes starting from as young as six years of age playing indoor futsal!

There has been no fluke about this year’s progression. Set amongst a tough Munster group, including the neighbouring powerhouses of Cork, Limerick Desmond, South Tipperary and Clare the Tipperary boys emerged at the top of their group unbeaten, with only one solitary goal conceded. The highlight of the group campaign was a 2-1 victory away on “foreign” soil against the might of the Cork Schoolboys league in the process knocking them out of the competition.

On to the Munster Final in Charleville, Co Cork, earlier this spring, North Tipperary met a top class Waterford side (who in years past have included the likes of John O’Shea of Manchester United in their Emerging Talent ranks). Having conceded an early goal the North Tipperary boys battled hard and enjoyed much of the possession and play, forcing a well deserved equalizer through captain David Kelly of Lough Derg FC.

The match ended in stalemate and in the eyes of all observers was a stunning game of schoolboy soccer as both teams played some sensational and indeed very creative and flowing football. The dreaded penalty shoot-out was the only way to separate the teams with the Deise men holding their nerve and winning out.

As Munster’s pre-qualification was much harder than the rest of the country both teams advanced to the semi-finals with Waterford overcoming Kilkenny and North Tipperary facing the much admired and fancied mighty Donegal Schoolboys. Nenagh AFC’s Brickfields was the setting and the town turned out in force to cheer the boys on. Two screamers from Templemore’s Stevie Nolan sent the boys from the Premier County through to its first major inter-county final at any level.

So a much-anticipated rematch of the Munster Final Saturday 21 May in Newhill Park, Littleton (12 noon kick-off); the home of St Kevin’s/Two-Mile-Borris awaits the Premier county boys. Manager Mick Gavin and coaches John Delaney & Mark McKenna are busy putting the final touches to the squad and putting them through their pre-final training routine. Mick Gavin who has managed the team with great pride looks forward to the day with trepidation and commented: ” This group have been a pleasure to be involved with and we are so proud to have made it this far. Two years of weekly training, strength and conditioning programmes, fitness regimes and nutritional advice have led us to this. All I can ask they just go out and give it their best & play freely without any nerves. I will be nervous enough for all of them!! Their behaviour and application has been impeccable and they are a credit to their parents and their clubs but most of all themselves. It’s all on the day now!! “

The NTSFL soccer community can be very proud of its Emerging Talent Programme and in particular this squads achievements. A special mention for coach John Delaney who was one of the co-founders of the programme five years ago.

Everyone wishes all the players and coaches the very best of luck on the day. No matter what happens they have set the bar higher for all future squads and are already heroes at such a young age. They can all be very proud of their achievements thus far. And Saturday’s game will surely live on in their memories for many years to come.

The management committee of The North Tipperary Schoolchildrens Football League asks for as much support as possible on the day.

North Tipperary squad:

Tommy Holland (Ardcroney FC); Oisin Connaty , Dan O Meara, Declan McGrath, (Puckane FC); Daniel Meehan (Sallypark FC); Jason McKenna, Dylan Kennedy, Adam Healy, Harry Sheehy, Jack Moloney (Nenagh AFC), David Kelly (Captain) Eddie Bourke, (Lough Derg FC); Josh McCarthy, Eoin Grace, Jake Ryan, Cian Darcy (Ballymackey FC) Cathal Floyd, Kealon Floyd, Kevin Connolly (Birdhill FC) Conor Sheehy, Stevie Nolan (Templemore FC) Patrick Carey (Rearcross FC)

Manager: Mick Gavin. Coaches: John Delaney and Mark McKenna.

PICTURE: The North Tipperary U12 Squad pictured at a final training session in Nenagh on Sun 15 May before their All Ireland game on Sat 21 May

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