Pender’s prodigies bring the U-17 title to Bohemians

by Dave Donnelly

** Gavin O’Brien of Bohemians lifts the SSE Airtricity U17 National League cup at the UCD Bowl. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Bohemians/St Kevin’s Boys are League of Ireland Under-17 champions for the first time after defeating Shamrock Rovers 2-0 in the final at the UCD Bowl.

Goals from Aaron Doran and Brighton-bound Evan Ferguson saw Derek Pender’s side to a comfortable victory against their fiercest rivals in Belfield.

Aside from besting their nemeses, the result was vindication for the Phibsboro side after losing out to St Patrick’s Athletic at the same stage 12 months ago.

In truth, the result could have been more flattering to the northsiders who could have scored five in a one-sided first half in the shadow of University College Dublin.

Remarkably, Bohs took the lead inside 15 seconds of the starting whistle as number ten Doran found the net from close range.

Rovers tipped off but a long ball forward from Evan Dunne was easily picked off by Bohs left-back Len O’Sullivan, who immediately turned to play the ball forward.

 Evan Ferguson scores Bohs’ second goal despite the efforts of Killian Cahill during the SSE Airtricity U17 National League Final. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

He found Ferguson and, via Doran, he worked the ball to Jamie Mullins. His cross was cut out by Eric Abudiore but Doran arrived late in the box to smash the loose ball past Kian Cahill.

Cahill, the son of former Olympic hurdler Sean, pulled off a string of fine saves during a first half that saw the Hoops overawed by a well-drilled and exciting Bohs side.

It was his intervention that prevented Ferguson making it 2-0 on 11 minutes after Doran had scuffed his shot but the striker couldn’t generate enough power in his shot.

Pender’s side doubled their lead on 26 minutes in spectacular circumstances as Ferguson gave a glimpse of his potential with an outrageous finish.

Again, it was Doran at the heart of the move as he peeled out wide on the left and cut the ball back for his striker, who deftly flicked the ball with the back of his heel into the corner past Cahill.

It was a fitting end to a free-flowing move from Ferguson who, despite only just having turned 16, has the physical presence well beyond his tender years and a final touch to match.

Ferguson appeared for Bohs’ first team for the first time in a friendly with Chelsea two years ago, Frank Lampard’s first game with the Blues, at the age of 14 and played a part in the equaliser.

The Meath man, son of ex-Rovers and Bohs midfielder Barry, had already signed a deal with Brighton at the time and it’s easy to see why top-level clubs were so keen to earn his signature.

Doran could have made it 3-0 shortly before half time as his lofted effort just cleared the post, while Ferguson and Darragh Reilly went close shortly after the break.

Rovers had the upper hand in the second half but they struggled to create chances as decisive as those their opponents had before the break.

Substitute Roland Banya’s header forced Reece Byrne, who is linked with Liverpool and Norwich City, into a save but Bohs held out easily for a well-deserved victory.

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