** St Patrick’s Athletic’s Under-19s in action against Waterford last weekend. Picture: Martin Doherty
St Patrick’s Athletic look to win their first Under-19 National League title in six years on Tuesday night as they face perennial winners Bohemians at the UCD Bowl.
The Gypsies have won two of the last three league titles but surrendered their title to Waterford 12 months ago.
For the Saints, it’s been a long six years since a golden generation containing the likes of Rory Feely and St Mirren’s Jamie McGrath won the crown, but the latest side are ready to take on the honour.
The Pats side contains the likes of first-teamers Darragh Burns, a Northern Ireland Under-21 international, and the exciting Ben McCormack, who has played up to Under-19 level for the Republic.
The side they face is just as celebrated, laced with internationals like Evan Ferguson, the Brighton-bound 16-year-old who scored a wonderful backheel in the Under-17 final against Shamrock Rovers.
Pats warmed up with a scoreless draw against defending champions Waterford in their final group game, having known anything but defeat would secure them a spot in the final.
Cork City’s withdrawal on health grounds didn’t affect their route to the final, with the Blues unable to break the Saints down on a rain-sodden Richmond Park pitch.
Their achievement is all the more remarkable by the fact the squad had all but shut down for 2020 following the news the league was to be cancelled – only for the government to reverse course.
“Our first game in the elite phase was against Shamrock Rovers and we beat them 4-1 and played really well,” manager Jamie Moore tells the Dublin Gazette.
“The night before we were due to go to Cork the following week was when the second lockdown was announced, so that game was called off.
“We had six or seven weeks of training and not sure that the season would be back. Then we heard the rumours that it might be back, and then the announcement came that it wouldn’t be back.
“We actually said our goodbyes that Friday night and then a couple of days later, we got the news that it was coming back.
“We’d only stopped for three or four days, so we had three sessions leading into the Waterford game.
“The Covid guidelines say you can’t play any friendly games, so it was our first game in ten weeks, and it rained a lot across the weekend so the pitch was quite heavy.
“Towards the latter stages, we got tired, which is only natural because you can train all you want but the only way to get match fitness is to play matches and we weren’t able to play matches.
“We defended very well and kept a clean sheet. Both teams could have won in the end, but I thought were always in control of the game.”
Moore was at the Under-17 final between Bohs and Shamrock Rovers – he was the engineer and half-time interviewer for the FAI’s Youtube stream – and got a glimpse into what his side might face.
16-year-old striker Ferguson and the exciting Aaron Doran were on target as Bohemians/St Kevin’s Boys blitzed a much-vaunted Rovers side at the UCD Bowl.
“Evan Ferguson scored and he’s a very good player, but I prefer to focus on our own group. We’ve a really strong group and we’ve had a very strong season.
“We’ll have a game plan and an idea of how Bohs are going to play – we played them twice in the group stages.
“From my own point of view, I’m more worried about my own group and asking them to perform to their level, and if they do that we have a very good chance.
“The two games with Bohs this season, we beat them 4-2 away and we lost 5-4 at home, so two-high scoring games.
“I think it’s the two best teams in the country and both teams will be 100% going out to win the game. It’s a 50/50 and the team that plays better will be the ones that come out with the trophy.”