A FLAWLESS penalty shoot-out performance saw St Francis claim their second All-Ireland title in the space of five months when they added the SFAI Troy Cup Under-13 title to the DB Sports Tours all-island title they won in January last week.
It was a dramatic way to put an end to a pair of fine performances from both sides. St Joseph’s Boys slightly shaded the clear-cut chances in the final, but it was the Baldonnell boys who kept their nerve down the home stretch when faced with the 12-yard challenge.
Played at Home Farm’s superb Whitehall grounds, both sides played a tidy passing game throughout, promoting the best aspects of the game and showcasing their skills.
With half-time closing in, Francis hit the front via a classy Mark Kelly effort when he picked out the top corner with a delightful, arcing shot from outside the box.
Earlier, Ryan Murphy had rattled the crossbar from a free kick, but St Francis held the slender advantage until deep into the second half when lively St Joseph’s winger Glen McCauley broke into the box, skipped around a tackle before finishing off a fine solo goal.
In between, Sean Prenter and Jordan Walker were in great form for their respective sides between the posts, keeping the scores tight and their teams in the game.
That goal sent the game to extra-time in which the southside club produced the clearest chance from a corner which made its way onto the crossbar.
It stayed out, however, and St Francis held their nerve on penalties with Jake Walker, Brandon Kavanagh, Millenic Ali and Jack Connolly all nailing their spot-kicks.
With Joeys missing one of their penalties, it was left to the influential Ryan Murphy who stepped up to score the winning effort and he duly obliged to start the celebrations in earnestSpeaking about the victory, Francis manager Mark Connolly paid tribute to his opposition: “St Joseph’s are one of the very top teams at this age group and I suppose we needed that little bit of luck on the day to win the title.
“When it comes to penalties, it really is a toss of a coin and they only missed one while we scored all five.”
Looking at his own side, he added: “I’m just delighted for the kids. A lot of them – more than half – have been with us since the academy, coaching them three nights a week for five or six years, so it really is super for them.”