THIS weekend’s Under-15 DDSL Conway Cup Final promises much, with high-flying Baldonnel side St Francis taking on a side that sit a single point above them in the Michael McKiernan Premier, St Kevin’s.
Both previous encounters between the teams this year have produced memorable outcomes, with St Francis twice coming out on top 4-3. One game saw Kevin’s come close after falling 4-0 down, while the second needed an injury-time St Francis winner.
Francis manager Mark Connolly is cautiously optimistic come final day: “We’ve had four of the top five sides in the league on our side of the draw so it was great to get through”, he told GazetteSport.
“It’s a big day out for the kids. You can see the buzz in training. The league is the bread and butter, but the cup games show their strong mentality. Only the best of the best will beat them but Kevin’s will be gunning for us after the last two matches.”
Indeed, the Francis team are full of class, with much of the squad looking likely to go further in the game. “Two of the lads made their underage international debuts this year, Charlie Barry and Cian Hughes”, Connolly said. “Two more, Thomas Caffrey and James Jennings, were involved in the training squads.”
“We’ve also had six or seven of the current squad go to Britain. Winning’s a great habit. We generally finish in the top three in the league, but it’s all about improving the players.
“They train three nights a week, play on Saturday and do strength and conditioning on a Sunday. It’s almost full time for them.”
“In the last five months now, they’ve only lost one game, and when they lose it kills them”, Connolly said, reflecting on Francis’ significant upturn since Christmas. “In my opinion they’re the best footballing side at this age group in the country when they click.”
For all their class, though, Connolly has a realistic angle on his side’s long-term prospects. “If they get an education out of this, through a scholarship here or in the States for example, that’d be fantastic.
“That’s our job done. Playing full time football is the dream but it’s also like winning the lotto, especially for an Irish kid. It’s a lot about luck. But we definitely have kids there that I think have the talent.”
The current Under-15 St Francis side have now reached a cup final for the last four years in a row, including taking home the All Ireland title at both Under-14 and Under-13 level.
The final kicks off at 1pm on Saturday, May 9, at the AUL Complex in Clonshaugh, Dublin 17.