Wonders at Wembley

by Stephen Findlater
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MALAHIDE United broke new ground for Irish football last weekend when their Under-13 side finished fourth at the Danone Nations Cup in London.

As All-Ireland and all-island champions in the past nine months, Malahide were representing the Republic of Ireland in the world’s biggest Under-13 football competition and produced a string of great results.

They started off with a 3-1 over Germany before falling to Indonesia 2-0 but a 0-0 draw with Belgium to finish the group was enough to earn a runners up spot and advance to the last 16.

From there, they went on to beat Spain on penalties after a 1-1 draw and then defeat the Netherlands 3-1. In the semi-final, they drew 1-1 with Brazil but were undone in a penalty shoot-out.

It left them playing for bronze medal against Japan in Wembley, just missing out 2-0. Nonetheless, it was Ireland’s best ever finish in the competition having previously only managed 13th.

And manager Lorcan Mooney was truly delighted with how his charges performed on the world stage.

“It’s fantastic and a great achievement,” he told GazetteSport. “We went 1-0 down against the Germans but the character the boys showed to come back – because the matches were only short 20 minutes – and to win it quite convincingly at the tempo they played was superb.”

It was one of many highlights from the four-day competition.

“The Dutch game we dominated from start to finish, an outstanding performance from the whole team but especially from Conor Grant who scored a hat trick. To stand up against the Brazilians and take the lead was fantastic.

“The goal came from our backs, right up the middle and then out wide before pulling back into the centre – it was top quality. Brazil were very good and had us on the back foot but we did cause them plenty of problems which is a credit to the boys and the club in what we are trying to do in terms of the style of football.”

Mooney was also overawed by the amount of support his side received both at home and abroad.

“84 supporters came over to watch the match in Wembley – parents, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, grannies, the lot. It was fantastic but there was also great support from around the village, from all the clubs.

“The buzz generated while we were away for the five days was incredible and my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. It’s great for Malahide, Malahide United and Irish football as well.”

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