Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí Senior Boys’ soccer team has reached the knock-out stage of the Schools FAI Munster Senior Challenge Cup for the third consecutive year. Qualification for a place in the last 16 was up for grabs as the Bantry school hosted Mayfield Community School in the final group game.
The game was played in dismal weather conditions as high winds, heavy rain and poor light spoiled any hope of either team displaying the sort of technical football that had been evident in earlier games. As the game had to be decided on the day, both sets of players took to the task with an exceptional level of intensity and commitment. It is worth noting that these schools had meet at the exact same level and stage of the competition as recently as 2011 and, in that encounter, a very fluid attacking performance had seen Mayfield dismiss the Bantry challenge with a 5-0 victory.
As an indication of the huge advances made in such a short space of time, CPB dominated the opening phases of play. They were more than willing to match the physicality of the city side and opened the scoring with a close range finish from Ailill Brosnan after some fine wide play by Gavin Johnston on the left wing. Mayfield were level with their first attack of note after a strong run into the penalty area caused panic in the Bantry defence and the ball was drilled into the net at the near post. CPB regrouped and regained the lead. With the right side of the Mayfield defence being tormented, Johnston was again instrumental in providing an opportunity for Anthony Hanley to open his account. Mayfield pressed again and were rewarded with a second equaliser but, just before the half-time whistle, the Bantry side’s spirits were lifted with a goal as a low struck Conor Ellis free-kick managed to sneak its’ way through a chaotic Mayfield wall and find the far corner of the goal to give CPB a 3-2 lead at the break.
CPB seemed determined to press home the advantage of such good fortune and again Johnston, this time linking up with Ellis, found another telling cross and Anthony Hanley doubled his tally for the day. This passage of play proved to be a pivotal moment in the game. After the other group games, CPB were facing the onerous task of beating their illustrious opponents by a four goal margin to secure a home draw in the knock-out stage and, moments into the second half, they had secured a two goal lead and Johnston’s devastating form meant the omens looked good for the most unlikeliest of triumphs.
As it was, CPB conceded the momentum that they had worked so hard to build in the opening of the half. Mayfield’s inherent threat from set-pieces was illustrated with an own goal conceded at a Bantry corner and the city school could have snatched a point at the death but for outstanding goalkeeping from Ronan O’Mahony who produced a magnificent double save from a penalty in the dying minutes that saw CPB claim a 4-3 win and set up a clash away to Blarney in the next round.
CPB faced a very strong Presentation College in the U17 Munster Junior Cup. Perhaps somewhat overawed by their opponents, CPB found themselves two goals down midway through the opening half. After the interval the Bantry side applied themselves to their task with much more confidence and a goal from Gavin Johnston free kick quickly provided further inspiration. CPB pressed their opponents throughout the second half. With Johnston, Savo Dragas and Mikey O’Driscoll impressing; an equalising goal seemed inevitable but the city school relied on solid defending, spurned chances from CPB and a disallowed goal to cling on for victory and passage to the next round
The First Year boys team began their opening group game against Clonakilty in superb fashion. Excellent passing skills, positional sense and strong running saw them take the lead with an early goal from Seanie O’Sullivan and dominate their opponents; creating a host of chances throughout the first half. With players like fullbacks Daniel O’Sullivan and Jack Murphy and midfielder Shane Crowley rampant, CPB seemed likely to increase their advantage before the half-time whistle. They struck both posts and the crossbar and drew a string of fine saves from the Clonakilty goalkeeper. The failure to press home their first half advantage would prove costly for the Bantry side as a more physically imposing Clonakilty team levelled the score in the opening minutes of the second half and threatened to take the lead on a number of occasions. As the half wore on, captain Ayrton Doyle and Man of the Match Kevin Clifford were key to CPB restoring defensive stability and, in the game’s final ten minutes, in was the Bantry school that had the best of the chances to score a decisive goal. Despite getting in behind the Clonakilty defence, Bantry attacks ended in misplaced shots, tame finishes or overplaying the ball. At the end of the game, both teams were satisfied with the draw
In the second group game against Kinsale, CPB continued their fine play but also showed increased ruthlessness in front of goal. Goals from Matthew Harley and Daniel O’Sullivan gave the CPB a 2-0 advantage at the break. Kinsale began the second half brightly and may have halved the deficit but for an excellent save from Charlie Lavin. The subsequent counter attack saw Cathal O’Sullivan get the final touch on a low cross to increase the lead. The lively Seanie O’Sullivan rounded off another great game by claiming the fourth with fine strike. Centre half James Hickey and midfielder Shane Crowley produced eye-catching performances in a game that sees CPB move to the top of the group table and secure qualification for the knockout stages of the Munster First Year Cup for the second year in a row.