Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí U19 and First Year soccer teams have enjoyed hugely successful outings in their respective cup competitions. Both teams have qualified from their groups and are taking their places in the knock-out rounds.
The U19 squad experienced a memorable qualifying campaign. Beginning with a home fixture against Ashton Comprehensive; CPB took an early lead through Anthony Hanley and an own goal and by half-time seemed to be in control of the tie. The concession of a sloppy goal early in the second half contributed to an increasingly jittery performance and, as Ashton grew in confidence, each side contrived to waste a series of chances to score a goal that would have settled the fixture. Eventually Ashton’s resolve began to dwindle and CPB regained control of the game to see out a 2-1 victory that sent them into their away tie with Crosshaven qualification still a very live possibility.
With Ashton having enjoyed a comprehensive win over Crosshaven, CPB arrived at the village overlooking Cork Harbour knowing that a single point would guarantee top position in the group and a valuable home draw in the first knock-out round. Perhaps this knowledge was in some way a contributing factor in the complacency that riddled the Bantry side’s first half performance. CPB seemed unable or unwilling to deal with their opponent’s direct and physical style of play. Crosshaven were repeatedly allowed time and space and ruthlessly exploited the lacklustre CPB defence as they raced into a 3-0 lead. A precise Aillil Brosnan strike after half an hour seemed scant consolation by half-time with Crosshaven having responded with two more goals and CPB 5-1 in arrears and staring at elimination from the competition.
At the start of the second half the Bantry side were left reeling through the concession of an early penalty. Despite an outstanding save from Michael Casey, Crosshaven were able to tap in the rebound almost unopposed. Humiliation beckoned as CPB were facing a five goal deficit and with forty minutes yet to play yet this was the moment that the enigmatic Brosnan chose to begin to turn the match on its’ head. Assisted by the tireless running of Darragh Whooley and the canny forward play of Connor Ellis, the Bantry school’s number 9 continually terrorised the Crosshaven centre-halves until the final whistle. Brosnan helped himself to a second half hat-trick which, combined with his first half effort and a forty yard strike from Nicholas O’ Sullivan that nestled in the top corner of the Crosshaven goal, saw CPB claw themselves into the game. By this point Stephen Hanley, the only survivor from the back four that started the game, and Greg O’Sullivan were imperious at the heart of defence, substitute full backs Glen Gibbs and Gavin Johnson had repelled the Crosshaven threat and were ruthlessly attacking down the flanks. With the score at 6-5 Crosshaven broke quickly and scored a seventh from an own goal in a counter attack that threatened to break Bantry hearts. A clever finish from Connor Ellis set up the most dramatic of conclusions and, with minutes remaining, and CPB goalkeeper making a nuisance of himself in his opponent’s six yard box, a Kevin Murphy free kick made its’ way through a crowd of attackers and defenders and squeezed into the bottom corner. At the final whistle, CPB had clawed their way to a 7-7 draw and retained top spot in their group and a home draw against Askeaton in the first knock-out round.
At the other end of the age spectrum, a spirited First Year team has twice come from behind in their games. Despite goals from Ryan O’ Sullivan and Sebastien Milanowski and having come back from a 1-3 deficit, a 3-3 draw in their home game against St Aidan’s, Dublin Hill left CPB in a perilous position in the competition. Travelling to play a highly reputable Coláiste Choilm side, CPB were trailing 2-1 in the second half before two goals from O’Sullivan and a Timothy O’Driscoll strike gave the Bantry school a massively significant win.
With St Aidan’s and Coláiste Coilm yet to play, CPB sit on top of their group with four points and guaranteed are a place in the knock-out phase. Players who have impressed in both ties are: Rudi Gaffney, Luke Cato, Darragh McElhinney and, with five goals in two games, Ryan O’ Sullivan. The First Years will be watching results anxiously to see if they retain top spot and claim the valued home draw in the next round.
The much vaunted U17 side flattered to deceive in this year’s competition. With most of the U15 side who had suffered an last minute defeat in extra time of the U15 Munster semi-final in 2011-12 returning to this team, expectations were high that CPB would be playing in the business end of the Munster Junior Cup this season. The reality was to be much different as CPB crashed to a 3-4 defeat in the first round against a Clonakilty CC side that played with ten men for the majority of the game after a dismissal early in the first half. In a game played in dismal conditions, far too many players from the Bantry school – especially some players who had been stalwarts of the U15 side – stood off their opponents, underperformed or showed a lack of willingness to match the determination and physicality of their opponents. In a hugely disappointing showing, Darragh O’Brien, Daniel Murray, Shane McCarthy, Savo Dragas and Connor Ellis were notable for both the honesty of their effort and quality of their play.
The U15 team entertained St Colman’s of Midleton in the first round of the Munster Junior Cup and played out a very tight encounter. Midleton struck early but their lead was soon cancelled out by an Eoghan Minehane goal.
The tie was finely balanced for much of the remainder of the game. Each side carved out opportunities with the woodwork being rattled on numerous occasions. As the game moved into the final stages, St Colman’s grabbed a deserved second. CPB pushed for the equaliser that would keep their hopes alive but were unable to come up with enough quality to breach the Midleton defence for a second time. Despite the loss, the performance of centre back Michael Daly was outstanding with Tom Walsh and Vincent O’Donovan also deserving of credit