Borris 4-3 Strokestown
Chris Nolan (c) (19, 24, 52, 59)
We finally did it! After three years on the road the trophy is residing in Borris for 2017. This group of players had suffered heartbreak in the semi final in 2015 and the final in 2016 but showed mental toughness of the highest order to come back a third time and claim the Leinster title.
As usual Borris got off to a slow start. Much like a clever boxer giving his opponent a false sense of security, Borris didn't offer any threat until the 10th minute. But it was some threat. Jack 'The Machine' Foley and Senan 'Rashford' Doyle started to find space up front and both came close to opening the scoring. Doyle, only 15 and starting his first ever U19 game, nearly got on the end of a superb Jack 'The Engine' Doyle cross from the right. A minute later Eoin 'Marcelo' Hosey gave himself a few sleepless nights when he miscued his shot into an empty goal from three yards out.
Jack Doyle and Hosey, playing as wing backs, absolutely dominated their respective wings for the entire game with their pace and stamina. Strokestown had no solutions for the problems the two boys created. Both were superb in defense and attack. Hosey is still u17 for another year, a scary thought for next year's opponents.
On 15 minutes the game sprang into life. From yet another Borris attack, captain fantastic Chris Nolan got a yard of space in the box but sent his first time shot just wide of the post. With the supporters and players still in disbelief that he actually missed, strokestown went down the other end and carved out a chance of their own. A long ball down the middle caught the usually reliable Jamie 'Luiz' McDonald off guard and the strokestown striker finished well past Dowling in goal. The disbelief was even worse now.
The lads didn't panic though, trusting that their good play would be rewarded. Almost immediately they hit back. Foley, tormenting the Strokestown defense throughout, took the ball into their box and was fouled to earn a penalty. There was never a doubt as to who was going to take it. Chris Nolan stepped up and buried it. One all. Game on. Five minutes later Foley was at it again. This time he wasn't fouled as he beat two players and dinked the ball over the keeper from the left. The keeper got a touch, sending the ball onto the bar then the post but Nolan was on hand to smash it in from close range. Two-one now and Borris were not finished yet.
As the first half continued both teams had periods of possession. Borris created a couple of decent chances through Senan Doyle and Foley but couldn't convert. Strokestown's keeper was lucky to stay on the field after rushing out to clothesline Doyle just outside the box. The resulting free kick came to nothing. Half time came and Borris headed for the dressing room. We were up 2-1 but the game was far from over. We knew that we had to finish the job and a few rousing words from Thomas Dowling left the lads in no doubt that they couldn't 'bottle it' this time.
Strokestown came out all guns blazing in the first few minutes of the second half. They upped their game considerably and put Borris under pressure. That pressure eventually got rewarded as they scored from a corner, the one and only time Borris didn't clear the ball. Two all with 50 minutes played. Borris were not to be denied though. Once again that mental toughness kicked in and they started to dominate the play. From a corner of their own, the mighty Chris Nolan powered a towering header past the helpless keeper. Nolan would later admit that it was the first headed goal he ever scored. He was concerned about his hair after that header but the gel held firm.
Strokestown started to go more direct now, desperate to get another equalizer. This suited Borris' back three of beasts Tony 'Matic' Lawlor, Cathal 'Touch' Tracey and Jamie 'Luiz' McDonald. They intercepted and cleared a huge amount of ball in the second half. Added to that was the superb distribution of Lawlor and Tracey in particular as they started attack after attack for Borris. Jon 'Hererra' Nolan and Dara 'Kante' Tobin never stood still in midfield. Nolan had blisters the size of two euro coins on his feet from covering so much ground. Tobin, having improved his fitness from the semi final by getting his 1km time down to 3mins 20sec, helped Borris dominate midfield for the majority of the game.
A fourth goal was on the cards for Borris and it had to be Chris Nolan to get it. Nolan, playing the match like someone stuck a rocket up his backside, controlled the ball in the box. Making a fool out of two players, he turned onto his left foot and caressed the ball low into the bottom corner just like he was trained to do. Four goals and a terrific performance was a pretty emphatic way of answering his managers criticism.
At his stage it looked like Borris were going to ease to victory, being 4-2 up with about 20 minutes to go. It wasn't to be however, as a bit of indiscipline crept into Borris' game. In fact Borris received four bookings in the final 20 minutes for niggly things rather than bad tackles. One of those niggly things led to a free kick to Strokestown just outside the box. Up stepped their captain to smash the ball over the wall with severe dip. Dowling got across to palm it away but only into a group of three opposition players. Between them they forced the ball over the line to ensure a nervy last ten minutes.
With the score at 4-3 we were set for some difficult moments before the game concluded. The referee, obviously enjoying the game so much that he didn't want it to end, was a bit trigger happy in awarding more frees to Strokestown in dangerous positions. He also decided to play 6 minutes of added time to give Strokestown a chance to force extra time. Borris generally had things under control though. The introduction of Rory Joyce up front gave Borris an outlet as he chased down every ball and forced strokestown into mistakes at the back. Foley, now running on one groin, dribbled the ball 30 metres or more on a number of occasions and kept the opposition on their toes. At different times Hosey and Jack Doyle joined the attack as Borris tried to find a fifth goal. Tobin also had a decent effort from long range deflected over the bar. The fifth goal never arrived though.
Strokestown were dangerous from set pieces because of their giant centre back. He had already scored from a corner and but for Lawlor and McDonald making savage defensive headers he would have scored two more. McDonald also made a terrific sliding goal line clearance near the end to keep the score at 4-3. The final play of the match was a free kick outside the box for strokestown. They had scored from this position a few minutes previously and the Borris support were nervous. Up stepped their captain to blast the ball at goal. Dowling struggled to hold it and it looked like it was going to get tapped in on the follow up but he somehow managed to grab it into his chest and the game was over. Cue wild celebrations and a pitch invasion.
So there it was. Leinster champions at the third time of asking. The FAI representative spoke well at the medal presentations giving both sides praise for a great game. In what was a 7 goal shootout, it was Borris who brought the bigger guns, with Chris Nolan being the biggest weapon of all.
It was very difficult to find fault in any of the 12 players that took the field. It would also take too long to go through the amount of good moments each one had. The one thing that was easy to decide was man of the match Chris Nolan. With four goals, including right foot, left foot, header and penalty, it must go down as one of the best ever performances in a Leinster final. He couldn't have done it without his teammates though as Jack Foley had a major part to play in the first two goals and Eoin Hosey's perfect corner delivery made the third goal.
So a long soccer season ends on a high. It was a long journey from the second week in September to the last week in April. A special mention has to go to all the u15 panel who trained with the u19's for the last two months. They really kept the intensity high in training. One of them, Senan Doyle, even got on the starting team for the final.
It's the first time Borris have ever won a soccer Leinster title. I'm sure it's not the last one. I'd like to say a big thank you to Ms.Doyle for all the help this year. I'd also like to thank Ms. O'Shea for all the help over the last three years and I know she can't wait to watch the video of the game. Callum Byrne from second year was kind enough to record the game and once he has it edited we'll make it available to view.
Well done again to all involved.