Hopes were high on Saturday afternoon last that silverware would be returning to Carrick-on-Shannon but unfortunately the Sligo/Leitrim league campaign came to a disappointing end for the Carrick Town U-15 footballers.
Despite a gallant effort the Leitrim side were defeated 3-1 by Arrow Harps in the Division One Final on the impressive astro turf facility in IT Sligo.
The strong cross-field wind made life difficult for both sides but ultimately there were no complaints from the Carrick Town players who were defeated by an Arrow Harps team who were well organised in defence and clinical in front of goal.
The quick footwork of Eoin Lyons, tackling of Cormac O’Rourke and passing ability of Cormac Smith gave Carrick Town a real platform in the game but ultimately they struggled to have any sustained periods of pressure and they will surely be disappointed by the fact that Arrow Harps goalkeeper Conor Heffernan had a relatively untroubled afternoon.
The opening 10 minutes of the game proved to be very competitive with both sides looking dangerous when venturing forward but neither side was able to create a clear cut scoring opportunity during that period. When the first real sight of goal did arrive it resulted in the deadlock being broken.
Having been awarded a free kick over 30 yards from goal and close to the sideline a free kick was dangerously floated to the Carrick Town penalty area. Disappointingly from a Carrick point of view Mark Keegan rose unopposed and his header nestled just inside the post to give Arrow Harps an early lead.
The strong breeze may have been slightly benefitting Arrow Harps in the opening half but in reality such was its strength it was of no real benefit to either side over the course of the game and the conditions made life difficult for both sets of players.
Just after the 20 minute mark Arrow Harps were presented with an opportunity to double their lead but Carrick Town survived on this occasion. Alan Kelly struck a shot from the edge of the box which fell favourably for Conor McGrievy. Fortunately for Carrick Sean Cox was alert to the danger and he was able to make a smart save to ensure there was no change to the scoreline.
While Carrick were looking dangerous on occasion, particularly through Cormac Smith and Conor McGoldrick in the middle of the pitch, they were unable to truly stamp their presence on the game and just before the half hour mark they fell further behind. Some loose marking meant Mark Keegan was found in acres of space in the Carrick box and his emphatic finish to the roof of the net gave Sean Cox no chance.
Although there was still 10 minutes of the half remaining that proved to be the final score of the opening half meaning Carrick had it all to do in the second half if they were to emerge victorious. Mathew Bourke was introduced at half time in the full-back position meaning Brian McElgunn was given the freedom to play in a more advanced position. Within minutes of the restart the changes almost worked as Narada Patrasco found Eoin McLoughlin but he was denied by alert goalkeeping from Conor Heffernan who dived at his feet to save.
Having bossed the opening stages of the half Carrick were given a reminder of the ability of Arrow Harps on the counter-attack but again Cox was on hand to make a fine save to deny Daniel Murphy. The importance of that save became apparent within 30 seconds as Carrick Town launch an immediate counter-attack which resulted in Eoin Lyons being found with only Conor Heffernan to beat. Showing great composure and awareness Lyons slotted the ball past Heffernan to revive Carrick’s interest in the final.
To their credit Arrow Harps intensified their defensive work rate and made it very difficult for Carrick Town to create clear cut scoring opportunities. The closest came to an equaliser was when Eoin Lyons displayed some great footwork to evade two Arrow Harps defenders but just as he was about to shoot an excellent defensive block meant the opportunity came to nothing.
A frustrating afternoon for the Carrick players was compounded when Arrow Harps struck for a decisive third goal to ensure victory. Substitute Ben Touhy was found in the Carrick box and from a tight angle he steered the ball to the net, via the post, despite the best effort of Sean Cox who raced from his line to narrow the angle.
Carrick continued to battle until the end to force their way back into contention but this was to be Arrow Harps’ day and they deservedly held on for victory.
Sean Cox, Brian McElgunn, Cormac O’Rourke, Daire Guckian (Stephen McMorrow, 78 mins), Hemn Allakarami (Sean Quigley, 74 mins), Eoin McLoughlin, Cormac Smith (Hasib Allakarami, 78 mins), Conor McGoldrick (Jack O’Dowd, 78 mins), Eoin Lyons, (Jack Healy, 78 mins), Narada Patrasco (Conor Reynolds (74 mins), Oisin Feely (Mathew Bourke HT).
Conor Heffernan, Stephen Bagnell, Paul Harrington, Enda O’Connell, Daire Kearns, Daniel Murphy, Alan Kelly (Karl Mckenna, 57 mins), Cian McDermott, Mark Keegan, Conor McGrievy (Ben Touhy, 55 mins), Andy Flynn.
Referee: T. Oates