On 30 April 2010 Douglas Community School Senior Soccer Squad, accompanied by manager Mr Kevin Ronayne and teachers Mr Sean Fahy and Mr Stephen Lynch travelled to Ipswich to take on Roy Keane’s Ipswich Youth Academy Team. We departed in hope of a good result rather than in expectation; after all this Ipswich Academy team had recently drawn 2-2 with mighty Manchester United and had knocked a highly talented Arsenal team out of the FA Youth Cup.
On the Saturday we arrived at the state-of-the-art Ipswich training centre in plenty of time for our 11 o’ clock kick-off. The lads were nervous yet focused, determined not to let themselves down and to play the game in the way which had brought the squad success as champions in the Munster U16 cup the previous year. Then we received a major boost: just as Mr Ronayne was set to launch into his team talk, in walked the greatest Irish player ever to play the game, Roy Keane, to our dressing room. He kept it brief, encouraging our lads to get stuck in. The tone was set.
The game itself was a classic with Keane watching every minute from the sidelines. Ipswich took an early lead with some intricate passing culminating in an excellent finish. Douglas fought back; Andy O’Connell grabbed his first with an outstanding finish from the edge of the Ipswich box. 1-1 game on. Before the break Ipswich re-established their lead with another sublime goal. At half-time the scoreline was Ipswich Town 2 – Douglas Community School 1.
The second half was epic. Douglas began to dominate with Graham Cullinane and Eoghan Murphy starting to dictate the game in centre of midfield. O’Connell got his second, and soon after he completed a memorable hat-trick with an outstanding header after great work from Josh Kra and Rob Lehane on the right. 3-2 to DCS!
Ipswich equalised with another clinical finish and soon after they went ahead 4-3. Did our heads drop? Not for one second, our lads displayed the strength and character which has served them well over the years, we took the game to Ipswich with attack after attack, and in the dying seconds with defeat looking likely, substitute Martin Barry played a Zidane-like through-ball for Rob Lehane to latch onto. With a 6ft 2in centre-half breathing down his neck, Rob still had a long way to travel with the ball. He had missed chances earlier in the game – would this play on his mind? Did we doubt it for a second? Rob coolly drew the keeper and slotted the ball into the far corner of the Ipswich net – class goal from a class player.
Final whistle 4-4. What a result against professional opposition. A true team performance. Michael Forrest and Jack Wilkins were exemplary at centre-half; Padraig ‘Gunter’ O’ Flynn and Cian Hammond our two exceptional goalkeepers were outstanding in each half; Luke O’ Sullivan gave a performance of sheer class and skill both at right back and then on the left wing; Josh Kra was excellent, a constant thorn in the opposition side; Eoin Cremin worked tirelessly throughout and showed grit and determination up against a formidable opposition winger; in midfield Graham ‘Graz’ Cullinane of Douglas Hall showed why he is captain with a box-to-box performance that Roy Keane would have been proud of while Eoghan Murphy was his usual graceful elegant self displaying some of the skills which have netted the Corinthians man 16 goals in April. Up front Andy O’ Connell was immense throughout, holding off defenders, bringing midfielders into play and also bagging an amazing hat-trick, while strike partner Rob Lehane illustrated just why so many English clubs (and now Ipswich can be added to that list) are keen on the young Douglas Hall striker. Our subs were equally brilliant, with Adrian O’ Connell excellent at right back, Rob Lyons tightening up the midfield and Cormac McCarthy strong, robust and direct on the wing. Martin ‘Iron Man’ Barry’s contribution also cannot be underestimated. The result was for our injured players, Darren O’ Sullivan, Shaun Healy, and Paul Beale, speedy recovery lads, we’ll need ye for next year!
After the game we had lunch with Roy Keane, after which he stood for photos with our lads and then to top it all he brought us into a gym and took questions and talked to the lads for over 90 minutes. He spoke about everything from Manchester United, to Sunderland, to the importance of training and learning from defeats. A true legend, you could have heard a pin drop as he spoke with sincerity and intensity. To Roy we are forever indebted.
We finished the trip with a visit to Portman Road to see Ipswich Seniors take on Sheffield United. They lost 3-0 but this failed to dampen our spirits, we were on cloud nine after such an outstanding day Saturday.
Squad: Padraig O’ Flynn, Cian Hammond, Luke O’ Sullivan, Jack Wilkins, Micheal Forrest, Andrew Lehane, Adrian O’ Connell, Rob Lyons, Martin Barry, Cormac McCarthy, Graham Cullinane, Eoghan Murphy, Josh Kra, Eoin Cremin, Rob Lehane, Andy O’ Connell, Shaun Healy, Darren O’ Sullivan.
Manager: Mr Kevin Ronayne