A TOP EIGHT finish was a just reward as the Kilkenny & District League’s under-13s signed off on a satisfying performance at the Kennedy Cup.
The Kittens, coached by Mick Manley and Mark Brennan, defied the odds in Limerick to record an impressive finish in the 32-team competition, finishing their week with a play-off for seventh and eighth places with Waterford. Ranked as outsiders, they made a mockery of their fourth seed ranking to come out as the unbeaten winners of Group Six.
Kilkenny made a good start, drawing 0-0 with top seeds Donegal in their opening game, before bagging all three points against Kildare on Tuesday morning.
In a tight game the Cats soaked up everything their Leinster rivals could throw at them, coping well with all the pressure, before hitting their opponents with a real stunner. Gary Bryan did the damage, letting fly with a long range strike that scorched into the top right corner of the Kildare net in the closing minutes.
Faced in a winner-takes-all clash with Limerick County, Kilkenny made sure of top spot in the group thanks to David Doyle. The Freebooters hitman scored twice in the team’s second game of the day, the second goal from the penalty spot, as Kilkenny wrapped up their second win of the tournament to emerge as winners of Group Six.
Most impressive was Kilkenny’s route into the quarter-finals of the Kennedy Cup. They played three games and came through without defeat – and with the added bonus of three clean sheets.
Into the last eight of the Cup competition, they went under by the narrowest of margins against Galway (0-1). It was a similar tale in the Plate semi-final against North Tipperary (1-2), while a goal in the dying seconds saw local rivals Waterford pip Kilkenny for seventh place in their play-off on Thursday evening.
Despite the closing results the team and their mentors were more than happy with how their week of sporting adventure at the University of Limerick unfolded.
“I’m delighted with the lads,” said Manley. “They performed really, really well. They deserved to top their group and earned one of the best performances Kilkenny has seen at the Kennedy Cup.”
It was a sentiment echoed by team coach Mark Brennan.
We started on a real high, then finished on a low,” he said. “It was a pity, but what a great achievement to finish in the top eight.
“The lads were flat out and gave their all in some very tough games. They were a bit tired after the group games – playing three in two days – but despite that we’re so proud of them.
“We had a strong spine to the team,” he added. “Many of those lads, from goalkeeper through defence and into midfield, featured in all of the games on our way to the Waterford match, so to play all those games without rest was tough for them. The second half against Limerick was the only game where we were able to take our foot off the gas.”
The competition ended on an even higher note for one member of the Kilkenny squad, Following a series of top class performances at heart of the team’s defence, Aidan Tuohy was called into the Irish under-15 squad.
The Kilkenny & District League’s full Kennedy Cup panel was: Aidan Hynes (Bridge United), Brian Crowdle (Evergreen), Eoin Kelly (Evergreen), Aidan Tuohy (Evergreen), Alan Phelan (Freebooters), Robbie Buckley (Ormonde Villa, capt), Jordan Brett (Highview Athletic), Sam Watkins (Thomastown United), Aaron Keogh (Thomastown United), Cian Loy (Freebooters), Ronan Coffey (Fort Rangers), Shane O’Shaughnessy (Freebooters), Bill Sheehan (Evergreen), David Doyle (Freebooters), Dylan Jordan (Freebooters), Gary Bryan (Ormonde Villa), Ryan Maguire (Ormonde Villa), Jack Lawlor (Freebooters), Cathal McGrath (Callan United), Ross Butler (Ormonde Villa).
Manager: Mick Manley. Coach: Mark Brennan. Kit Man/Medic: Sean Doyle. Head of Delegation: John Corrigan.