After a gruelling and painstaking trial process that lasted over two months, as 200 hundred hopeful kids were whittled down to a final 18, Davy Bryson’s Junior squad began their preparations for the 2015 Dale Farm Milk cup with victory at the George Reynolds memorial Cup earlier on this afternoon.
Competing against Cavan and Monaghan youth league, Friends Select academy and County Armagh in a straight knockout four-team tournament, Down, despite blustery and wet conditions impressed everyone in attendance at St Genevieve’s high school in Belfast with two fine performances to lift the trophy in Bryson’s debut bow as manager.
Down secured their place in the final, fighting off a spirited second half comeback from Cavan and Monaghan Youth League, to win 6-3. Goals were clearly the order of the day in Belfast, and the boys in blue started on the front foot causing their opposition all sorts of problems with some incisive attacking play. Central Midfielder Chambers was at the heart of everything Down were producing and it was his delivery from the left that lead to County Down’s first goal of the 2015 campaign. The ball landed at the feet of Torrans following Cavan and Monaghan’s failed attempts to clear the ball, and the big centre half calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-0 after 10 minutes.
Playing out from the back at every opportunity and looking like they would score with every attack, Bryson would have been very happy with the way his squad began in their first run-out. However, against the run of play Cavan and Monaghan equalised from the penalty spot.
Despite the setback, Down were still the dominant side and they regained the lead just minutes after Cavan and Monaghan had pegged them back. Powerful forward Leo Brown outstripped the opposition defence, leaving two men in his wake before sliding the ball past the en-rushing goalkeeper from 12 yards out with his left foot.
The second half begun how the first ended and it was 3-1 at the start of the half. Brown this time turned provider as he found Tipping who made no mistake with his finish, rifling the ball into the back of the net from close range.
From that point, it seemed like Bryson’s exciting side would run out easy winners, however, football is a funny old game, and within minutes of the restart Cavan and Monaghan had pulled another one back, and it was 3-2 as a long range free-kick that flew into the roof of Goalkeeper Hazard net. Down’s intensity dropped, and Cavan and Monaghan had discovered a sense of purpose in their play that was lacking in the opening half. Indeed, It was not long before the most unlikely of comebacks was completed after some slack play in the Down defence was punished, with the opposition forward finding the back of the net with his shot mid-way through the second half.
That goal seemed to spark some much needed life into the County Down Junior Side who had not played the second half with the same skill, intensity and ruthlessness of the first. They restored their lead, 10 minutes from time, when Jack Henderson delivered in an out-swinging corner from right caused mayhem in the six-yard box. As the side from down South failed to clear the ball, Calum Carson was on hand to tap it into an empty net to make it 4-3. Tipping, grabbed his second and Down’s 5th of the morning, as he collected the ball yards from goal, before spinning out of trouble and unleashing an unstoppable right footed effort that nestled in the top left hand corner. Then, with just minutes, left of the clock, Carson grabbed his brace with a composed finish from the edge of the box to add some gloss to the score-line and send Bryson’s men into the final.
The Junior squad, carried on their impressive form in the opening game in the final, running out easy 6-0 winners against County Armagh and Leo Brown was the star of the show grabbing 4 goals as he terrorised the Armagh defence from start to finish. It all began when Chambers collected the ball in midfield, and spotting the run of Brown in behind the Armagh defence, slipped it into his path. The forward found the back of the net with a neat finish. The prolific front man, was at it again this time he worked his way past two Armagh defenders before drilling the ball into the net. Down were playing some lovely stuff, and were in command of the game. Unlike the first game, they did not allow the opposition back into game. Brown got his Hat-trick just after Half time, after some good work from Alex Mcllmail set Brown free inside the box. He took a touch and dispatched the shot into the bottom corner to make it 3-0. Bryson’s side moved into top-gear in the final 20 minutes. Henderson and Warlow combined well down the left hand side before the latter drove the ball across the six- yard box and Lumi Kanwei converted from close range to add the fourth in a one-sided final. Shortly after it was 5-0 and it was that man again, Brown who was on hand to finish a fine County Down move involving the impressive Tipping. The icing on the cake came in the last minute, when Mcllmail who had been a threat through sidestepped a couple of challenges on his way into the box before out-foxing the goalkeeper with his finish. All in all, it was a very straightforward victory for an exciting County Down side and Jack Chambers, captain for the day, got to lift the trophy. Bryson however will be well aware, that his side will face much sterner opposition over the course of the next 8 week as preparations intensify. That being said, the man from Donaghadee will certainly be thrilled with obtaining silverware in his first outing a Junior Manager. Leo Brown scored 5 goals and took the player of the Tournament award, while Calum Carson won the Man of the Match award in the opening game. For now Bryson and his players will put the medals away in the cupboard, and begin looking forward to what will be a much tougher weekend in Dublin next Friday.