THIS year’s Northern Ireland Inter-Battalion BB U14 cup campaign saw the Lurgan & District lift the cup for the first time in the competition’s 25-year history.
They started against a determined Belfast side and were 2-0 up at half-time (Robbie Norton and James Mitchell scoriing), the city side were stronger in the second half with a 2-2 draw, as the final result. Then in the second group match at home to Coleraine Battalion, a much improved performance saw the local outfit run out 6-3 victors with a hat-trick from the in-form Robert Lyttle, a brace from Paul Campbell and a stunning free-kick from David Gray.
The semi-final was really like a home match for both teams with Lurgan up against a strong Portadown & District team, who had trounced them heavily in last year’s fixture. This time though an early strike from that man, Lyttle, settled the nerves and saw the team play their best game of the competition, eventually winning 4-3 , thanks to composed finishes from Campbell, Lyttle, and Mitchell and a great performance from goal-keeper, William Dunlop.
This meant the team were now into the final, again at home to the current holders for the last three years, East Antrim. This time, the match was played on one of the smaller pitches at Kernan, on a wet and windy evening, which seemed to affect the Alex Clifford coached Lurgan side, who never got going in the first half and conceded two very poor goals.
A very stern talk and a tactical change at half time saw a stunning turn around, with a great game of football played by two very determined teams. Dangerman Lyttle pressed much more firmly in the second half and was on hand to tap home an early goal, after some neat inter-change with Campbell, Mitchell and Norton.
Within minutes the game was all square after a neat finish by Campbell. Unfortunately the local lads again allowed the “boys from the East” back into the game minutes later, after a defensive mix-up and with full-time approaching and all looking lost David Gray went on another mazy left sided run, evading two tough challenges, before unleashing a 25 yard “thunder-bolt“ and goal of the tournament, into the roof of the net. It was now into penalty kicks, with efforts from Mitchell, Bates, Norton, Lyttle and Campbell paving the way for, keeper Wiliiam Dunlop to make a terrific match winning save and send the Lurgan team and supporters into raptures!
This was the local side’s third final in recent years and their first cup win at this level in the battalion’s 41 year history and since the competition began over 25 years ago.
Thanks goes to the boys, parents and officers for supporting the six week match programme and to IFA referee Mr David Martin who, in summing up at the end of the game, complimented both teams for the high standard of play, behaviour and attitude.
It was one of the best youth games he had ever officiated at and he commended the Boys’ Brigade staff for their continual commitment to youth work before presenting the awards. Thanks also goes to a St Mary’s U14 select side for providing a warm-up game, in a 6-5 battalion win.
Squad :- Joshua Black, David Gray (1st Donaghcloney), Ethan Bates (1st Lurgan), Robert Norton, Robert Lyttle, Richard Hull (1st Magheralin), Curtis Cassells (3rd Lurgan), Kieran Donaghy, Mark Dickson, James Duddy, Jason Wright, Andrew Ruddell, Paul Campbell (1st Bluestone), Tyler Graham (1st Maghaberry), James Mitchell (captain), William Dunlop (1st Waringstown).
Management team:- Alvin McDowell, Jack Patterson (1st Waringstown), Trevor O’Donnell, Alex Clifford (IFA coach).