On Monday 1st April, the 2013 South Tipperary Schoolboy League Kennedy Cup squad travelled to the UK to take on professional academy opposition in the UK. Having arrived at the team accommodation on Monday afternoon attention quickly started to focus on the first of the squads 3 games in 3 days on Tuesday morning against Notts County.
Notts County playing in their traditional black and white stripes started the game stronger putting the South Tipp lads under immense pressure. The home side’s pressure paid off after 15 minutes when they scored from a corner. 10 minutes later, they were awarded a penalty which was brilliantly saved by Jack Dolan, but they soon doubled their advantage from the resulting corner. The South Tipp lads started the second half very strong and pulled a goal back through Ryan Lambe who kept is nerve to fire home from an acute angle. Notts County regained a two goal lead shortly after but once again the South Tipp lads showed immense character and brought the score back to 3-2 when Willie Armshaw finished neatly following a 1 v 1 with the keeper. The South Tipp team strived to find an equaliser but the Notts County team hit them on the counter attack late on to leave the final score 4-2. It was a very encouraging performance from the lads and later that evening they travelled to the Reebok Stadium to see Bolton Wanderers beat Huddersfield Town 1-0 in the championship.
On Wednesday morning we made the short trip from the accommodation to St. Georges Park, the new HQ of the English FA. There, we played Burton Albion and fresh from their impressive performance against Notts County 24 hours previous the South Tipp team started very strongly and scored early on when Ryan Lambe provided a superb finish chipping the keeper from inside the penalty area. It was 2-0 shortly after when Oisin Napier scored and Ryan Lambe got his second which left the South Tipp boys with a 3-0 lead inside the first 25minites. Just on the stroke of half time Cavan McKenna scored from close range to leave the score 4-0 at half time. Burton Albion did apply a lot more pressure in the second half but the lads consolidated their half time lead and the game finished 4-0.
After the game we had lunch at St. Georges Park and then were given a guided tour of the magnificent facility which was the highlight of the trip for so many. For us who were lucky enough to get to see this facility, it will be something that we will never forget. The rest of Wednesday evening was used as a social activity with the players ‘trying’ their hands at bowling!
The final day of our trip saw us depart our accommodation for Nottingham Forest’s City Grounds stadium where we prepared for the game. We played against a very talented Nottingham Forest side who were a real joy to watch at times with their style of play. The first half finished scoreless and a much improved second half performance saw the South Tipp team winning the game with 10 minutes to go when Ryan Lambe scored his fourth goal of the week when he finished superbly passed the Forest keeper. A very tired squad of players, management and parents arrived back Thursday night with memories that will last a lifetime.
The application of the players on and off the pitch over the 4 days must also be mentioned. They were superb throughout. Thanks to everyone who provide support in the organisation of the trip. Special mention to Dunnes Stores (Davis Road), Tesco and Superquinn Clonmel all of whom provided very generous sponsorship towards the trip. A big thank you to all.