Mervue United contest the club’s first FAI Umbro Youth Challenge Cup final on Sunday when they take on Fairview Rangers in Limerick at Jackman Park (2pm ).
This Mervue side have been impressive in their march to this season’s national final with some excellent performances along the way.
The side is backboned by some of the club’s Airtricity League side, with Pat Hoban, Dan Cunningham, Enda Curran, Mike Elwood and Barry McEntee having established themselves as regulars in Tom French’s side this season. Paul Scally, Phillip Ryan, Shane Keogh and goalkeeper Conor Winn have also featured in the club’s Airtricity League squad.
Managed by Jarlath Connolly and Justin Neary, the youths have been impressive in their march to this season’s national final with some excellent performances along the way, defeating Westport United, Cork City, Clonmel Town and Newbridge Town in their march to Sunday’s national decider. In the last 16 they defeated a fancied Cork City side as two second-half goals from Pat Hoban saw the home side through to the last eight in a very competitive game.
In that last eight tie the home team overcame Clonmel Town with a devastating first-half display. A goal down after just seven minutes, the home team stormed back into the game scoring four times in the first half to lead 4-1 at the break.
Goals from Enda Curran, Dan Cunningham, and two from Pat Hoban in a 17 minute spell proved decisive. Despite Clonmel pulling back two second-half goals, Irish schools international Billy Lane added a fifth as Mervue ran out 5-3 winners.
In the semi final, another powerful first-half display proved decisive once again with three goals in the opening period enough to see the home side through to the national final.
Connolly and Neary are an experienced duo and know what it takes to win national titles. Neary guided the club’s capture of the SFAI Barry Cup in 2003 along with club stalwart Billy Carr. Connolly was in charge of the club’s most recent capture of the SFAI Goodson Cup in 2006 when that record-breaking side, that included Greg Cunningham and Stephen Folan, won all five cups available to them.
They will be looking to their front pairing of Pat Hoban and Enda Curran to secure the goals, in addition to big performances from their midfield players Paul Scally, Barry McEntee, Paul Smyth and Dan Cunningham. Mervue’s defence have been excellent all season with Phillip Ryan, Mike Elwood, Eric Holland, James Casserely and goalkeeper Conor Winn having all played their part in the path to the final.
Mervue’s opponents on Sunday, Fairview Rangers, have defeated Corbally United, Kilmallock United, Granville Rangers, Castlebar Celtic and Nenagh Celtic and they will prove tough opposition.
Mervue warmed up for this weekend’s big game with a 4-0 win over Hibs/Foyle to capture the Galway District League title last weekend and they will be boosted by this win going into Sunday’s game.
•The club is running a supporters’ bus to the game on Sunday and anyone interested in travelling can contact the clubhouse at 091-771609 to reserve a seat. The bus will depart the clubhouse at 12 noon and return after the game.
Athlone V Mervue Utd
In the Airtricity League Mervue United will face Athlone on Saturday with several key players missing.
In addition to the the five regulars who are in Sunday’s youth final, Ger Hanley is also on international duty, Dave ‘Dowd and Dave Goldbey are injured, and there are also doubts about Mark Ludden, Martin Conneely, Darren young and Ollie Keogh.
However manager Tom French says Mervue are still hoping to get something from the contest.
" Athlone are having a mixed bag of results as of late and it’s a game that we will be hoping to take something out off. If we can be at our best, we will get something.”
He will also be hoping Mervue produce a better performance than they did against Limerick last weekend.
“The first half against Limerick was one of our worst displays to date,” said French. “ We were out of sorts all over the park, not closing down, not keeping ball when we had it. We were lucky to go into the break just one down.
“That said we had a good briefing at half time and sorted things out. We played better second half got a few chances, but didn’t take them. We kept looking for the equaliser but things just didn’t happen for us. We pushed a few more bodies forward near the end and got caught for the second goal. This was below par for us and I would like to think it’s a one-off and get on with preparation for our next game. "