The Umbro Galway Cup opened in Drom Soccer Park on Tuesday with four of the elite teams in the first day’s action.
Among the elite u-15 teams on show were Ireland, Newcastle United, Leeds United and Ipswich, who along with Donegal DL, are in group one, while Fulham, Sheffield United, MSK Zilina, and Leicester City - all in group B - were due to open their campaigns yesterday.
It was a good start for the Irish youngsters who took on Ipswich Town, last year’s winners and one of the favourites to win this prestigious cup again.
Although the first half lacked structure and clear-cut chances, the captains on each side showed leadership qualities, particularly Ireland's own Paddy Barrett. The centre back played a pivotal role in the match and his discipline was distinctive on the night.
Ireland broke the deadlock early in the second half with a strike from Robert Murray of St Francis, Athlone. However, this lead only lasted minutes when a well-executed free kick from Ipswich Town's Callum Bennett flew past the wall and beyond Ireland's keeper Greg Murray. After another 10 minutes of equally contested football, Ireland's Niall Lanigan sprung from midfield to head home a dramatic winner, giving the home outfit a 2-1 win on opening night.
That game was preceded by Newcastle United and Leeds United, who lived up to their names.
Newcastle started the match on top with forwards David Luke and Marcus Maddison proving a quality pairing to lead their line. However Leeds always looked dangerous on the counterattack, utilising their versatile 5-5-1 formation to great effect. Newcastle's attempts were frustrated again when winger Luke Carr missed an opportunity a minute before the break.
The second half was a different story. After just five minutes Sanchez Payne and Sam Byram combined to set up striker Dean Bartle and the frontman finished with ease to give Leeds the lead. The rest of the half was end to end football with both teams sharing possesion. The match was subsequently finished three minutes from time when last year’s player of the tournament, Sanchez Payne, again broke through the Newcastle defence to top off another man of the match winning performance. Leeds United 2 - Newcastle United 0.
The other groups in this year’s tournament - some 60 in all - were due to see action yesterday with hosts Salthill Devon boasting two teams in the u-17 section, along with Galway Hibs and Mervue United, while the club’s u-17 girls’ team was due to open their account against Monaghan/Cavan.
Tomorrow’s fixtures (Thursday ): Elite u-15, Ipswich v Donegal DL 11.50am; Fulham v MSK Zilina 1pm; Sheffield Utd v Leicester City 2.40pm; Ireland v Newcastle 5pm;Leeds v Donegal DL 6.10pm.
Friday: MSK Zilina v Sheffield Utd 11.50am;Ipswich v Leeds 1pm;Fulham v Leicester City 2.40pm; Ireland v Donegal DL 3.50pm.
Saturday: Semi-finals and cup and plate finals.