MUCFP U-19s travelled up to the home of St Josephs Boys in Sallynoggin on Saturday Feb 24th to play Bray Wanderers in a preseason friendly.
Having done well in a number of recent games against Senior sides from Local leagues including Boyne Harps and Carrick Rovers from the NEFL, Bray was a great test for this seasons squad to see how they stacked up against another U-19 League of Ireland side.
The game started brightly with some good attacking play from both sides, Mark Byrne in the partners goal was called upon to deal with a couple of crosses and through balls in the early exchanges but the back 4 of Dylan Molloy, Shane Kierans, Lorcan Murnaghan and Dylan Garrigan kept the opposition front line quiet for the most part.
Bray played some tidy football during the first half and had the edge in a tense midfield battle as the MUCFP lads took a bit of time to settle into the game. As the half progressed Ify Nzewi and Seosamh Sheerin came into the game more and began to threaten in wide areas however Callum Lynch up front had very little in terms of possession or chances to strike on goal to show what he has been capable of so far in this preseason. Towards the end of the first half the Partners were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, Lynch had a strike on goal but his effort was saved by the keeper.
The second half was much better from the away side as they settled into the game, Cianan Kelly and Ciaran “Tim” Mc Cann started to control midfield and get more quality delivery into the feet of the industrious Lynch however clear-cut chances were few and far between.
Bray stepped up a gear with the introduction of a couple of quality players but the partners defence was more than capable of dealing with any threats from the seasiders.
The partners then proceeded to make some changes with Chad Mc Eneaney coming on for Nzewi and Ollie Clerkin for Sheerin and Shane Hickey adding to the midfield unit. Mc Eneaney has been in outstanding form in preseason and he took the game to Bray with a couple of clever runs into the box and some excellent hold up play to create chances for the forward line.
Shane Hickey impressed with his direct play and physicality and will be a great signing for the Team once he gains some valuable experience at this level.
Further changes included Eli Ward for captain Cianan Kelly who picked up a minor knock, Jack Drumm for Lynch and Adam Boyle for Molloy. With so many changes in a game its normally difficult to maintain composure and shape however the lads made a seamless transition and continued to defend well while pressing the Bray defence. The game continued to be an even contest throughout the half however little remained in terms of clear chances on goal.
Luke Perkins replaced Byrne in the visitors goal for the last 30 mins and continued with a solid performance dealing with any danger in the box and snuffing out any crosses or through balls.
Further changes included Michael Mc Cann, Lewis Gibson, Neilas Barvydas who all gained valuable game time against a very good Bray side.
The game finished at a frantic pace as both sides pushed for a win, the partners had the best of the final exchanges creating a couple of half chances but were unable to find the back of the net.
Bray had some chances of their own but with some really good last ditch defending from the partners back 4 they were denied any chance of snatching the game late on.
The game finished in a scoreless draw but it was an entertaining encounter and a worthwhile exercise for both teams as they face into the new U-19 Elite season in a few weeks’ time.
The partners can take lots of positives from the game, a rare clean sheet and a solid defensive performance from the entire team was great to see.
The depth and quality of this year’s squad is a huge plus, we have strength in positions that we didn’t have last season and plenty of cover for key position too which will be a vital asset through the season as we will experience injuries, suspensions and players unavailable.
We also have a great balance in terms of the age group with 11 players still elegible to play 19s next season plus Adam Boyle who is still U17 this season but has stepped up to U-19 level and has really impressed in preseason so far.