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U16 end-of-season review

The U-16 Boys commenced training in late January for the season ahead. The first six weeks were mainly strength and conditioning work in our new gym. In early March we played two challenge games against Burishoole and Islandeady in preparation for the league ahead. We were placed in Division 2 of the league, but due to several long-term injuries, we knew that being competitive in this division would be our target. Up against Ballinrobe, Ballintubber and eventual winners Belmullet, we were well beaten in all three games. A decent performance against Breaffy convinced us that with everybody back on board we would be competitive in all other competitions for the summer ahead.

Placed with Burishoole, Parke and Kilmovee in the group stages of the Championship, nothing was taken for granted. The first game was a typical local derby played in Newport with a lot of hard tackling and no place for the faint-hearted. We came away with a 4-9 to 2-8 victory, which set us up nicely for a home game with favourites Parke. On an ideal July evening, both teams served up a highly entertaining game of football which we came out on the right side by the bare minimum. We were six points up with five minutes to go but conceded 1-2 to set up a frantic finish. We held out to the end to put one foot in the semi-final. The final score was 2-14 to 3-10. The last group game was home to Kilmovee, and a win here would seal a home semi-final. With a dominating first-half display and some great shooting in front of goal, we were 1-16 to 0-2 up at half-time, going on to win the game comfortably. As a result, a home semi-final was secured.

Eastern Gaels were our semi-final opponents. Both teams went at it hammer-and-tongs in a highly entertaining game full of free-flowing football, near misses, excellent scoring and a few mistakes, in a game that was level at the end of normal time. The entertainment and intensity went up another level in extra time, with Kilmeena coming out winning by the narrowest of margins, 4-19 to 4-18. This was the game where the lads really stood up with their never-say-die attitude that brought us back several times into the match when the game seemed otherwise lost.

A three week lead into the final against Achill gave us a great chance to get all injuries sorted, with the full panel available and with fierce competition for places, we were in a good place. Achill had beaten a fancied Parke side in the other semi-final. So, on August 11th, the scene was set for the County Final. From the off, it was clear that Achill were a much more physical side and dominated Kilmeena in the early exchanges to lead 2-3 to 0 -1 after 10 minutes, which forced Kilmeena into making an early tactical switch. This change saw the introduction of Chris McGlynn for his first game back after a year out with a serious knee injury, and by the 20th minute, the score was level. Kilmeena were now playing with real belief and played the better football for the rest of the half to lead 3-5 to 3-4 at the break. The second half turned into an epic as both sides sensed victory, Kilmeena scoring freely but goals keeping Achill in the contest.

We were two points up going into injury time when an Achill ‘45 somehow landed in the Kilmeena net. A frantic four minutes of injury time ended with a Kilmeena point – more extra time! After a pulsating 20 minutes of extra time, Kilmeena outscored Achill by 0-5 points to 1-0, sending the large Kilmeena contingent wild - a County Final secured.

The West Mayo was the final U-16 competition for this group. In the quarter-final, a 1-12 to 1-6 win over a highly-fancied Balla side was one of our best performances of the season. Ballintubber, in a home semi-final, on paper was a bridge too far, but on a wet and windy evening, our lads delivered a fantastic display of work rate and controlled football to win by 0-8 to 0- 4. Parke were our opponents in the final, but we struggled for form all over the pitch, and they ran out winners by 1-10 to 1-7.

All said, it was a very enjoyable and successful season with a bunch of players who got better and better as the season progressed.

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