SATURDAY August 18 saw Lisburn Distillery U-9s continue their build up for the upcoming season by entering two teams in the Ridgeway Invitational Cup.
The group games saw differing fortunes for the two teams, The Blaze started off very strongly winning a hard fought encounter with one of the hosts’ teams 1-0 courtesy of a superb Jake Donaghy finish but there was better to come in the second game when a superb footballing display blew away a strong Sydenham team. Bradley Ingram was unstoppable down the right and Spencer Maxwell was constantly carrying the ball out of defence to link up with the midfield who in turn fed the ball into striker Ross White who either finished off the flowing moves or moved the ball quickly leaving the opposition defenders bemused.
The Bandits had a more difficult start narrowly missing out 1-0 in a very close game with eventual finalists Rosario Rhinos but their second game started much better with the boys racing into 2-0 lead against another of the Ridgeway teams thanks to two great Lennox Young finishes, flying winger Conall Cunningham was also causing mayhem down the left flank and there were some surging runs out of defence from Matthew Moore but the a couple of silly mistakes when they failed to clear their lines allowed Ridgeway to scrape a 2-2 draw meaning a penalty shoot-out to decide who would qualify for the semi-final of The Plate.
After three spot kicks each the two teams couldn’t be separated but after Jonathan McCullough had netted in sudden death goalkeeper Ben Gilliland was the hero saving from the unfortunate Ridgeway player to send a delirious whites team through. The semi-final of the cup saw The Blaze produce another top drawer performance to dispatch a big and strong Orangefield side, again the football was a joy to behold with Noah Kelly playing some wonderful balls out of defence and Michael Rocks looking steady in an unfamilar midfield role after taking over from the cool and calm Ben Coulter in fact goalkeeper Lewis Doyle was a spectator throughout not touching the ball once in the twelve minutes.
The Plate semi-final was equally one-sided The Bandits brushing aside another of the Ridgeway teams to reach the final, Noah Perry produced some strong runs, Louis McKinney wasaggressive in defence and the predator Kenzie Bradley was in the right place at the right time finishing off a flowing move with a tap in at the back post. With two teams in the finals and both kicking off at the same time it was always going to be nailbiting stuff but I don’t think anyone was prepared for what was to come.
With a minute left The Blaze were locked at 1-1 with Rosario Rhinos in the cup final and the scoreline was the same between The Bandits and Sydenham but with only seconds remaining Jake Donaghy got a sniff of a chance and although he still had a lot to do the wee man dropped the shoulder beat his marker and buried the ball in the far top corner to send The Blaze and their supporters wild with delight but ecstasy turned to agony moments later when after a great save from Ben Gilliland a Sydenham forward forced the ball home to secure a 2-1 win, a mere five seconds separated the two goals showing that delight for one team always means despair for another.
Another great day for the wee whites after the success two weeks ago in The Ballyskeagh Fun Day Cup and all the boys were superb but when asked by the organisers to name a player of the tournament for each team the coaching staff plumped for Ross White and Conall Cunningham.