Primary School Finals: 300 whittled down to six for North Leinster finals
The FAI Primary schools soccer 5-a-side took 10 full days to complete with a record 2,400 boys and girls participating from schools in every corner of county Meath.
Despite adverse weather conditions and the competitive element involved, the tournament was played out in a fun and sporting environment with special emphasis on participation and respect for referees again this year.
After hundreds of games and goals galore on the all-weather pitches of the MDL, the five-a-side is scheduled to return to grass for the remainder of the nationwide competition.
Six section winners now advance to the North Leinster finals, also at the MDL on 3rd May. Girls teams from Drumconrath, Bohermeen and Kells will represent Meath while Cortown, Dangan and St Stephen’s Johnstown will line out for the boys.
An extra incentive is that the magnificent arena of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin will host the National finals on 31st May.
Overall organisers, Richie Smith (FAI Development Officer for Meath)and Paul Holland (FAI Schools Meath) thanked all who contributed to the biggest ever five-a side in Meath, with an amazing 300 teams taking part, almost the equivalent of the number of teams participating in 10 World Cups!
All only possible with the tremendous assistance from the teachers and Transition Year students of Ashbourne Community School, Boyne Community School Trim and Coláiste na Mí Johnstown.
Also the fabulous facilities and co-operation of Gerry Gorman and staff of the MDL as well as the players and teachers from the 88 schools across the whole county.
A long way from the humble origins of the first FAI Schools tournament which Meath schools entered in 1993, when three Meath schools (St Michael’s Trim, Boyerstown and Gaelscoil na Ríthe Dunshaughlin) had to travel to Blanchardstown to take part in the Dublin competition which was originally six-a-side!
Cortown NS were well organised in winning all four of their games as they defeated Castletown A by 2-1, Castletown B by 6-0 and eventual runners-Up St Patrick's Trim by 4-0 to win the small schools section final.
However Ross Kavanagh’s side had to pull out the stops to hold on to a slender 1-0 lead over Dunderry in the last game to clinch the coveted county title. Harry Keating excelled in defence with goalkeeper Fionn Rourke pulling off some fantastic saves.
Goalkeeper Liam Cooper was dependable in all of St Patrick’s (Trim) games, while Joshua Douglas, Fiachra Reilly and Jacob Larke were outstanding in defence and played with great determination and skill.
Alfred Bjoerk (top scorer) and Izaac Watson were others to catch the eye in midfield. Up front, Joshua Watson and David Ferris showed great skill in scoring some great goals for Trevor Larke’s side.
In the medium schools competition a skilful Dangan side were impressive winners of the huge 91 team section which took four days to complete
In their first game Dangan raced into a two goal lead against Robinstown but had to defend heroically to hold out for a 2-1 victory. Dangan also had to work hard to see off the challenge of Whitecross NS(Julianstown), also by a 2-1 scoreline. That victory set up a final against a classy Scoil Naomh Eoin side, managed by Galway native Mark Loughlin. Again Dangan started brightly and built up an early three goal lead.
Scoil Naomh Eoin did not give up and clawed the match back to 3-2. Éanna Horgan, Michael Rispin, Tom Bannon and Conall O’Reilly were a formidable combination in defence and midfield. Up front, Andrew Kofie Van Roessel, Tom McVann, Kevin Rispin and Dylan Mooney worked tirelessly throughout and scored some well worked goals for the Summerhill school. St Stephen's NS Johnstown, managed by David O’ Brien and Michael O'Neill, were crowned champions of Meath in the large schools section after winning their group matches against Duleek, Laytown and 2016 All-Ireland champions Dunboyne.
Goakeeper Alex Turcanu was the hero of the hour making some outstanding early saves and conceding just one goal in the tournament.
Cole Curtis was sensational in chipping in with an amazing hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Duleek. Not surprising to hear that his brother, Sam Curtis is captain of Ireland’s u-19s and lines out with St Patrick’s Athletic. Another brother, Ben Curtis, is also a first team player with Drogheda United.
St Stephen’s second game against Laytown saw captain Jack Corbally outstanding in defence. Eddie Power and Aaron Mullarkey were dominant in midfield in a 3-0 win with hard working performances from Aronas Truska, Ódhran Kelly and Jake Finney,
Charlie Cummins and Michael McCormack were the two outstanding players for Duleek in impressive wins over Laytown (4-1) and Dunboyne (2-1) with Aaron Daly and Arthur Carneiro also to the fore for Mark Malocca’s side.