On Sunday (17th Feb) morning the Salthill Devon U14 Premier lads took the short trip across the corrib for a crucial league encounter with their city rivals Mervue. Like all good derby matches this one threw up more twists and turns than the famous 'Corkscrew hill' landmark in Co Clare. Right from the off the Devon lads were up for this one and quickly imposed their passing game on their opposition. Within 4 minutes Piotrek Syzmanski had Devon one up after he robbed the ball from the Mervue keeper to clinically finish to the back of the net from an acute angle. This was just rewards for the Devon lads who were winning the crucial midfield battles. However, on the 10 minute mark, things took a major nose dive for the Devon lads when the referee gave a straight red card to keeper Lee O'Sullivan. An under cooked defensive back pass which seemed to hold up in the long grass forced Lee to come outside his 18 box to meet the oncoming Mervue striker. What appeared to be a 50/50 clash for the ball was seen by the referee as a foul and (quite harshly) dished out the red card. With Lee off the pitch Devon had no option but to slot Piecre Greally their left winger between the sticks. Despite this major set back the Devon lads circled the wagons and would go in at half time with their one nil lead in tact.
The second half started in similar mode to the first half and the Devon lads continued to keep the Mervue lads at bay but still managed to play their passing game despite being one man down. However, on the 8 minute Mervue crossed in a ball (which looked to have gone out of play but the referee ruled otherwise) which was slotted to the back of the net from close range. Shortly after the Mervue equalizer things could not get any worse for the Devon lads loosing their left full back Milo O'Malley who took the full force of the ball into his face which eventually forced him to go off. Milo up to this point in the game was one of the contenders for man of the match. The loss of Milo was a double whammy blow to the Devon lads cause, have already been forced to put their left winger in goal and now losing their left full back. This second blow was further compounded by not having their other left sided players on the day (Sean O'Connor out injured and Caden Grant not available). Like any good prize boxer the Devon lads had to pick themselves off the canvas a second time and this is certainly what they did. With the introduction of Daniel Hoare, his presence immediately reignited the team and from somewhere they found that extra gear. The Devon lads got their just reward when Bright Broderick took the ball in the middle of the park, skipped pass a couple of Mervue players and unleased a cracker to back of the net. Now two one up…..could this be Devon's day and end Mervue's seven game unbeaten run in this years league? What seemed to be the after effects and sheer emotion/jubilation in celebrating their second goal the Devon lads lost their composure and allowed Mervue to equalise one minute later. Shortly after Devon were not given what looked like an obvious penalty when Piotrek Syzmanski forced his way into the box and was unfairly pulled back by the Mervue defender, despite his protests no peno was given. At two all it now looked like this game would go to a draw and despite playing the better football the Devon lads would surely have settled for a share of the spoils and regroup for another day. Lady luck would say otherwise and in the most uncurl turn of fate Mervue got their winner 3 minutes from time when a long delivery into the box slipped through the fingers of the replacement keepers hands into the top of the net. This was a final devasting blow to the Devon lads who had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this one, having played over a hour of football with just ten men.
Football is a cruel sport sometimes and on this occasion the Mervue lads will count their lucky stars in securing the 3points, at different stages in this game they seemed dead and buried but credit must go to them for pulling this one out of the bag. Their were many notable performers for Devon on the day when everyone of the lads showed strength of character, passion and desire years beyond their young ages. On this occasion Bright Brodericks got the nod for man of the match for this tenacity, tackling and workrate in the middle of the park, a close second was Sean Orugba who ran himself into the ground. Other top performers were Darren Darcy who had the Mervue lads chasing shadows on many occasions throughout the game. Piotrek Szymanski upfront was a constant treat to the Mervue defense. From setbacks come new beginnings and there is no doubt these Devon lads will bounce back and will sight their sights on the return leg back in Drum later in the season. Book your seats for this one folks!