FANTASTIC DAY AT THE CLUB YESTERDAY 19 AUG 2023 AS OUR U16 BOYS HOSTED THE ANNUAL BRYAN CULLEN FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT FOR THE OLIVER MOORE CUP & SHIELD. HUGE SHOUT OUT TO THE ORGANISING COMMITTEE, BRYAN & THE CULLEN FAMILY, THE MOORE FAMILY, AND THE ARMY OF PARENTS & VOLUNTEERS WHO MADE THE TOURNAMENT ONE TO REMEMBER! THANKS ALSO TO ALL THE VISITING TEAMS - WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR DAY IN SKERRIES!
Kudos to Ferghal O'Connor for a superb report on the days activities and to Michael Donoghue for the amazing library of shots taken across the day - fantastic memories made for all involved
A hugely competitive final between Faughanvale of Co Derry and Newtown Blues of Co Louth needed extra time to separate two great teams and proved a fitting end to what was a wonderful Bryan Cullen U16 Football Invitational Tournament at Skerries Harps on Saturday.
The Derry club had travelled furthest on the day to be part of what is becoming one of the highlights of the annual football calendar in Skerries. And, as it turned out, they travelled furthest too in the competition, triumphantly bringing the Oliver Moore Memorial Cup back home to Derry at the end of a long day of top class under 16 football.
Standards were hugely impressive with eight teams from all over the country taking part. In one group, hosts Skerries Harps, ably marshalled by coaches James McAfee and Johnny Mangan, were joined by fellow North County club Thomas Ashe, as well as eventual finalists Faughanvale and Drogheda team Newtown Blues.
On the other side of the draw were St Marys Burren of Co Down and Dublin clubs Fingallians and Scoil Uí Chonaill.
The day had got off to an unpromising start thanks to Storm Betty, which blew apart two marquees and left parts of the Townparks pitch under water.
But, thanks to a huge effort by a team of volunteers from early morning, the club was looking great and ready to host its visitors for the tournament, starting right on time just as the sun came out with a beautiful rendition of Amhrain na bhfiann by Bobby Rogan on the tin whistle.
The standard of football all morning was excellent with superb games throughout the group stages despite sometimes blustery conditions. Well fed by an able team of lunch volunteers, the teams returned to the pitches in the afternoon for hard fought semi finals in both the Cup and Shield competitions.
Hosts Skerries Harps prevailed in the Shield, the first of the two finals for the day, in a matchup with Thomas Ashe - a well drilled amalgamation of the St Finians and St Margaret's clubs who are fresh from winning Dublin's Division 4 in the Spring.
The two teams had earlier played out a draw in the opening game of the day after Skerries grabbed a late goal to equalise. But in the Shield final the Skerries team finished strongly to take the honours.
It had been a special day in particular for Skerries player Oliver Daughton, grandson of Oliver Moore, who played up from the under 14 team for the day and scored a number of valuable points for Skerries.
Later, presenting the shield to the team, forrner Dublin All Ireland winning captain Bryan Cullen commended the teams for their efforts and said he looked forward to see the Skerries lads develop into senior players for the club in the future.
But there was no doubting who were the two best teams on the day. Both Faughanvale and Newtown Blues had played strong, well organised, attacking football all day and the final was set up to be a cracker.
So it proved. A strong first half from the Derry team saw them take an early commanding lead. But a classy goal by the standout full forward for the Drogheda side, Ryan Nugent, had given them hope for the second half and they had soon pulled level with the Derry side.
It was nip and tuck from there with very competitive football and both sides swapping points to ensure a grandstand finish.
With the clock running down, Faughanvale wing forward Kealan Kilkey bravely won the ball but the resulting free was just inches wide.
From the kickout Newtown Blues roared up the pitch in a fantastic move and netted, looking to have seized victory. But the goal was disallowed for a square ball and so the game finished level after normal time.
Since arriving in Skerries both teams had played five games and 125 minutes of energy sapping high tempo football but somehow found the reserves of strength for 10 minutes to decide the tournament.
Even the watching Bryan Cullen, not a stranger to epic battles on the pitch, afterwards expressed admiration for the two teams as they went at it for one last tussle to determine where the Oliver Moore Cup would head for 2023.
A brilliant point for Faughanvale set the tone early in extra time and when full forward JP McCafferty netted a couple of minutes later the Derry team could smell victory and the watching Terry McGinnis, a Skerries clubman but Faughanvale native, was a particularly delighted onlooker from the sideline. The Derry side showed their class to the end, controlling the play for a tense last five minutes. Newtown had their chances but Faughanvale were crowned worthy winners after what had been a real feast of Gaelic football.
"The level of football was really really impressive and it was played in the right spirit," Bryan Cullen told the teams at the end when presenting the Cup and the Shield.
The former Dublin captain thanked the mentors of all the teams and he said he looked forward to seeing the players progress in the years ahead.
"We are here to remember our former chairman Oliver Moore and the work he did here. His work is not forgotten and we have him to thank for the wonderful facility we have here in the town and his legacy lives on," said the former Dublin captain from the balcony of the clubhouse.
Oliver Moore's son Alan thanked Skerries Under 16 head coach James McAfee and the many others who had put in so much work to make it a great day.
"With two marquees blown away and a pitch waterlogged things didn't look good this morning," said Alan. "But that's when you know you are part of a club, when you see everyone rally around and come down at 7am to make it all work out so well. My Dad and our great clubman John Clinton, who we lost a few months ago, would be very proud looking down today."