Futsal Finals Night   15/01/2018

ADSL FUTSAL 2018 – GRAND FINAL NIGHT

Thursday 11th January 2018 – What a night!

This was the culmination of last week’s Group stages when 4 Teams qualified for the Stacey Cup and the Rowan Shield. To date we have had 62 games and 249 goals.

Now FUTSAL is usually brilliant. Great tension and drama. Thrills and spills. Huge excitement. This Tournament never ceases to amaze and seems to only get better and better.

But nobody, and nothing, could have prepared us for what unfolded this night of nights. This was simply unbelievable stuff!

We hope we can do the event some justice in these words.

It all started with an impressive Opening Ceremony. Each of the 4 Teams in the Rowan Shield and the 4 Teams in the Stacey Cup were paraded out in front of the huge crowd and then each player was individually introduced. That was a proud moment for these players and their parents and their families.

We then had a very poignant and moving tribute to Aaron O’Kelly the young goalkeeper from Ardmore Rovers in Bray who died at the weekend. He was 12 years old. Aaron’s funeral was today, the day after his 13th birthday. We also remembered our own Tim Ross who played for AC Celtic in these Grand Finals in 2016. Tim was aged 11when he died on the 1st September 2016. We miss Tim and will take every opportunity to remember him. It was fitting to remember Aaron and Tim tonight. It was done with great respect and dignity.

We then had the National Anthem and you could see these young players just bursting with pride and anticipation for the night ahead.

The tone was set.

The night delivered. And how!

The first part of the night would alternate between the Rowan Shield and then the Stacey Cup as the 4 qualifiers in each competition fight it out with the top two meeting again later on in the Rowan Shield Final and the Stacey Cup Final.

The AIT Multi-Purpose Hall was heaving! DJ Clive was surpassing even himself. The place was rocking!

First into action at 6.15pm sharp was the meeting of the Group A winners the Ballinasloe Cheetahs and the AC Celtic Rebels, the Group B runners-up in the Rowan Shield.

Matthew Lynch scored the first goal of the night and the 250th goal of the Tournament so far to give AC Celtic a 1-0 lead. Kyron Blair carried on where he left off in the Group stages with another goal to level the game for Ballinasloe and to share the points.

Next up was the first game in the Stacey Cup when the Group A winners the fancied Hodson Bay Bhoys squared up to the Group B runners-up, the equally fancied St. Francis Cobras.

This was a great game. Niall Derwin put Hodson Bay in front with a quality strike but the substitutions changed the game. Jack Curry equalised for St. Francis and then Darragh Lough scored the winner for 2-1 and an early statement of intent by the Cobras.

Back to the Rowan Shield St. Josephs Blues also announced themselves with a 3-1 win over the St. Francis Lions. Dan “The Man” Costello put them in front. Conor Lough showed anything his brother could do he could do also by finding the net to level the game. Ciaran Cummins then scored a simply class goal to put St. Josephs in front and then Colin Moran sealed the deal with a goal for a 3-1 win.

The games were coming thick and fast.

Back to the Stacey Cup for the Ballinasloe Jets first outing against the St. Josephs Blues (Yes I know there are two St. Josephs Blues teams – but they are in different competitions!).

Joshua Osho put St. Josephs in front. Joshua Lloyd tied the game with a good goal (His sister is watching the Live Streaming in Poland!). Destiny Ezenna put St. Josephs back in front and then Charlie Killeen continued his run of scoring in every game to equalise and for a point apiece from the opening game.

In the Rowan Shield St. Josephs Blues made it two wins from two with a 2-0 win over the Ballinasloe Cheetahs. Dan Costello scored the opener and yet another goal. Patrick Misienicz scored the other. This young St. Josephs side are looking the part!

Back to the Stacey Cup and Hodson Bay are in trouble. They lost 2-1 to the St. Josephs Blues. Destiny Ezenna put St. Josephs in front. Niall Derwin scored his second of the night to level the game at 1-1 but Brian Finneran scored for St. Josephs for a 2-1 win and three very important points.

We are getting to the business end now!

In the Rowan Shield St. Francis Lions recovered from an opening defeat to beat AC Celtic Rebels 4-2 in a 6 goal thriller. Matthew Lynch again put AC in the lead. Shane Wheatley equalised for the Lions and then Conor Lough put them in front. Lorcan McCormack made it 3-1 but Ian Rushe reduced the margin to the minimum for 3-2. However Shane Wheatley capped a fine individual performance with his second goal of the game for a 4-2 win and 3 valuable points.

Next up in the Stacey Cup was the eagerly awaited meeting of the Ballinasloe Jets and St. Francis Cobras. Their game in the Group stages last Friday was fantastic where a last minute goal gave the Jets a 3-2 win in a pulsating match.

This match was equally as good. And equally as close and tight. Cameron Keighery put the Ballinasloe Jets in front with a great finish. 1-0. But Jack Curry scored his second of the night with another good goal for 1-1 with it finishing that way. This was a better result for the Cobras than for the Jets.

Back to the Rowan Shield and the Ballinasloe Cheetahs and the St. Francis Lions drew 0-0. That point would be enough to put the Lions in the Rowan Shield Final.

In the Stacey Cup Ballinasloe Jets simply had to win in their last Pool game if they were to have any hope of a place in the Final. It did not look good when two Charlie O’Carroll goals fired the Hodson Bay Bhoys into a 2-0 lead as they finally found some form.

Ballinasloe were looking down the barrel of elimination but they did not panic. Ryan Dowd got a goal back. Charlie Killeen continued his goal per game record to level it at 2-2 but time seemed to be running out and we were well into the last minute when a deflection and an own goal gave the Jets an invaluable win. But would it be enough?

In the Rowan Shield Matthew Lynch scored his third goal of the night to put AC Celtic Rebels one up again. But they could not hold on and that St. Josephs goal machine Dan Costello scored yet again to leave it 1-1 for a draw. But the St. Josephs Blues had already qualified for the Rowan Shield Final unbeaten on 7 points with 2 wins and a draw. Very impressive! They will play the St.Francis Lions in the Final.

In the last Stacey Cup Pool game a draw would put both St. Francis Cobras and St. Josephs Blues into the Stacey Cup Final. Ballinasloe needed an outright winner if they were to qualify. But they could only watch. And pray!

To be fair both St. Francis and St. Josephs showed huge respect for the integrity of the competition with both sides going for the win.

St. Francis Cobras produced the performance of the night so far with a very impressive 3-1 win. Brandon Wykes fired them in front. Jack Curry made it 2-0. Destiny Ezenna pulled one back for St. Josephs and they went on to have at least two good chances to equalise. Sweaty palm time in the Ballinasloe camp! But Jack Curry calmed the nerves with his second goal of the match and his fourth of the night for a hugely impressive 3-1 win.

That result put St. Francis Cobras in the Stacey Cup Final but put St. Josephs Blues out with a very relieved Ballinasloe Jets almost stumbling into the Final.

So it is St. Francis Lions v St. Josephs Blues in the Rowan Shield Final and St. Francis Cobras v Ballinasloe Jets in the Stacey Cup Final.

Will we have another St. Francis double?

Before all that the ADSL made presentations to some former players who were capped by Ireland in 2017.

First the Mayor of Athlone Aengus O’Rourke made a Presentation to Dylan Gavin and Kyle Conway who both played twice against Poland last November for the Ireland Under-15’s. Dylan also scored his first international goal in a 1-1 draw with Poland. Dylan played for St. Peters in ADSL FUTSAL in a previous life while Kyle captained St. Josephs to win the Stacey Cup in 2015.

Then the Mayor made a Presentation to Heather Payne. Heather remarkably has played for Ireland at Under-17 and 19 and the Senior Womens Team all in 2017. She played in the Under-17 European Championship Finals in May 2017 having starred in the Qualifying Group and then the Elite Qualifying Phase to be one of only 8 Teams to qualify for the Finals in the Czech Republic. Heather was added to the Senior Women’s Squad and was part of the team that drew away last month with the European Champions Holland. Heather also played for Ballinasloe in the ADSL, like Dylan and Kyle, was also on the ADSL Emerging Talent Programme, and again, like Dylan and Kyle, Heather played in the ADSL FUTSAL Tournament.

That was good.

And so to the Finals. First, the Rowan Shield Final.

Both teams entered to the Champions League music and were presented to the Mayor and to the International stars. What a moment!

St. Josephs Blues were very impressive winners of the Rowan Shield. Patrick Misienicz put St. Josephs in front with a super goal in the third minute. Jimmy Walshe then made a fantastic save to preserve that lead with a sensational stop to deny the Lion’s Shane Wheatley’s free kick. St. Josephs took full advantage and went down the other end for Patrick Misienicz to score an even better second goal to make it 2-0.

St. Francis best player Shane Wheatley then did get a goal back for 2-1 and the whole of the AIT Hall were up on their feet. The roof almost came off when Colin Moran put St. Josephs 3-1 up and certainly a few tiles came off when Colin scored a second goal to seal the win and crown the St. Josephs Blues the 2018 Rowan Shield Champions.

There was a pitch invasion and huge celebrations. It was hard to know if it meant more to the players or their supporters! But, amazing scenes that will live long in the memory.

Well done St. Josephs!

If that was good, and it was, it could not have prepare us for what was to follow in the 2018 Stacey Cup Final.

This was epic. Perhaps the greatest ever game in 11 years of ADSL FUTSAL? Certainly the best ever finish!

Again both St. Francis Cobras and the Ballinasloe Jets were paraded out and met the Mayor and the former ADSL FUTSAL players and current Irish internationals in Hetaher, Dylan and Kyle. Were there future international players in this Final?

And what a Final it was!

Both goalkeepers, Junior Harte for Ballinasloe and Ben Manning for St. Francis were in superb form. And they needed to be. Play swept from end to end. There was nothing in it. The huge crowd were on their feet for most of it.

Then in the 9th minute of the 14 minute long match St. Francis hit the front. Brandon Wykes scored the crucial goal. The place went mad!

St. Francis had to play well to keep that advantage. Ballinasloe were throwing just everything at them. This was epic and pulsating.

In the closing minutes St. Francis almost made sure but Junior Harte made a magnificent save stretching every sinew to keep a shot out.

Then with just seconds on the countdown clock the Ballinasloe keeper launched the ball in the direction of the St. Francis goal. It probably matters little if the ball took a deflection off Josh Bradley or if he got an audacious flick. What matters is that the ball found the net. 1-1. Four seconds on the countdown clock! Four seconds!

The place went wild! What a finish!

But more to come as the Stacey Cup Final goes to extra-time.

More drama as just 38 seconds into extra-time Ryan Dowd shoots Ballinasloe Jets into the lead. 2-1! Unbelievable! Then just one minute later Cameron Keighery celebrated his Birthday in the best ever way possible to score again to make it 3-1! Happy Birthday Cameron!

There was no coming back from that and the Ballinasloe Jets would be crowned the 2018 ADSL Stacey Cup FUTSAL Champions!

What a way to win it and to win it for the very first time. Simply sensational. You could not script it.

It was hard on St. Francis but the 2017 Champions were gracious in defeat, as you would expect, and they played a huge part in a magnificent Final and a terrific Tournament.

But you have to admire Ballinasloe. They drew their first two games tonight, having to come from behind once. They were 2-0 down in their last game, a must win game, but somehow turned it around for a 3-2 win. Even still they needed a result from others in the very last game just to get into the Final.

Then they were behind with four seconds on the countdown clock. Four seconds! Four!

And yet they win the Stacey Cup in extra-time and for the first time and after 10 previous years of hurt. Simply sensational!

What an amazing FUTSAL Tournament!

FUTSAL never fails to deliver but this has to be one of the very best.

A huge thank you to all who made this possible – to the AIT for a Venue that makes this event special; to the huge crowds who packed it out night after night; to the organisers for Trojan work; to the music for an unreal atmosphere; to the volunteer Coaches and Managers for all they do for their young charges but mostly a huge thank you to all the players on all the teams. We were privileged to witness this!

This was simply magnificent.

                                   LET’S PLAY FUTSAL!






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