(AET; Waterford won 4-1 on penalties)
The Waterford Under 16 Development team are through to the All-Ireland final after beating a strong Kerry League at a glorious sunny RSC on Sunday morning last.
This was a repeat of the Munster final three weeks previously and again we witnessed a very tight affair. The first game saw Waterford come out on top 2-0 and as was the case last Sunday there was little or nothing between the two sides.
Having lost that provincial final the Kerry side had to play another game to get to the last four and they were keen to have another rattle at the Waterford team who are managed and coached by Johnny Browne and Steven O’Shea.
It came as no surprise that it took penalties to separate two very good outfits. Johnny Browne, the coach from the Tramore club, expressed his delight after the full-time whistle. “It is a great day for the lads and indeed for Waterford schoolboy football. We knew we would get a hard game from Kerry because they knew us and we knew them and that is always hard.
“We have been together since October and all of that hard work is paying off. We now play Kilkenny in the final and we will be confident of beating them. We will not be over-confident, far from it, but we will have self-belief going into that final in May”, Johnny added.
Kerry scored after only 4 minutes of play. Auide Dunlea got some space out on the left side of the park and when he squared the ball Brian Murphy, the Kingdom striker found the net with a low hard shot from 25 yards into Robert Breslin’s right corner.
Four minutes later Waterford almost got back on level terms when Thomas Croke made the Kerry goalkeeper Robert Birchall work with a crisp effort from just outside the penalty area. One minute later Zach Shanahan did the same as the Waterford side slowly began to grow into the game following their dodgy start.
Shanahan, the Tramore striker, displayed wonderful skill on 21 minutes by turning two defenders inside-out before shooting at goal but his effort went narrowly wide.
Cormac O’Driscoll then went close with an angled strike from the right on the half-hour mark. Before the half-time whistle Zach Shanahan headed the ball on to Chris Flynn following a left-wing cross from Craig Wall but Flynn just failed to make contact at the far post.
Waterford looked fired up when the second period got going and Zach Shanahan ran to the left end-line on 43 minutes before pulling the ball back to Brian Nolan but his first time shot from 20 yards went over the crossbar.
The equaliser did arrive four minutes into the second half. Shanahan played a super pass out left to Craig Wall and when he ran into the penalty area he curled the ball around the Kerry goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net. It was a goal of real class.
Waterford then put a real good three-man move together. Zach Shanahan passed to Craig Wall who in turn released Cormac O’Driscoll but the latter’s shot was well saved by Robert Birchall.
Kerry almost regained their lead on 54 minutes when a corner kick taken from the right by Mark Breen went over the head of the Waterford goalkeeper Robert Breslin but at the back stick defender Ian Galegy headed the ball off the line.
The last chance of normal time fell to Waterford. Shanahan, who was involved in everything positive from a local point of view, squared the ball to Thomas Croke but he was unable to keep his shot on target.
In the opening minutes of extra time Robin Spencer sent over a free kick from the left to Shanahan but he was crowded out by a number of Kerry defenders. Kerry very dearly grabbed an extra-time winner when Brian Murphy met a corner kick taken by Mark Breen but his header was cleared off the line by Paul Power.
Waterford did the business from the penalty spot in the shoot-out. They scored all four that were required. Shanahan, Cormac O’Driscoll, Robin Spencer and Paul Power were successful. The hero for Waterford was their goalkeeper Robert Breslin who saved two of the Kerry penalties. He was beaten by Sean Brosnan first time around but he saved brilliantly from Mark Breen and Steven Devane, much to the delight of his colleagues and the management team.
Waterford (panel): Robert Breslin, Niall O’Sullivan, Ian Galegy, Craig Nugent, Paul Power, Brian Nolan, Chris Flynn, Thomas Croke, Cormac O’Driscoll, Zach Shanahan, Craig Wall, Augustine Adoye, Robin Spencer, Stephen O’Brien, David Jacob, Aaron Molloy, D.J Magee.
Referee: Paul O’Keeffe.