By Tom Rooney
The curtain will close on the junior soccer season this Sunday when the Dublin AUL take on the Inishowen league in the Oscar Traynor Trophy final in Tolka Park. What better a culmination than the two best combination sides in the land doing battle for one of the most prestigious trophies in the junior soccer collection.
The Dublin AUL squad, under the stewardship of Peter Lynch and Paul O’Brien, are chasing their third Oscar Traynor Trophy in a row, and the league’s fifteenth since the competition’s inception in the 1963-64 season. A win on Sunday would also put them one away from the four in a row record set by Kilkenny and District League between 1998 and 2002. While the Inishowen League, led by Diarmuid O’Brien, are chasing their first title.
Not surprisingly, Sheriff YC and Kilbarrack United make up a large portion of the AUL selection with both clubs providing a combined 12 twelve players to the match day squad. Keith Dunne of Sheriff YC has had to pull out due to a broken foot sustained against Ayrfield United a fortnight ago and, rather surprisingly, given his form to date, teammate John Lester has been omitted from the squad completely. The Junior Soccer Portal Player of the season, Kilbarrack’s Mark Townley should start, as may his industrious colleague Aaron Humphries, who was a thorn in the side of Sheriff YC in last week’s Liddy Cup Final.
The AUL topped Group 5 with relative ease, winning all their three games against Carlow, AFL and UCL, scoring 12 goals and only conceding one. They then beat Group 2 runners-up Clare in the quarter-final by 3-2, before defeating the Meath & District League by 2-1 in the penultimate round.
For Inishowen, their path to the final was similarly smooth. They too, were undefeated in the group stage, beating Mayo, Donegal and Sligo/Leitrim, scoring 13 and conceding six in Group 1. They then knocked out Group 4 runners-up TS&DL in the quarter-final by 1-0 and went on to beat Wexford by 2-0 in the semi-final.
Strikingly, champions, Clonmany Shamrocks only account for two players in Sunday’s squad; Michael and Jason Devlin, with runners-up, Glengard United providing five.
It’s not a regular occurrence to see this wealth of talent on display in one sitting, and many of these players could be plying their trade in the Airtricity League in the not too distant future. It’s difficult to know who will want it more; the team seeking to tighten their collective grip on the trophy in search of making history or the one that desperately wants to bring it home for the first time and start a run of their own.