All six of our academy sides were in action over the weekend as the men’s U19s opened their Elite League campaign with a win at home to Cork City.
Kailan Barlow and Josh Mulrennan were named as substitutes on their respective return from injury and it was their introduction in the second half that swung the game in Rovers favour. Cork were marginally the better side for the first hour, their captain Luke Desmond standing out in particular as a real talent in centre midfield, however, clear cut chances were at a premium as both sides were restricted to shots from outside the box. The best chance fell to Cork on 52 minutes as Desmond found striker Bradley Walsh on the edge of the area but his effort was pushed wide by James Robinson in the home goal. That prompted a change in personnel and Rovers assumed control. On 72 minutes, the best move of the match led to the only goal. Cillian Heaney and Barlow played a neat one-two in the middle of the pitch to open things up before spreading it wide left to Mulrennan. The winger raced to the byline and cut the ball back towards the onrushing Jason Devanney – whos effort was brilliantly blocked by a retreating defender but the ball squirmed loose and rolled into the path of Barlow who had the simple task of tapping home from 6 yards with the keeper already committed. Rovers sat a bit deeper as the clock ticked past the 90 minutes and Cork forced a succession of corners. One such cross found substitute Kyle Cuddy unmarked 8 yards out but his goal bound header was superbly tipped over the bar by Robinson. The subsequent clearance brought with it the final whistle and 3 points for Rovers.
The U14 and U15 sides were on the road for their respective Shield openers this past weekend. The U14s travelled to Pearse Park to take on a tough Bray Wanderers side (won 4 of their last 6 games) and were beaten by three goals to nil. The U15 side had a shorter commute and drew their opening game 1-1 in Castlebar. Gary Farren scored the goal for Rovers, his third goal in his last three games.
Conor Cannon smashed a hat trick for our U17s in Longford on Saturday lunchtime and Aaron Heaney netted a brace as Rovers hit 6 and made it two wins out of two. Adam Nugent continued his excellent run of form also, scoring for the third consecutive weekend and sending the boys top of the early standings.
Our U19 women also went two for two and to the top of the league as they won a six-goal thriller in Wicklow. Kate Nugent scored for the second Sunday running to give Rovers the lead. Katie McGuire, Nola Eivers and Ciara Henry also got on the scoresheet as our women ran out 4-2 winners.
Finally, our U17 women were unfortunate to lose 1-0 to a really strong Donegal team in the opening round of the cup. Donegal came in to the game as favourites having stormed the league along with Shams this season but Rovers fought hard and, on another day, could have forced extra time but it wasn’t to be.