Mayo Excel in Football Festival in England
The Mayo U13 travelled to Repton, Derbyshire, England for their annual Festival Of Football over 4 Days to play against British Academy Teams. The Squad and management travelled from Knock Airport to East Midlands on the Saturday and as soon as they arrived at their accommodation they were whisked off to watch Nottingham Forest v Aston Villa in a friendly, this was a great treat for travelling squad seeing top players that they only see on Match Of The Day then after arriving back they had a light training session then Dinner and bed.
As the Festival was only due to officially start until Monday, the organizer of the event had organized a friendly against a Derby County Development Squad who were up to two years older than our lads but with the whole of Sunday free it was a great way to introduce the lads to the environment they were going to be playing in from the Monday onwards. They played three half hours so all players from the squad could receive ample playing time and even though they narrowly lost`with Mikey Lavelle scoring with a great lob over the keeper, they played some really great football and were only beaten by the physical capacity of the older Derby County team. Indeed the Derby County Head Coach was enthused by their approach within the game, looking to play out from the back all the time and play through the midfield and then to the attack.
Monday came and the official start of the Festival began and Mayo were to face a tough test versus Sheffield Wednesday. Mayo buoyed by their performance the day before, raced into a three nil lead. Mark Byrne opening the scoring with a 20 yard shot into the top corner, then James McGrath heading in a fantastic corner, with Dara Ludden whose birthday it was and was captain for the game scoring a great third goal making it a real special day for him. Sheffield Wednesday then replied with two quick goals to make it 3 - 2 before Cian McAllister won a penalty for himself, dusted himself down, stood up and placed it in the corner to make it 4-2, this was the final score and was a great start for the squad.
They then had to take on the highly rated Stoke City Squad but again Mayo started very brightly and opened the scoring with a lovely composed shot from the left foot of Liam Whyte. 5 minutes later a great cross from the left hand side resulted in the unfortunate Stoke city defender putting an attempted clearance into his own net making it 2-0 to Mayo. Stoke City struck back very quickly to make it 2-1 before Eoin Prendergast finished superbly in the bottom corner to make it 3-1. Stoke City piled the pressure on to get themselves back into the game and scored a second goal making it 3-2 but Mayo held out to secure another fantastic victory.
The third and last game of the day came against a very strong Scottish Dunfermline team who went 1-0 up after 10 mins. Mayo struck back and equalized with a cross from the left which arrived at the far post where Lorcan Conroy timed his run to perfection and smashed the ball into the Dunfermline net. Again Dunfermline took the lead before James McGrath headed in a great corner from Mark Byrne making it 2-2. Dunfermline went ahead to make it 3-2 before Darren Collins made it 3 all with a great shot from outside the box. This was a fantastic game showing the capabilities to come back from a goal down three times in the game. Their successful day was now finished and headed back to their quarters for their dinner and well earned rest.
They had to Kick off at 10.30am the next morning against a very good Aberdeen team and indeed found themselves 4-0 down at half time. Either they had not awoken from their early morning rise or were possibly too confident after their efforts the day before they were soon given a rude awakening. After a number of changes for the second half, Mayo gave an improved account of themselves and to their credit drew that half. They were awarded for their efforts with a great goal from Dylan Prendergast but the Final score was a deserved 5 -1 to Aberdeen. The Staff and players probably learned more about themselves in this game than any other and had to motivate themselves for another tough game against Derby County. After being brought down to earth by Aberdeen they put in a fantastic display to beat Derby County 5-0. Two goals from James McGrath a header and a direct free kick, a lovely header from Dillon Munnelly, goals from Mikey Lavelle and Eoin Prendergast, showed the management the character that is within the squad to recover from setbacks. Their last game of the day was against London boys Leyton Orient who won the game 1-0, all the management agreed that this was an excellent Orient team who constantly interchanged positions and played lovely one touch football. Indeed some of the players commented that it was like watching Barcelona, but great credit must go to the Mayo team who acquitted themselves well and would have learned about the importance of quality first touch play, keeping possession and their own individual movement within this game. Their day was now over and an exhausted squad headed off for dinner and bed and much needed work from the physio Seamus McWalter in preparation for their final day.
Their final day of games began with a game versus the highly rated Leicester City who contained some fantastic individual players , Leicester ran out 1-0 winners but Mayo gave them a lot to think about within the game with some fine individual performances from Oisin Mullen and the consistently superb Brian Walsh , Nathan Armstrong, Niall Barrett and Liam McGarry plus the Goalkeepers Jamie McNicholas and Luke McNicholas who were consistently good between the posts over the few days . Their next game was against the much acclaimed academy Crewe Alexandra but Mayo put a great display in and won a fantastic game 3-1 with another back post volley from Lorcan Conroy, a penalty from Mikey Lavelle and another good finish from Eoin Prendergast. Their last game of the festival was against Burton Albion and the team were shattered but the staff motivated them to put in one last committed effort to end up on a high. With an unbelievable performance from the team they won the game 9-0 with goals coming from Dara ludden who scored 3, Darren Collins who got 2, Mikey Lavelle, Liam Whyte, Lorcan Conroy and Mark Byrne. This game showed the hunger, determination, desire of the boys to do well in the game.
For another treat and part of their football education they were guests of DERBY COUNTY for their game against Sunderland at the magnificent Pride Park Stadium on their last night in England. As a gesture to the Mayo parents who had traveled to support their sons, the club gave complementary tickets to them, a mark of the bridge building and respect that the boys have created over the years. Their behaviour on and off the pitch is a credit to themselves, their parents, their clubs and their County.
The bond between this group of players had formed not only over the last 4 days but over the last 18 months, their improvement in their confidence and they had also gained invaluable experience playing against squads who train 3 times a week, play a game at the weekend as well, these players also don't play any other sports and are basically full time with their clubs. It's a great credit to the coaches who give up their time voluntarily every Sunday morning and midweek evenings to not only prepare them on the pitch but to also give them an education regarding their diet, rest and preparation for games and tournaments. This in turn takes up much of their time aside from just the coaching on the Sunday morning, it's also a great credit to our young players who listen and take in the information from the coaches to go across the white line and put performances in like they did within this festival. Every team we played against commented on our playing ability and couldn't believe that we only have the loan of the players from their clubs, train once a week and are able to put performances in like that. We had photos taken with each opponent after each game putting the Mayo crest firmly in the limelight.
A big thank you must also go to the parents who have given up their time over the last 18 months to get their children to training on Sunday morning's and extra sessions, who also travelled to the festival and gave their support to the squad. It must also be mentioned that the trip was self funded, with the parents covering all the costs of their own children and shows the value they put on their children's football education. This is much appreciated and the management really do understand the time and effort you have put in on your child's behalf. It is hoped that your attendance at the Festival of Football helped in assisting you regarding the development of your child in not only a football environment but also from a social and personal point of view.
The management and staff wish all the players all the best in their future endeavors in football and hope to see them again in the future.
Mayo and Aberdeen FC
Luke McNicholas(Manulla), Jamie McNicholas(Kiltimagh/Knock), Liam McGarry(Ballina Town), Nathan Armstrong(Straide and Foxford), Ciaran Gavin(Ballyheane), Brian Walsh(Castlebar Celtic), Mark Byrne(Kiltimagh/Knock Utd), Darren Collins(Ballina Town), James McGrath(Kiltimagh/Knock Utd), Cian McAllister(Westport Utd), Dara Ludden(Castlebar Celtic), Mikey Lavelle(Bangor Hibs), Oisin Mullen(Ballyglass), Dillon Munnelly(Ballina Town), Lorcan Conroy(Manulla), Eoin Prendergast(Straide and Foxford), Dylan Prendergast(Clew Bay Utd), Niall Barrett(Manulla), Liam Whyte(Castlebar Celtic)
Gerry Gallagher, Jono Heffernan, Seamus McWalter, Paul Byrne, Mick Wallace