SLANE’S U17s played Armagh, the league leaders, in the Mid-Ulster Shield Final last Saturday and were beaten by a three goal margin but the score flattered the Orchard side and were matched by Slane all over the pitch on the day.
Slane pushed from the first whistle on the attack and a dangerous cross curled in around the back of the defence by Matthew Smyth was glanced wide by Kurtis Bain.
Matthew Ervine found Matty Smyth wide on the right and he dinked the ball up the line to Curtis Gibson who hit just wide.
The Orchard side took the lead with five minutes gone, a corner was swung into the six yard box and wasn’t properly dealt with and the striker nipped in to the convert for the opening goal.
The Armagh side were dangerous from the set pieces with their physical presence in the air.
Adam Rowland raced off his line to save well and push the ball around the post to thwart the second goal.
The massive crowd of Blue and White Army supporters were getting right behind the young hopefuls and they were closing down the opposition well in midfield. Stevie Adair spread the ball wide to Kurtis Bain and he raced the line and fired over a good cross but the keeper came of his line to punch the danger clear.
On the quarter hour Armagh were awarded a corner and again their presence in the air paid off when the big number five rose high to head home at the back post to double their lead.
Ross Kerr pulled of a great tackle at left back and he picked out Matty Smyth with a good pass. Smyth found Ervine in the middle of the park, he dinked around his marker and spread the ball wide to Smyth who found Curtis Gibson. He rode a hefty challenge and curled the ball from the angle of the 18 yard box around the keeper and in off the post for a great goal.
Slane had their tails up and were playing some neat football through the middle of the park, Jason Corr found Adair up the right and he crossed to Bain who hit wide.
Ryan Shilliday and Adam Gibson were solid for Slane at centre back firing in some good strong tackles.
Rowland made some impressive clearances coming of his line as the visitors started to pump the long hopeful ball over the top.
Five minute before the break Armagh increased their lead when the centre mid-fielder hit a hopeful long range effort that caught Rowland of his line and he could only parry the ball into the net.
Manager Michael O’Kane made a few changes at half tim,e bringing on Ervine Boyd and Dale McMullen.
Smyth shot wide from 20 yards out and C Gibson also tried his luck from outside the box but the Armagh keeper was showing a good safe pair of hands to hold well to the ball.
McMullen was solid in defence and hit some good crunching tackles to break down the attacks.
Rowland pushed a shot over the bar from a free kick and the corner was cleared at the back post by the hard working Matty Smyth who was strong in the air.
Jason Crawford had a shot pushed around the post as Slane upped the tempo, pushing for another goal. The corner was swung into the box and Kurtis Bain headed just wide at the back post.
Andy Bickerstaff entered the fray and he slotted into the attacking formation as Slane pushed more men forward. He was making the difference and had his effort charged down and Gibson followed up with a shot that went wide.
Slane were outdone in the dying minutes when the ref pointed to the spot after he adjudged that McMullen fouled the striker and he gave a very dubious penalty that the striker converted.
Overall a gallant effort from the Slane young guns who went into this game massive underdogs but they proved they have come a long way from the start of the season and their work on the training ground with coach Chris Chambers and manager Michael O’Kane has brought the forward and taken them to their first final
Player of the match was awarded to Matty Smyth who covered a lot of ground on the day working back and forward and winning all the aerial duos in midfield.
Team: A Rowland, J Corr, R Kerr, R Shilliday, A Gibson, M Ervine, S Adair, M Smyth, C Gibson, M Smyth, K Bain, E Boyd, A Bickerstaff, D McMullen, J Crawford.