The Combined Counties Football League’s elite youth squad capped a tremendous year by travelling to London to play against Brentford Academy’s youth squad recently. It was the first time a CCFL squad has travelled to Brentford following the recent official link-up between the CCFL and the English club, whose first-team was recently promoted to England’s second tier.
In a press release about the trip, the CCFL said: 'This was a chance of a lifetime for any CCFL youth players to put themselves in the shop window by competing against a top English soccer academy and the facilities and quality of coaching afforded to the CCFL squad was second to none, with Brentford’s U17 head coach, Anthony Hayes, who hails from Athlone, central to establishing the link with the CCFL’.
The game between the CCFL youths and Brentford started at a break-neck pace, which is something the CCFL youths had not come across before and within two minutes Brentford Academy had hit the front. However the quality of play from the CCFL ensured they more than held their own and drew level when a great shot from an acute angle from Rosenallis player Cillian Callaly hit the back of the net following one of his trademark overlaps from the right-full position. Goals in quick succession from Brentford and Willow Park’s Nicky Kelly left the game evenly balanced heading towards the half-time whistle, however, a glorious free-kick from 25 yards by Willow Park’s Cathal Callinan sent the youths in at half time 3-2 up.
Brentford equalised shortly after half-time when their Lithuanian U17 international centre-half out-jumped the CCFL defence to leave Willow Park goalkeeper Cain Bererton with no chance. The game continued at great pace with quality play on show from both teams. Brentford Academy’s superior fitness and quality on the bench eventually began to show and four goals in quick succession put the result beyond doubt. Again, however, the CCFL battled back in the game and Tullamore’s Gio Russo, who was excellent all day, got his reward when he slid the ball beyond the advancing 'keeper. Best for the CCFL were Brian Moloney, Nicky Kelly, Gio Russo and Joe Moloney.
To cap off the trip, the travelling party were present at Griffin Park when Brentford secured their promotion to the English Championship following a 1-0 Victory over Preston North End. Trials have already commenced for next year’s Inter-League Squad with over 70 players assessed so far. Out of this a squad of 20 will be entered in this year’s Macron Cup in Galway where the current squad finished second last season.
The CCFL panel was: Cain Brereton (Willow Park); Brian Moloney (Killavilla Utd); Brandon McEvoy (Birr Town); Nicky Kelly (Willow Park); Kevin Bryant (Mucklagh); Cathal Callinan (Willow Park); Cillian Callaly (Rosenallis), Conor Ryan (Birr Town), Oisin Ftzpatrick (Portlaoise), Gio Russo (Tullamore Town), Joe Moloney (Killavilla Utd), Joe Curran (Birr Town),
Eoghan Smyth (Kinnegad Juniors), Justin Lawlor (Stradbally Town), Stefan Shalloe (Birr Town), Peter Ryan (Willow Park). The team coaches were Tony O’Sullivan and Declan Holohan.