DDSL Redmond Cup: Cabinteely FC 4-3 (aet) Dundrum FC
They had already stormed their league and Cabo’s U-18 Major 2 dream team (pictured)  have now set up the ultimate season’s climax.

Sunday, April 19, saw them take on Dundrum FC on the Kilbogget Astro. After two drawn league fixtures there was little to separate these teams except perhaps the feeling that in both previous encounters Cabo had done enough to win and were due a victory over their nearest league rivals, if only to prove beyond question that they were indeed Top Dogs this year.

Dundrum, however, were desperate to avoid being left with nothing to show for a fine season that saw them only four points short of Cabo at the top of the league. So the stage was set for a classic, with two teams well up for victory, neither of them accustomed to losing, and a classic is just what we got.

After losing to Booth Road Celtic in the season opener, Cabo had become dominant in the league, remaining unbeaten until March, including tough home victories over Wayside and St. Mochta’s which put them firmly in pole position for their ultimate triumph. The lads were fit and well-drilled, and most importantly there was great camaraderie and a unanimous will to succeed among the squad.

A packed dressing room makes for some tough selection decisions, but the great strength in depth at the manager’s disposal has played a crucial part all season with the inevitable string of absences and injuries, most notably to Rory Berkery, Aaron Walsh and Luke Brown, all of whom thankfully recovered and returned to action, although unfortunately Darragh Porter and Gonzalo Vila Lopez remain on the sidelines, and, late in the semi, Berkery was forced to retire with another injury after a typically great shift.

Special mention is deserved for Andy Murdoch, who was drafted in from the U-16s to replace Walsh in goal for several weeks. Murdoch settled quickly into the squad and won the confidence of the team with some fine goalkeeping. That he could do so at this age level promises great things for his future.

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Like all successful teams, Cabo conceded relatively few goals all season, thanks to a stalwart defensive line-up, and their lethal attacking line scored in every match, sometimes freely, but sometimes having to be patient and determined to grind out the points.

Linking the league’s best defence and the league’s best strike-force is the league’s best midfield – a well-oiled and finely-tuned engine that rarely misses a beat. The league statistics speak for themselves: out of seventeen games played they lost two, drew two (both against Dundrum) and won thirteen. With one remaining fixture against Rangers, the championship is already secured.

The cup run was short. In the first round, away to St. Mochta’s, whose ‘keeper was their hero, victory for Cabo ultimately hinged on a save from Aaron Walsh and a late, late penalty from prolific goal-scorer Eoin Spencer. In the next round Cabo dispatched Esker Celtic by a handsome margin and so their showdown with Dundrum was set up. Led by team captain Jonno Farrelly, the entire squad was relishing the challenge.

Cabo started brightly enough, but Dundrum went ahead inside ten minutes, gifted a goal from a set-piece. There was no panic from the home team and, after a spell of good pressure, Spencer and Dunne combined to carve open a packed defence, as they have done so often this season. Dunne had the pace, skill and composure to beat the last man and slot home a sweet equaliser from a tight angle.

Against the run of play Dundrum were in front again before long, another disappointing goal from a set-piece, but again Dunne outstripped the defence with a mazy run from the left and an angled drive past a very on-song Dundrum ‘keeper.

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Level for the second time, Cabo looked like they were finally in charge but it was actually the visitors who went ahead again after converting a free kick from the edge of the box. It was 2-3 at the break but still too early to panic as Cabo had shown enough to suggest they were still capable of turning things around.

The second half was end-to-end with neither side holding anything back. Time wore on and Dundrum had to defend deeper and deeper as Cabo pressed for the equaliser.

They created chances aplenty, but luck didn’t seem to be on their side and the sideline nerves jangled more with each passing minute. Composure was key for Cabo and not one of the players lost focus in defence or attack and especially not in the middle of the park. They never stopped believing that the breakthrough would come.

There can’t have been more than five minutes left on the clock when Brian Kirwan, renowned more for solid defending than for goal-scoring prowess, popped up out of a packed scramble in the six-yard box after a corner and coolly slid home the day’s third equaliser to break Dundrum hearts and give Cabo a huge shot in the arm as the game headed inexorably towards extra time.

The first ten minutes of the additional time were typically cagey, but Cabo’s superior fitness, stamina and class finally showed through and the visitors clung on more and more desperately as Cabo confidence surged.

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In the second period it was all Cabo, but still Dundrum held out. In the end it was totally fitting that it should be another Dunne run that would see Dundrum undone. Yes: Dunne’s run saw Dundrum undone!

On the edge of the centre circle he picked up the ball and took off on a trademark run with the ball as if it was stuck to his foot. Past two, three, four defenders, Dunne was pushed wide in the area and was almost at the by-line by the time he got his shot away, ending up as part of an exhausted heap on the ground along with two defenders and the ‘keeper. But the hat-trick wasn’t to be as the ball bounced agonisingly back off the underside of the bar.

Banks had made the all-important supporting run from midfield and was first to the rebound. He slotted home the winner from two yards with less than two minutes left to play. Cue rapture for players, coaches and fans alike!

A cup final outing is just what every member of this super squad and management team deserves to crown a fantastic season’s work. Excitement is building ahead of their showdown against Wayside Celtic. Date and venue to be confirmed, but keep an eye out for details and make sure you don’t miss it.

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Cabo squad
Back row (l to r) : D. Berkery (manager), D. Porter, P. Dunne, E. Spencer, A. Murdoch, A. Walsh, O. Noonan, C. Bourke, B. Kirwan, J. Brereton, D. McDonald (team coach), G. Walsh (trainer)

Front row (l to r) : C. Banks, L. Cush, R. Berkery, J. Farrelly, L. Brown, C. Byrne, C. Barry, J. Stuart (missing from photo: Gonzalo Vila Lopez)

Sounds like an almost perfect season for this great squad and their mentors!