STRABANE Athletic’s U19 squad lined out for their first final in the newly structured U19 BKYL Cup.
Strabane started the game brightly dictating the pace, with Paul McColgan, Conor Williamson and Ronan McGinley moving the ball around well in midfield.
The first chance came after Matty Doherty made a fine run on the wing and delivered the ball back into the box. The first shot was saved and Conor Williamson’s follow up shot was blocked as it headed towards the top corner.
Athletic took firm control of the game and got their first goal of the evening when a corner found the head of the diminutive Williamson who rose highest to send a thunderous header in off the bar.
Strabane continued to dominate and the partnership in defence of Matthew Stephenson with 16-year-olds Ronan Brolly and Alex Bishop never put a foot wrong. Anthony Connolly worked tirelessly making several strong challenges but also showing his great control and running ability going forward.
The half ended with another great chance. The ball came to Cameron Coyle who did sterling work in midfield. He linked with his strike partner Jack Quinn and the forward placed a shot into the far corner which was saved well.
The second half started with Athletic looking strong again and not willing to sit on their one goal advantage. Some fine individual skill from McGinley drew a foul that for most would be out of shooting range. But up stepped Matthew Stephenson, who from 35 yards unleashed an unstoppable dipping free kick that put the local lads in the driving seat.
The third followed soon after when some quick thinking from keeper Ryan ‘Sauce’ McGowan sent Jack Quinn on his way. The striker’s touch and turn got him away from his man and running down the line.
With great composure he beat another defender, looked up and squared for his strike partner Cameron Coyle to pass it home from 12 yards.
With Paul McColgan breaking up attacks and McGinley and Williamson bossing midfield, Lisbellaw were struggling to get possession and create anything substantial. They were limited to long range free kicks and corners which were defended brilliantly or picked out of the air by the dominant McGowan. Strabane continued to press and play great football, with wing backs Anthony Connolly and Matty Doherty marauding forward over the 90 minutes.
The fourth goal came from a counter attack with another great ball from McGowan beating the last defender. Coyle took it on his chest and fired a well placed volley into the bottom corner which ended any hope of a come back.
Strabane made changes with Coyle and Quinn replaced by Marty Docherty and 16-year-olds, Ronan Brolly and Billy Joe McConnell.
When a pass found Marty Docherty on the right the forward beat his man with ease and delivered a pinpoint cross into the box.
His team-mates were queuing up to finish but it was young McConnell after a lung busting run from midfield who was on hand to smash home the fifth goal from close range.
Rory Carlin, Josh Marley and Ryan Stewart all came on to add pace up front and a more solid base at the back. Marley and Stewart made great tackles and interceptions to make sure Strabane finished with a clean sheet.
The final whistle blew and Strabane Athletic lifted the inaugural U19 BKYL Cup in superb style. They produced the brand of football everyone likes to see and this young squad have given their club great hope for the future.
SAFC:Ryan McGowan, Matthew Stephenson, Alex Bishop, Ronan Brolly, Matthew Doherty, Anthony Connolly, Paul McColgan(c), Ronan McGinley, Conor Williamson, Cameron Coyle, Jack Quinn
Subs: Marty Docherty, Rory Carlin, Ryan Stewart, Billy Joe McConnell, Josh Marley