Mullingar Hawks travelled to play Portlaoise Town on Saturday morning last, looking to maintain their 100% record in the U10 MSL Bowl cup competition, by securing a third straight victory. The match had been switched from Portlaoise Town’s home grounds Rosleighan Park to the all weather pitch at Portlaoise Leisure Centre because of weather conditions earlier in the week. With this superb venue, and a beautiful sunny spring morning, conditions were ideal for a football match to entertain the large encouraging group of supporters.
The match began with both teams testing each other out. Mullingar Hawks recent run had been built on very strong defence. This was again evident with Robert Hogg, Sam Connaughton and Dylan Brown, in front of the very assured Mikee Weir, restricting Portlaoise Town to only long range efforts. Slowly Mullingar Hawks started to get on top, with Conor Caffrey starting to dictate matters from the centre of midfield. On the left hand side Captain Charlie Foy and Louis Willems were combining well. Meanwhile Michael Moloney and Eoin Meehan were also testing the Portlaoise Town defence on the right hand side.
It was that combination on the right, that broke the deadlock in the 12th minute, when Michael Moloney, following another of his surging runs, played the ball to Eoin Meehan, whose powerful shot from the edge of the box, beat an excellent Portlaoise Town keeper to make it 1-0. Mullingar Hawks were now creating chances. Within two minutes Michael and Eoin again combined, but this time Eoin’s shot just went over the bar. Then Charlie Foy could count himself unlucky, that the referee called back play for an injured player, when the ball fell to him and he was bearing down on goal. Louis Willems got in on the action by testing the keeper with a couple of shots. However, It was not all one way traffic. Some strong runs by the Portlaoise midfielders, tested but ultimately were dealt with by the resilient Mullingar Hawks defence. As the half time whistle sounded, Mullingar Hawks were good value for their 1-0 lead.
Mullingar Hawks started the second half on the front foot. The strong running of Mark Sugrue on the right and Robert Clinton on the left started to stretch the Portlaoise Town midfield. Michael McLoughlin started to dominate the central midfield area and both Sean Plunkett and Dylan Brown were probing up front. Six minutes into the second half, Mullingar Hawks great team play was rewarded when a powerful trademark Sean Plunkett shot from outside the box finished in the top right corner of the net giving the Portlaoise Town Goalkeeper no chance and making it 2-0.
During this period of the match, Mullingar Hawks pushed hard for a third and in one move they hit the post three times, Michael Moloney twice to either post followed by Sean Plunkett’s once. When the vital third goal did not come in that period, Portlaoise Town began to play themselves back into the game. However, Mullingar Hawks strong defence of Conor Caffrey, Charlie Foy and Tom Daly held firm. In particular, Mullingar Hawks can thank Captain Charlie Foy for his organisation of his defence, positional play and accurate passing out from the back which was outstanding.
Meanwhile, at the other end Mullingar Hawks continued the search for the elusive third goal. Eventually, it came in the fifteenth minute of the second half when great combination play between Robert Clinton and Michael McLoughlin resulted in Michael playing Mark Sugrue in. Mark burst into the box and finished with a powerful finish to the bottom left hand corner of the net to make it 3-0. Once the third goal was scored, more chances now followed in quick succession. Robert Hogg, Michael McLoughlin, Sean Plumkett and Robert Clinton were all denied by the excellent and very busy Portlaoise Town Goalkeeper.
With two minutes remaining, Mullingar Hawks scored their fourth and final goal when Michael McLoughlin having won the ball back in midfield, moved forward and again played Mark Sugrue in on the right. Mark still had some work to do, in rounding the Portlaoise town defence, before executing a neat finish to the bottom right hand corner of the net to make it 4-0.
As the final whistle sounded, Mullingar Hawks celebrated their victory. They had continued their recent run of good results whilst playing some great football as a team. Furthermore, they had added some more goals and another clean sheet to their record, in the Bowl Cup Competition group phase. Portlaoise Town could also take pride from their contribution to an excellent football match that kept both sets of supporters fully entertained.