Lurgan Town U19s travelled to Holm Park, Armagh to play Cookstown in the Savage Cup Final on Friday. With Lurgan going in as underdogs against the league leaders they knew a team performance and some luck was required.
The teams took to the pitch in horrendous weather conditions with heavy rain and strong winds. The all important coin toss was going to play a major part in the game. It was Cookstown that won the toss and decided to play with the wind at their back. Cookstown were soon using this to their advantage as the bombarded Lurgan with long balls.
The defence stood strong for 10 minutes then the pressure eventually paid of for Cookstown as a long throw in was poorly defended therefore allowing Cookstown to score with a well executed turn and finish. Lurgan tried to get into the game and the only way to do that was to keep the ball on the ground as all high balls were getting held up in the wind. Lurgan almost got an equaliser when a Tim Millen cross just eluded Lurgans attacking players after a Cookstown defender knocked it out for a corner. Then after 30 minutes Lurgan conceded another soft goal after miscommunication on the half way line that allowed a Cookstown striker go one on one with Adam Craig which he scored.
Things were looking bleak for Lurgan as they were 2 down, playing against a strong wind and then Jack Evans had to be withdrawn due to sickness. However, Lurgan kept battling and Ryan Upton was in superb form at the back and Aaron Winters after a slow start to the game began to get involved in attack. Lurgan got back into the game when after 41 minutes a Lewis McKinley free kick was headed out of the Cookstown penalty area but determination from Tim Millen seen him head the ball back in for Aaron Winters to score with a great composed finish. It was now game on as Lurgan kept the score to 1-2 at halftime.
The half time talk was now about Lurgan having advantage of the wind and to put the pressure on the Cookstown defence. There was also another blow for Lurgan when defender Morgan Smyth had to be replaced at halftime also due to sickness caused by the weather conditions.Therefore Lurgan had to reshuffle the back line with Tyler Boyce joining Brett Smyth and Ryan Upton in the back 3 and Odhran Crozier going on as right wing back, Callum Watkins going upfront and Lewis McKinley moving back into midfield despite also feeling unwell.
Lurgan walked out for the second half and to their shock the wind had stopped. This was a case of Lurgan now changing their game plan but they were hit with a sucker punch when Cookstown scored a third after poor challenge allowed the Cookstown striker score with a good finish. Tyler Boyce was driving the team forward with his commitment and desire. Lurgan lifted their game from this moment with Andy McIvor and Alex Woods getting involved a little more in the game plus Callum Watkins. Alex Woods then picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Mark Boyd with 25 minutes left. A second goal arrived for Lurgan when a Lewis McKinley corner was headed into the Cookstown goal by Aaron Winters to give Lurgan hope.
Then with just under 5 minutes left Lewis McKinley almost scored direct from a corner kick as it hit the far post but it bounced out and eluded the incoming Lurgan players as Cookstown scrambled it clear. Cookstown almost got a fourth but an excellent save from Adam Craig kept the score at 2-3. The final whistle sounded to Lurgans disappointment but credit must go to all the boys give everything against a team that have been blowing teams apart this season. Also, Lurgan had a few things go against them on the day but congratulations to Cookstown on their victory as they showed why they are a top team with an extra years experience in this league.
Coach Phil was so proud of the squad even though some players may not have performed their best but as a team they kept fighting to the last second of the game. The players that impressed were Aaron Winters with 2 goals, Tyler Boyce, Tim Millen but MOM went to Ryan Upton for a superb display in Lurgans defence.
Team: Craig, Watkins, Millen, Smyth M, Smyth B, Upton, McIvor, Evans, Woods, McKinley, Winters. Subs: Boyce, Crozier, Boyd