SUNDAY will be a special day for Douglas Hall as they chase glory in the final of the FAI Youths Cup.
Mounthawk Park in Tralee is the venue for the national decider against Killarney Celtic (2pm), with the Hall having beaten Dublin’s Crumlin United and Bridge United of Clare since footballing action resumed at the end of July.
The Hall U18s were top of the Daly Industrial Supplies Premier League when action had to cease, while they were also in the final of the league cup, set to play rivals College Corinthians, with whom they had tussled in the league.
This squad has done well in national cups over the years. In 2017, they reached the SFAI U15 Cup semi-final, while in 2018 they went all the way to the SFAI U16 Cup final, where they lost out to Leixlip United of Kildare. Last year, the Hall went out at the quarter-final stage in the U17 competition, so the fact that they are involved in the business end should not be a surprise to anyone.
The Hall’s journey started exactly 11 months ago, as Agape Malanda, Brian O’Neill and Cormac Kelly all scored in a 3-0 win over Macroom.
Having earned a bye in the draw for the second round, they progressed to the national stage, with the end of November bringing a trip to Ballingarry of the Limerick Desmond League.
That was another 3-0 win, with David O’Sullivan and Dean McCarthy netting while there was also an own goal.
The prize for that was a last-16 home draw against Letterkenny Rovers, but high winds led to the postponement of that game and the fixture being reversed.
Despite the trip to Donegal, they were not knocked out of their stride, though, and after going 1-0 down they won 3-1 with goals from James Daly (two) and David O’Sullivan.
While it looked like Covid-19 might have meant that being the end of the journey, they eventually got back in action on July 26 with the quarter-final away to Crumlin, where Daly, O’Neill and Malanda all netted along with an own goal, though there was an unfortunate injury to David Debuf.
Away once again in the semi-final in Sixmilebridge against Bridge United, who had already seen off College Corinthians and St Mary’s, the Hall again won 3-0 as Dean McCarthy bagged a brace and Ewan Lee was on target, too.
With new social-distancing restrictions meaning that games must be played behind closed doors, there will be no Hall fans inside Mounthawk Park.
Nevertheless, manager Michael Nason – who is assisted by Don Maher and Martin Dunphy – has been impressed by the resilience shown by the team and expects them to rise to this latest challenge.
“We’ve had a tough challenge so far,” he says.
“There’s a lot of excitement for the lads and the club, which hasn’t won a national title before.
“When you’re travelling, there’s an extra challenge but they’ve stood up to that. Since the restart, they’ve been brilliant and it will take a really good team to beat them.”