Aisling Annacotty manager Mike Aherne took time to reflect on his side’s win over Westport in the FAI Junior Cup quarter-final on Sunday afternoon.
Aisling defeated the Mayo men 2-1 after extra-time with the winner coming from Aaron Murphy. Aherne admits that the feeling is a bit surreal.
“It’s a bit surreal at the moment. We didn’t expect to get to the semi final of the FAI Junior Cup this season but to have two Limerick sides there against the odds is a fantastic feeling.
“To go back to the age profile of our squad along with Regional’s, it’s brilliant for the future of Limerick soccer. A lot of people have said that it’s in decline in recent seasons.
“Hopefully this re-energises everybody. There is no doubt that the likes of Pike, Fairview, Janesboro and Ballynanty Rovers will all be looking on at Aisling and Regional and will want to be bigger and stronger next year.”
During the game itself, Jason Lipper missed an early penalty for Annacotty but the took the lead through a Steve Daly header before conceding before half time. Aherne was proud of the character shown by the team.
It was a fantastic result for us. We missed a penalty early but it didn’t set up back as we scored within four minutes of it.
We conceded just before half time and for many teams it would be seen as a big setback but we prepared for that and even though there were no goals in the second half, we were still more than comfortable. In extra time were just exceptional and Aaron Murphy got the winner and deservedly so.
For such a young squad, Annacotty showed great character to advance after extra-time and their fitness levels certainly showed.
“We worked a lot on that (mentality) with the younger players this year. Just because you have a setback in a game doesn’t mean that you go in to your hiding spot.
“We prophesise at the club that you should do everything to the best of your ability that requires no talent and we certainly do that very well at Aisling.
“With a young squad that haven’t a huge amount of coaching or technical ability yet, they continue to surpass expectations.”
Aisling Annacotty were drawn against Regional United in the semi-final at Dooradoyle and it promises to be a great occasion for local soccer in Limerick. Aherne played all his underage football with Regional as well as a lot of his junior career and admits it will be strange.
“It will be bittersweet no matter what happens. To be open and honest about it, I wonder will Regional and Dooradoyle be able to cope with the crowds as the fencing is so tight to the pitch but I’m sure they will put something for crowd control in place.
“They will really enjoy home comfort. They are a fantastic team on that surface but we also play on astro and we are a young and energetic side. I don’t think it will count too much against us.
“From when I was five years of age I was walking down to Regional playing. I lost an FAI Junior Cup semi-final with them. I played with Shane O’Donoghue also with Regional and Limerick FC. It’s a fantastic achievement from both clubs.”
Annacotty have went in to the Ballymun and Sheriff games as underdogs and the management team and squad have been quick to play down their chances of winning the trophy.
Aherne does feel it is a bit early in the team’s development and an FAI may be just beyond them despite reaching the semi final.
“We have taken it one game at a time. Our league form has suffered as a result with one eye off the ball. We travelled with a squad of 20 players yesterday and four of them were just fifteen years old.
“So, it’s not easy to talk up your chances when you’re so young. They play without fear of the opposition because they don’t know a huge pile about them.
“What they do really well is that the train well and their attitude is excellent. I don’t think we can win the FAI Junior Cup this season. That isn’t playing down the chances that’s just being aware of the quality St. Michaels and Regional have.
“It would be a very brave person to say that Aisling Annacotty will win an FAI but one thing is for sure, we have a better chance than the other 800 teams that are out.”