On a sunny Wednesday evening, Cabinteely F.C. welcomed English Championship side MK Dons to Stradbrook. A little over six months ago this could never have seemed possible but in what has been a whirlwind year for the club, this friendly was added to the ever growing list of memorable nights for the club. Karl Robinson’s side, accompanied by their new coach, and former Irish international, Keith Andrews arrived at Stradbrook on the back of a 4-0 victory over St. James’ Gate and a 1-1 draw with Premier Division side Limerick FC.
Gormley named a similar side to the one that drew with Waterford United on Monday night (you can read about this here) but there were a few changes. The ever present Evan Whelan was given a well deserved night off and was replaced by Evan Moran in the starting 11. The only other change was an injury enforced change, after Lloyd Cairns’ injury on Monday night he was still unavailable for selection and with the other natural right back Daniel Campbell still on the injury table there was a tactical shuffle. Gormley opted for Michael Brown and Darren Clarke on either wing with Karl Byrne at right back. In the warmup, Gormley showed the players that perhaps he could still do a job on the pitch if needs be.
Considering how close this game was to Cabinteely’s previous game on Monday, Cabo started brightly with plenty of energy. While MK Dons were enjoying good spells of possession, Cabinteely were pressing high and showing good work rate to force MK Dons back. It was this pressing that led to the first chance of the game.
Hours since Cabo's previous game
Cabinteely won the ball on the right hand side and surged forward. Darren Clarke whipped in a good ball that just evaded Oguntola in the box but bounced out to the edge of the box where Kevin Knight caught it on the half volley. His effort went just wide of the post, to the relief of Martin in the Dons goal who was rooted to the spot. Knight looking to add to his goal tally after his crucial equaliser on Monday night.
MK Dons first real chance of the game came from all of 35 yards, with Cabo defending well they limited the chances until Kay tried his luck with an ambitious but brilliantly executed volley. It looked destined for the top corner but Moran scrambled back and pulled off a great save to keep the scores locked at nil all.
However, it wasn’t long until MK Dons produced a goal of real quality. Baker picked up the ball and went on a mazy run through the Cabinteely defence before riffling his shot into the roof of the net, leaving Moran with no chance. For all their great defending, there was little Cabinteely could do about this goal which was right out of the top drawer.
Cabinteely continued to keep it tight at the back and press MK Dons high, making it tough for them to create chances in the first half. Their best chance to double their lead through an error in the Cabo defence, Ekanem was caught in possession which left Rasulo baring down on goal, 1-on-1. He dragged his effort wide of the post, a let off for Cabo.
The second half saw both sides make a number of changes. Gormley used the opportunity to rotate his squad. There was a number of young faces, as well as new ones, on the pitch for the second half. Notably Cathal Gillen, who had been promoted from the Cabinteely under 16s, for his debut, both Ross and Jamie Broderick who have come through the Cabo youth system, and Vito Tamburro for his debut in front of the crowd at Stradbrook.
Average age of Cabo players in second half
With all the changes, the second half was somewhat disjointed. Cabo still created good chances and had spells of dominance but MK Dons saw out the game and added two more goals to their tally. There was a lot of positives from the evening however and Gormley will have been pleased with how his players stood up to the test, particularly his younger squad players. It was also great to see so many Cabo youth graduates getting to play against MK Dons. A year ago, when these players were registering for the Cabinteely Under 16s & Under 17s, they probably never could have imagined a night like this. It is very promising to see the role that the club’s youth system has to play in the future of the League of Ireland team.
Cabinteely F.C. 1st Half: Moran, Byrne, Ekanem, McDonagh, Broderick, Clarke, Knight, Brilly, Brown, Hanley, Oguntola
Cabinteely 2nd Half: Gillen, Byrne, Quinlivan, Doyle, Broderick, Broderick, McKeown, Dunne, Knight, Tamburro, Oguntola