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Young Lions in Mayo International Cup action

4 September 2015

Great experience had by Academy youngsters

A team of Millwall Academy youngsters have recently returned from a trip to the Emerald Isle after competing in the Mayo International Cup.

The CMIC, now in it's fourth year, is an elite U16s tournament featuring five exceptional teams. The competition includes an educational element, incorporating football workshops and demonstrations, not just for competitors, but also for parents and grass roots coaches. The young Lions had hoped to emulate the achievements of the last year's Academy team who had hoisted the trophy in the face of stiff opposition.

The task would not be an easy one with the opposition including Chesterfield, FAI Castlebar, Northern Ireland and ROI U16s Development Squad.

Accompanying the Millwall boys were Tour Leader Mel Jeffries, Team Coach Anthony Gale and Physiotherapist Mick Duff.

The Academy boys had little time to settle into their hotel before being hurled into the fray against tournament hosts FAI Castlebar.

FAI Castlebar 2-3 Millwall
The Irish youngsters started the game energetically, but it was Millwall who opened the scoring with only four minutes on the clock, with Ruben Duncan skipping round a defender and sliding the ball into the back of the net, beyond the reach of Castlebar keeper Lorcan Callaghan.

Both sides had shots saved before the end of the half but it would be the Academy boys who went into the changing room with a one-goal lead.

The home side seized the initiative in the second-half and a misjudgement by Millwall keeper, after a Castlebar free-kick, left Mark Byrne free to head into an empty net and level the score.

It took Millwall five minutes to reclaim the lead with Mason Saunders-Henry blasting the ball into the roof of the net from the edge of the penalty area.

The Lions had chances to extended their lead, but it was the opposition who once again levelled the scores with Thierry Baba heading the equaliser from Ronan Manning's cross.

The game looked to be heading for a draw but with five minutes to go, Harry Taylor headed the ball home to seal a 3-2 win for Millwall. 

It was a promising start to the tournament for Millwall, but a bruising encounter saw Academy boy Kris Queeley injured and sidelined for the next game against Northern Ireland, and subsequently the rest of the competition,

Northern Ireland 2-1 Millwall
This high-tempo game opened with a flurry of opportunities for both sides, but it was the Irish boys who opened the scoring in the sixth minute with Andrew Scott stroking the ball into the back of the net.

This time it would be the Londoners who headed for the changing rooms facing a one-goal deficit at half-time.

A superb save by the Northern Ireland keeper, shortly after the re-start kept the scores level, but sustained pressure by Millwall eventually paid dividends 14 minutes into the half when a deflected shot fell invitingly for George Alexander, who made no mistake in burying the ball.

The Lions looked to be heading for a hard-earned point until Northern Ireland frontman Mark McKenna dribbled past his marker a placed his shot superbly in the corner of the net, with only five minutes to spare. It was only the Millwall goalpost that stopped McKenna from stretching their lead further just a few minutes later as Northern Ireland went home with the spoils.

This defeat left the young Lions facing the Republic of Ireland in a must-win third game if they were to retain the Mayo Cup.

Republic of Ireland 4-0 Millwall
Aaron Connelly was a constant threat to the Millwall defence, and it was almost inevitable when his well-placed shot beat Joseph Wright in the Millwall goal to put ROI ahead with 17 minutes on the clock.

Connelly was instrumental in the ROI's second goal just six minutes later. His low shot was parried by the Millwall keeper, straight into the path of Thomas Caffrey who slotted home to make it 2-0.

The second-half saw little difference in the timbre of the game with Connelly continuing to torment the Millwall defence. Ten minutes into the half ROI extended their lead with arguably, the goal of the tournament. A clearance from the Millwall penalty area fell to Jordan Doherty, whose 25-yard thunderbolt left the Millwall keeper clutching at thin air.

Shortly after this, ROI laid the icing on their cake with goal number four to extinguish any lingering hopes for the visitors. Once again it was the ubiquitous Connelly handing out the punishment with a fine header to double his goal tally and seal a comfortable 4-0 win

Injury was also added to insult, when Rob Strachan was ruled out for Millwall's final game leaving the visitors with just 12 fit players to see out the tournament.

Sunday morning would find the boys packed and checked out of their hotel before their final game against Chesterfield at Milebush Park.

Chesterfield 1-2 Millwall
Putting the ROI defeat behind them, the boys produced a dominant display with accurate and incisive play. Their break came late in the first-half with a shot that cleared the Chesterfield keeper, and put Millwall into the lead.

Millwall continued to monopolise possession in the second-half and just rewards were earned when Mason Saunders-Henry was fouled on the edge of the Chesterfield area, and Ruben Duncan stepped forward to drill the resulting free-kick into the back of the net.

Chesterfield pulled one back late in the game from a corner, despite the protests from The Lions who claimed a foul on their keeper. But it was Millwall who earned the laurels in their final game with a 2-1 win.

Before heading back to south London, the boys were asked to participate in a coaching session with a local grassroots club. The youngsters duly obliged, passing on their skills and knowledge to a new generation of footballers, and hopefully cementing a fruitful and productive relationship for the future.

Millwall's travelling party was as follows: Mick McDuff, Joe Wright, Prince Amoah, Dan Choules, Kris Queeley, Toby Stevenson, Rob Strachan, Ruben Duncan, Nathan Carlyle, Lewis West, Anthony Gale, Mason Saunders-Henry, Harry Taylor, Jethro Hanson, George Alexander, Abolaji Williams and Mel Jeffries.

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