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History-makers Sheriff YC do a clean sweep with 5-trophy haul

The AUL champions are being branded the best junior soccer club in the country after last weekend’s Liddy Cup win against arch rivals Kilbarrack.

Sheriff celebrate the FAI Junior Cup win at the Aviva Stadium last month. Credit: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THERE WERE BOUND to be more than a few sore heads being nursed in Dublin 1 on Monday morning after another epic battle between the AUL’s top two sides ended in Sheriff YC clinching an unprecedented FIFTH trophy of the season.

Not for the first time, Kilbarrack United were cursing their luck as their rivals got the better of them. Two late goals from John Rock in Sunday clinched a 4-3 victory for Sheriff – adding the Liddy Cup to the Premier A title, the FAI Junior Cup, the Nivea For Men Cup and the Leinster Junior Cup.

It’s an incredible feat for the Fairview Park-based club and is made even more impressive by the fact that the squad is made up largely of players from the local area. They may have already been a successful team when manager Alan Reilly and assistant Chris Giles took over back in 2011, but the pair have taken it to the next level by moulding them into the best junior side in the country.

Speaking to TheScore.ie, Reilly says he would hardly have dreamt of winning eight pieces of silverware in his first two years in charge.

“It’s a massive achievement,” he said.”When you start your season off you don’t think it’s going to end that way. If you bring in any type of silverware whether it’s a league or a double or even a treble, it’s a remarkable season. To do the clean sweep, it can’t be rivalled.

“When we took the job initially we knew there were good players here. We added a couple but going into a team which was already successful means you’re going in under pressure.

“We smashed that out of the water. You couldn’t have written the way it has gone and how the players responded to us. It has been a great connection and the players deserve the credit.”

Actor Laurence Kinlan (aka Elmo from Love/Hate) is a big Sheriff fan

The former midfielder, who spent time as a Manchester City youth team player before carving out a career with the likes of Drogheda United and St Patrick’s Atheltic, believes having such a tightly-knit group of players stood to them, particularly in the final few weeks of the season when the fixtures were coming thick and fast as they were fighting on five fronts.

“Many of them have grown up with each other and have become good friends. They know each other so well off the pitch and that is a great bonus for us.

There are a lot from the area and it’s great that they’re representing the community. We brought in others from outside the area like John Lester and Keith Dunne and they have slipped into the club very well.”

You’ve got to feel for Kilbarrack, so often the nearly-men this season. As well as losing out to Sheriff in the FAI Junior Cup final, the Nivea Cup semi-final (both on penalties) and the Leinster Junior Cup, they were also pipped to the league by a single point.

It has become one of the great rivalries in the AUL but Reilly will be glad to see the back of them – until next season, at least.

“The two of us are sick of the sight of each other to be honest,” he admits. “They’re such tense, good games. Fortunately for us, most of them went our way. I think we lost one out in their place in the league but in the big cup games we pipped them.

“A win is a win and you take them as they come.”

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The league table. Credit: AUL.ie

After becoming the only AUL club to win all five trophies, some are calling Sheriff the greatest junior side Ireland has ever seen… but Reilly is keen to let others decide.

“I can’t say if we’re the best. It’s debatable and people all over the country will have their say. You talk about the great St Francis team and teams from Limerick and your Fairview Rangers and the Cherry Orchards. It’s difficult to say.

“I’m not going to tell you we’re the best team but you have to stand back and applaud what Sheriff YC has done this season. Are we the best side? I think we’ll let other people answer you on that one.”

Those involved in intermediate football will argue the standard at junior level is not as strong and question how well Sheriff would get on in the Leinster Senior League’s top tier. Only last month, however, they overcame current FAI Intemediate Cup champions Avondale in their own back yard.

I think our side would cope fairly well (in the top LSL). There would be good challenges week in, week out because it is a strong lead. They may say the league is stronger than the AUL but Sheriff is a good side and all you can do is compete.

“Going to to Avondale and winning was a huge boost of confidence going into the last few games. They’ve won 3 Intermediates in a row and to go down and beat them in the FAI Senior Cup was remarkable as the lads really deserved to win.

“They were complimented by the manager and the staff so it was really encouraging.”

Ray Houghton with Sheriff fans before the FAI Junior Cup final. Credit: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

On the prospect of possibly following in the footsteps of Killester and switching from the AUL to the LSL, Reilly is looking forward to defending their five crowns next season.

“I can’t really answer that because we’re here to look after the football side. We haven’t spoke about intermediate football, that’s really down to the chairman, the secretary and the committee.

I’m sure they wouldn’t look past it in time to come but at this minute, no, we’re looking forward to the AUL next year.”

It is inevitable that more established clubs will have stood up and taken notice of their success and, just today, Shelbourne announced the signing of Sheriff goalkeeper Lee Murphy.

Reilly is resigned to the fact that there is bound to be interest in his squad, but remains hopeful of keeping the nucleus of the team together.

“The way League of Ireland is at the minute, everyone is looking for that little diamond in the rough,” he admits “They want to pick something out of junior or intermediate football. The lads are in the shop window especially when you’re winning as it draws attention.

“I’d say there are a couple of players being looked at, whether it’s going to suit them to move financially and football wise, it’s quite difficult to say. Lee has gone and we wish him all the best but after that there are rumours of one and two others but nothing concrete.”

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Ben Blake

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