It’s younger and younger they’re getting. 15-year-old Evan Ferguson, from just down the road in Bettystown, scored two second half goals at United Park on Tuesday evening as Bohemians ran out 4-2 winners over Drogheda United in the inaugural Vincent Hoey Perpetual Trophy match.
Ferguson, who only turned 15 as recently as October, could have scored a hat-trick where it not for the intervention of goalkeeper David Odumuso. At 18, the stopper is a seasoned veteran in comparison. Drogheda’s goals both came in the first half. Jordan Adeyemo and Stephen Meaney (pictured above) both scored levellers after Premier Division Bohs’ twice went ahead.
Keith Long was present on the touchline at United Park but half of his first team squad were not. While some were by the Boyne, many more were playing in a behind closed doors friendly against Bray Wanderers – a match that kicked off concurrently to events at United Park.
This, much like the Malone Cup, is earmarked to become a permanent pre-season fixture in the years to come. A former club president, chairman and director, Vincent Hoey was first and foremost a fan of Drogheda United and was remembered by a considerable crowd at United Park. who braved a cold January night for a Tuesday evening pre-season friendly. Bohs, it should be said, brought a strong contingent of supporters too to their credit.
Vincent’s grandchildren Lucy and Henry did the honours at full time, presenting the silverware to Bohs captain Rob Cornwall. It was fitting too that on a night where the club and the town honoured one of their own that Sean Brennan donned the captain’s armband. Jake Hyland and Conor Kane were not among the starters. The former is being eased back into the fray after injury.
Tim Clancy, it is fair to say, was in experimental mood when it came to his line-up. There’s no better time than in pre-season. It is likely he will revert to full strength once the first First Division Shield kicks off in a little over three weeks. Ross Treacy, Conor Kane, Adam Wixted, Chris Lyons, Mark Doyle and Mark Hughes all began in reserve. Most if not all will expect to be starting games sooner rather than later.
There were no real chances of note before Andre Wright’s 12th minute opener, bar a Brennan corner that James Talbot spilled before gathering on the second attempt. The ball was in the net when Wright’s low shot from the centre of the penalty area beat Odumuso.
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Bohs had the better of things for most of the half, in truth, with Anto Breslin a threat down their left wing and a quick counter attack involving Danny’s Mandriou and Grant plus Luke Wade-Slater required a block from the covering Ryan O’Shea, starting at left-back for the Drogs.
Drogheda’s leveller arrived on 27 minutes. Brennan retrieved possession in midfield and surged forward. His goalbound shot hit Adeyemo as he ran across goal but the ball then fell perfectly for the for the teenager to fire low and true across Talbot’s goal and in.
He could have had another minutes later when through on goal, he couldn’t set for a shot. He had carried the ball into the area when he appeared to have been felled by a Bohs defender. The referee was unmoved. Both teams swapped chances soon thereafter – Mandriou shooting over for the visitors, new signing Derek Prendergast heading over for Drogheda.
Prendergast, a close season acquisition from Shelbourne, is back at Drogheda for his second spell having enjoyed much success as a mainstay of Mick Cooke’s team from the early 2010s. An experienced professional, he is exactly the sort of signing Clancy would have been eager to secure to bolster a young, talented team.
Bohs had the lead again shortly before the break when Mandriou’s visionary pass found Wright mid-diagonal run in the area. He touched the ball beyond Odumuso for 1-2. The lead lasted just 90 seconds or so. Brandon Bermingham’s shot was parried by Talbot and Stephen Meaney, on the back of a breakthrough campaign in 2019, tapped in.
The second half saw Drogheda empty the bench without weakening the side. A host of first team regulars joined the fray, but only after Bohs went in front for the third time. Dan Casey has already passed up a presentable opportunity from a JJ Lunney corner before Lunney again crossed from the right. This time, Ferguson scored with a simple finish.
Bohs boss Long came in for criticism from some quarters for his decision to play Ferguson, then 14, last season. He made his league debut against Derry in September after a cameo in the midsummer friendly against Chelsea at Dalymount Park. Long will point to the player’s physical development and his showing at United Park as to why the teen is a special case.
Ferguson was a first half substitute having replaced the stricken Grant. He went close again when in space inside the area, his shot was saved by former Dundalk stopper Odumsuo.
Talbot had to be alert to prevent a Rob Cornwall own goal and then Adam Wixted was an inch or two short of meeting fellow sub Chris Lyons’ cross as the Drogs pressed for a third equaliser. Mark Doyle fired wide soon after and Chris Lyons’ long range effort just cleared the bar.
But an equaliser didn’t look inevitable and nor did it come. Mandriou was twice denied by excellent interventions from Mark Hughes and then Kane in the area. As the clock ticked onto 90 minutes exactly, Ferguson finished again.
DROGHEDA UNITED: David Odumuso (Ross Treacy, 71), Luke Heeney, Derek Prendergast (Kevin Mohammed, 71), Jack Tuite, Ryan O’Shea (Conor Kane, 55), Sean Brennan (Frank Cabraley, 71), Richie O’Farrell (Mark Hughes, 46), James Clarke , Stephen Meaney (Adam Wixted, 55), Brandon Bermingham (Mark Doyle, 55), Jordan Adeyemo (Chris Lyons, 55).
Sub Not Used: Jack McCarthy.
BOHEMIAN FC: James Talbot, Michael Barker, Dan Casey, Rob Cornwall, Anto Breslin, Conor Livingston, JJ Lunney, Danny Grant (Evan Ferguson, 36), Luke Wade-Slater, Danny Mandriou, Andre Wright.
Subs: Jamie Cleary, Jamie Mullins, Gavin O’Brien.