During August, the Academy were privileged to be invited to be part of the Mayo tournament, taking place in in County Mayo in Ireland.
The under 16s made the club and academy proud by playing some great football and making it to the semi-finals, losing 1-0 to eventual winners Millwall in a very closely fought semi-final.
Arriving on the Thursday afternoon the Under 16s settled into their weekend accommodation, followed by a light training session to loosen the muscles and prepare the minds for the coming tournament.
With an excellent hotel for the team’s stay the lads had a swimming pool and football field (as well as mini-golf) to occupy them and help them prepare over the weekend.
The tournament started on the Friday and Chesterfield faced the strongest side in the competition, the Republic of Ireland.
After an intense ten minutes Chesterfield settled into the game and grew in confidence, playing some excellent football through the thirds.
Halfway through the first half Danny Williams cut in on his right foot and powered a shot against the bar with the ball bouncing out and cleared- reports suggested that the ball did cross the line but without goal line technology the goal was not given.
A few more great chances in the second half went narrowly wide before Ireland took the lead with a looping header past the 'keeper Joe Parker.
Unfortunately Chesterfield couldn’t find a way back in to the game and although it was a loss, the praise and compliments about how well the players played and battled, as well as how the style in which they played, highlighted that this group could compete with top international sides.
The second game on the Saturday was against Glentoran, a game which the 16s needed to win to reach the semi-finals.
It was a very good and solid performance with a goal coming from Danny Williams to win the tie 1-0.
However, it could’ve have been more. Joe Rowley hit the bar with a great shot and Owen Darwent put his chance just wide. The football was very good, quick play through midfield with very good movement. Merlin Ferrinho, Charlie Wakefield and Thomas Barnett, all U15s, did excellently in their performances and should be proud of what they did.
The semi-final took place later that day against Millwall. Like the Ireland game it was 0-0 at half time and very tight, with both sides defending very well.
Close to the end of the 1st half Milwall won a penalty yet Liam Gilbourne in goal made a superb save to keep the game level- reports suggested that Gilbourne has never conceded a penalty in normal time, a very impressive statistic!
In the second half both sides came close but it would be Millwall who would find the opening with a rebounded shot after a Joe Parker save.
Once again another close 1-0 defeat and while the players were disappointed to not reach the final, the praise they received for how they played and competed should have made them very proud. Standout performances from Ethan Blackbourn, Dan Ozcan, Sam Gibson and Thomas Burbeary throughout.
Now although the team didn’t win the tournament the experience was an excellent one and the players clearly benefited from it, for some this was their first international tournament.
Not only are these opportunities great for intense competition but they also help improve the player socially, allowing them time to interact and enjoy each other’s company away from the football.
There is no doubt the group are more united and closer after this experience and with it being a big year for these players in terms of potential scholarships, there is no doubt that they can push each other to reach new levels this season.