Bray Wanderers 7 Finn Harps 5
In a truly remarkable U17 LOI Academy Phase 2 Tier Two (North) game, Bray came out on top in a 12-goal thriller.
The Seagulls lead 4-2 at the interval on Saturday afternoon at Ballycorus despite being reduced to ten players just before the break.
But three second half goals saw Finn Harps lead 5-4 by the 67th minute.
However, Wanderers rallied with a three-goal blast in a sensational five minute spell as Republic Ireland U15 striker Billy O’Neill finished with four goals to his name.
The Donegal side had won the reverse fixture last July 3-0 at Curragh Killygordan.
But that result was never going to be repeated as Philip Cooney was fouled inside the box after just 20 seconds. He picked himself to convert the spot-kick.
After Cooney struck the bar in the third minute, the visitors weathered the storm to equalise in the sixth minute through Tiernan Ruddy.
The Green and White’s restored their advantage in the 26th minute.
From Luke Smith’s pass, Cooney’s effort was blocked on the edge of the box. But O’Neill reacted to drill in low from 20-yards.
It became 3-1 just two minutes later. From Kian Dowling’s short corner, Rhys Knight whipped in a cross from the right with Cooney steering in a header.
However, the visitors reduced their arrears through Ruddy in the 39th minute. Bray were then dealt a blow when defender Alain Kizenga was dismissed in the 42nd minute.
But the hosts restored their two-goal cushion in the 44th minute as O’Neill skinned a defender off the right flank to drill low into the bottom far corner of the net form 15-yards.
Harps reorganised at the break and made several substitutions and positional changes.
They were rewarded in the 48th minute when sub Colm Doherty headed in.
A sweeping move down the left channel brought a 52nd minute equaliser when Nathan McDaid bundled in from close range.
Their comeback was completed in the 67th minute. Nathan McDaid charged down David Winkler’s clearance. And squared for Ruairi Connaghan to score.
Wanderers hit back though to make it 5-5 in the 73rd minute.
A quick free saw Smith cross from the left. It dropped at the back post were sub Paddy Kildee-Doolan’s half volley was deflected to the net.
Then in the 75th minute, O’Neill chased a long ball up the middle. He evaded two opponents before applying a low finish from 14-yards to complete his treble.
A second win in a row for the Wicklow outfit was sealed in the 75th minute.
A corner was cleared. Sub Dylan Ryan put the ball back into the box. It rebounded to O’Neill who sidestepped a tackle before lifting to the roof of the net from ten-yards.
Elsewhere in the section, leaders Bohemians defeated Athlone Town 4-0 at the Athlone Town Stadium.
Sligo Rovers beat Longford Town 3-0 at the Showgrounds while St. Patrick’s Athletic overcame Drogheda United 1-0 at TU Blanchardstown.
The results leave Bohs top of the table on 21 points from nine games. Sligo are second on 19 having played a game less. St. Pat’s are third on 18 points after nine matches while Bray are fourth on 12 points from eight outings.
Bray Wanderers: David Winkler; Ronan Dawson, Alain Kizenga, Luke Smith; Ronan Langan, Aidan Kane; Kian Dowling, Rhys Knight, Jack Nolan; Billy O’Neill, Phillip Cooney;
Subs: Ethan Cheese, Paddy Kildee-Doolan, Dylan Ryan, Sean Hennelly, Alex Forde.
Finn Harps: Ronan Callaghan; Darragh Coyle, Thomas McDevitt, Jack Keys, Troy Preston; Conor McGranaghan; Seaghan McCormick, Ruairi Connaghan, Oisin McHugh, Tiernan Ruddy; Nathan McDaid.
Subs: Colm Doherty, James McAteer, Adam McDaid, Killian Hagan.
Referee: Ruben Collins. Assistants: Darren O’Brien, Michael Kennedy (Wicklow).
* Bray return to Ballycorus on Saturday September 9 to host Athlone Town.
Bray’s goal-scorers Paddy Kildee-Doolan, Billy O’Neill and Philip Cooney.