Living the dream
Dobbs has two days to remember
Rising talent Aaron Dobbs from Enniscorthy had the type of sporting week that dreams are made of.
On Thursday the promising 17-year-old signed his first professional contract with Shamrock Rovers, and just one night later he started an SSE Airtricity Premier Division game for the first time and played a huge role in the Hoops' 3-1 Dublin derby victory over arch-rivals Bohemians in Tallaght Stadium.
Indeed, Dobbs was so impressive in his 65 minutes on the field that he was chosen as man of the match by former Sligo Rovers title-winning boss Ian Baraclough who was co-commentating for eir Sport in their live broadcast.
A product of Moyne Rangers, Dobbs played as support to centre-forward Gary Shaw in a game which featured a very lively start, with Bohs goalkeeper Dean Delany saving an early Brandon Miele penalty.
The visitors were reduced to ten men in the 19th minute when Keith Buckley was red-carded, but they took the lead against the run of play when Kurtis Byrne netted after catching Craig Hyland off his line.
However, Dobbs was the central figure as Rovers got back on track with the equaliser in the 31st minute. He was picked out by full-back Simon Madden and, though the feet of netminder Delany blocked his shot, he had the presence of mind to look up and square the ball for Dean Clarke to tap it home at the far post.
Rovers went on to lead 2-1 at half-time, and Dobbs' replacement, Seán Boyd - another teenager who signed as a professional on Thursday - made sure of success with the third as Rovers remained fourth in the table, 16 points behind leaders Dundalk with a game in hand.
As well as being a special night for Dobbs, it was also a dream result for caretaker manager Stephen Bradley who is filling the hot seat after the recent sacking of Pat Fenlon.
Rovers' intent on giving youth its fling was reflected in the fact that no fewer than four of their Under-19 team signed professional terms during the week, with Dobbs and Boyd joined by James Doona and Shane Hanney.
The Enniscorthy lad had already made a big first impression on Hoops fans last season when he scored the consolation goal in the 3-1 Leinster Senior Cup final defeat to Dundalk.
And he was a powerful presence as Rovers swept to success in the inaugural SSE Airtricity Under-17 League campaign last year, scoring 15 goals in the process.
His full league debut came off the bench in the 2-0 away win over St. Patrick's Athletic last month, and Friday's display capped a wonderful few months for Dobbs who also plays Gaelic games with Rapparees-Starlights and featured in the forward line for the county Minor footballers in their loss to Offaly in May.
Meanwhile, another Wexford native performing at the top level in the domestic game, Greg Bolger of New Ross, was named the Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland player of the month for June.
The Cork City midfielder was one of the chief driving forces as the Leesiders beat champions Dundalk in the league at Turner's Cross and followed up with a draw away to Shamrock Rovers on either side of the summer break.
He also helped his new club to a 1-0 away win over Linfield in the Europa League, although an ankle injury ruled him out of the return leg which ended in a 1-1 draw, as well as City's 1-0 win over Wexford Youths in Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday week.
Happily, the consistent Bolger - who was third when Dundalk's Daryl Horgan won the May award - returned last Thursday when Cork travelled to Gothenburg in Sweden and shared the spoils with BK Hacken in the next phase of the Europa League. A home win during the week would set up a likely clash with Genk from Belgium.
Bolger's fellow Wexfordman, Kevin O'Connor from Curracloe, is the first choice left-back with John Caulfield's crew and was only denied a European goal when ex-Manchester United netminder Roy Carroll made a fine save in the first leg against Linfield in Windsor Park.
While the trio of Dobbs, Bolger and O'Connor are making waves in the higher echelons of the league, it appears that Wexford Youths are set for a tough run-in over their last 15 games as they bid to stay up in their first season as a Premier Division team.
Their scheduled home tie against St. Patrick's Athletic on Friday was postponed as the Inchicore side featured in Europa League action away to Dinamo Minsk in Belarus 24 hours earlier, securing a vital away goal in a 1-1 draw.
A date for the re-fixture hasn't been announced, while Youths are also awaiting news on when their Leinster Senior Cup final away to Bohemians will be played after it was called off late last month.
However, they will be on the road again this Friday, July 22, when they make the long trip west to take on Galway United in Eamonn Deacy Park at 7.45 p.m.
That is the first of two arduous journeys in just seven days as they will be in Ballybofey on July 29 to face their fellow promoted side from 2015, Finn Harps, who have fared a lot better than the south-east side in the campaign to date.
The second series of games will conclude at home to Sligo Rovers on August 5, and then the really serious stuff will begin one week later as the eleven-game run-in begins. Youths will also learn their third round opponents in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup - due to be played on the week ending August 21 - when the draw is made in the Horse & Jockey Hotel, Co. Tipperary, on Friday week before the annual general meeting of the FAI.
The league fixtures in the third and final segment of the season are as follows: August 12, home to Longford Town; August 15, away to Shamrock Rovers; August 26, home to Dundalk; September 2, away to Bohemians; September 16, home to Derry City; September 23, home to Bray Wanderers; September 30, away to Cork City; October 7, away to St. Patrick's Athletic; October 14, home to Galway United; October 21, home to Finn Harps; October 28, away to Sligo Rovers.