AS JORDAN McEneff reaped the plaudits for his ‘man of the match’ display in St Columb’s superb U16 NI Schools Cup victory, his older brother Aaron was never far from his thoughts at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Wednesday afternoon.
Derry City midfielder, Aaron McEneff, who played a key role in coaching the U16 panel on their way to the final, was hit hard by the sudden death of his uncle and Godfather, John ‘Jap’ Sweeney last week.
And that news was further compounded by the recent, shock passing of McEneff’s former coach at Tottenham Hotspur, Ugo Ehiogu.
It’s certainly been a tough period for the talented midfielder and so it was a nice touch when his brother and his U16s teammates dedicated their success to him when lifting the trophy at the home of Irish Premiership outfit, Ballymena United.
“Aaron’s been involved with the U16 side alongside Derry City U17s coach, Ronan O’Donnell,” explained U16s manager, James Green.
“We had said before the game we would dedicate the trophy, if we won, to Aaron and to the family. Obviously Aaron has had a difficult period with the death of his teammate, Ryan McBride and obviously his godfather and uncle as well.
“Knowing the effort that Aaron and Jordan have both put into the school and school football, it was really nice that Jordan could get the goal and that we could win it for Aaron and his family and for Derry in general.
“It was pleasing for Jordan that the boys would have done it, not just for Jordan or because it’s a final, but for Aaron as well. A lot of credit has to go to Derry City coach Ronan O’Donnell. He brings a lot of experience and quality and helps to inspire the boys and it’s that Derry City link again which is very good.”
St Columb’s took the lead through Matthew Stephenson in the second half before they were pegged back by St Patrick’s College’s Thomas Logan to take the game to extra-time.
And star striker McEneff, who had missed a host of chances as he U16s dominated the game, finally found the net with two minutes remaining in extra-time to give the Buncrana Road school a 2-1 lead before substitute, Adam McColgan added a third moments later.
Jordan had a good game but there was a lot of pressure on him going into a showpiece occasion but I believed he could deal with it well. He had a number of chances and was being very hard on himself for not finishing them off.James Green
“Jordan had a good game but there was a lot of pressure on him going into a showpiece occasion but I believed he could deal with it well. He had a number of chances and was being very hard on himself for not finishing them off. And it was probably his easiest chance which went in, he almost scuffed it into the back of the net.
“Ultimately that’s all you need. As long as you keep being brave, eventually you’ll get your chance.
“But credit to the whole squad they’ve been excellent all season, played great football despite a poor pitch at Ballymena.”
The win completed a unique ‘triple double’ for St Columb’s following the earlier success of the U12s, something which was particularly pleasing for Mr Green.
“We got to all four national finals and won two but were in some ways a bit disappointment which is a sign of where we’re at.
“We’ve won the double for the last three years running which obviously is a brilliant achievement for the school, for the boys and the level of effort they put in and commitment to training from September to April. We’re looking to do even better next year.”