ST COLUMB’S College continued its proud tradition in the N.I. Schools F.A. Cup by completing a magnificent ‘double’ at the Inspiresport Finals Day in the Ballymena Showgrounds on Wednesday afternoon, in front of almost 200 College pupils.
The Buncrana Road school defeated Derry rivals, St Joseph’s Boys School in the Under-14 showpiece with Cornshell lad, JORDAN McENEFF proving to be the hero with a brace of goals, including a dramatic extra-time winner.
And the College Under-18 representatives went on to secure the ‘double’ for the Derry school when Institute’s BEN DOHERTY netted the winning goal in a tightly contested final against Our Lady and St Patrick’s Knock from Belfast.
And Holy Cross, Strabane were the other big winners on the day, winning the U12 Final against Our Lady and St Patrick’s Knock to ensure a third Schools Cup trophy was brought back to the North West.
St Columb’s College teacher, Mr James Green was delighted with the achievements of the College boys in what is the biggest occasion in terms of the schools’ game in N. Ireland.
And he was thrilled to add to the school’s rich history in the competition.
“We do have a strong history in this competition so it’s good to continue that,” said Mr Green. “We set ourselves a target at the start of the year, and in fairness, going by the size of our school, we should be doing well every year and so we put ourselves under that pressure to succeed.”
The College didn’t have it all their own way in either of the U14 or U18 finals, however, he was pleased with the character shown to clinch success in the end.
“We did the double but we made hard work of it,” added a relieved Mr Green. “St Joe’s scored just before the end of the match in the Under-14 final.
“I suppose you could see it coming in a way. They were on top at that stage but our boys showed character to come back for the win, so I can’t complain can I?”
There was an added spice to that U14 final involving the two Derry schools given St Joe’s defeated St Columb’s 4-2 in the U12 final last year.
So it a case of avenging that loss as the same group of players went head-to-head for a second time.
St Columb’s began the game on the front foot and they managed to get their noses in front in the early stages through McEneff - the younger brother of Tottenham Hotspur’s Aaron.
St Joe’s almost got back on level terms when Caolan McLaughlin grazed the crossbar with a terrific effort.
With time running out McLaughlin’s 20 yard free-kick took a deflection and found the back of the net to take the game to extra-time.
However, St Columb’s regained the initiative when McEneff headed in following a great delivery from a corner kick. And the College boys managed to hold onto their lead for the remainder of the game, ensuring the trophy returned to the Buncrana Road.
“St Joe’s beat the College last year in the Under-12s so it was nice to return the favour so to speak this time around,” continued Mr Green.
“Jordan McEneff scored both goals, he was brilliant. It was the kind of showpiece occasion that you would hope he would shine in and he did.
“I think the U14 win helped the U18s. It was inspiration for them and it definitely motivated them going into that last match.”
Mr Green paid tribute to the local Junior football clubs who put in the groundwork with the boys during the season. “There’s a good spread of local Derry junior clubs represented in our squad and we have to thank all those clubs for the work they do with the boys. It certainly makes our life a lot more easier.”
Buoyed by the success of the U14s, the Under-18 panel went into their Final against Our Lady and St Patrick’s Knock in confident mood.
The Belfast school who were initially chasing a treble, were defeated in both the U12 and U16 finals, so they were desperate to end the day with some success.
But it wasn’t to be despite a brave effort as Ben Doherty’s first half strike proved enough.
“Our Lady and St Patrick’s lost in the two previous finals so they were going all guns blazing for the U18s.
“We enjoyed the majority of possession in the first half and we were the dominant team. We dropped off a bit in the second half. And towards the end they obviously put us under pressure. Caolan Doherty in nets made some really fine saves and there was some last ditch defending. Everybody played really well and again they showed character.”