ST COLUMB’s College will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s magnificent N. Ireland Schools Cup Finals ‘double’ success next Wednesday in the 2016 Inspiresport Finals Day at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
The Buncrana Road school has a proud tradition in the Schools Cup competition and their U12 and U16 representatives will be hoping to continue that success next week.
The U12 outfit booked their place in the N. Ireland Cup Final for the first time in two years and manager, Ryan Horner, believes they face a ‘colossal task’ to win the trophy that has eluded them for the past five years when they play Belfast Boys’ Model in this season’s showpiece. (Kick-off 11 a.m.)
“This is my ninth year as manager of the St Columb’s College under-12, soccer team,” said Ryan who has guided St Columb’s U12 teams to five finals during that time.
“We have been very fortunate in that we have reached five finals but without doubt this has been our most difficult passage so far.
“Credit must go to the full squad of players who have overcome very difficult opposition in every single round”
Their epic journey began back in October 2015 when they were drawn against old foes, Corpus Christi College, recording a hard fought 1–0 victory thanks to a solitary goal from talisman, Cormac Bradley. Up next was a very tough looking tie against Belfast giants, Ashfield. Again, the College squad warmed to their task, recording an impressive 4-0 victory. Oisin Hargan opened the scoring with a bullet header, following a fantastic cross from captain, Conall Houston. The ever impressive, Darragh Kelly added a second before Liam Mullan rounded the keeper to make it 3–0. Kelly added another to his collection after excellent work by Bobby Deane, Kyle McEleney and Rory O’Donnell on the right to end the game as a contest.
At the quarter-final stage, St Columb’s knew they had a stern obstacle to overcome when they were drawn against Omagh CBS who had already seen off strong local rivals, St Brigid’s, in the previous round.
However, it was that man, Kelly, who again grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck early on, setting up goal machine, Corey McLaughlin, to open his account. Despite this, the College lads were pinned back when Conor Bradley raced clear to equalise for the men from Omagh. However, the Derry lads responded in style with McLaughlin again putting his team in front, following a fine piece of skill from Ethan O’Kane on the right. Vice-captain Sam McKeever rounded off a fantastic individual display by diverting Houston’s cross into the top corner, putting St Columb’s into the last four with an impressive 3-1 scoreline. Next up was a journey to Moyola for what proved a very hard fought semi–final against an extremely well organised Our Lady and St Patrick’s. Kelly gave the College an unlikely lead midway through the first half, latching on to Shane Deery’s fine through ball. This was clearly not going to be enough for the Derry lads as St Pat’s pressed for a deserved equaliser and this came on the stroke of half-time, following a mix up in the College back line. St Columb’s came out a different team in the second half with Cahir McFadden swinging a majestic ball across the box which was met perfectly by the outstanding McLaughlin to add another to his tally. Kelly put gloss on the scoreline, adding a goal worthy of winning any football match at any level following neat work from Alex Wright which proved decisive as St Columb’s deservedly held on to book their place in the final. Coaches Xavier Prigent and James Harrigan also heaped praise on their players for their endeavour throughout the entire campaign. “It has been an extensive and taxing campaign but the attitude of the boys since the start has made it all worthwhile,” said Prigent.
“They have trained vigorously every week and deserve success”. Harrigan added.
We have been very fortunate in that we have reached five finals but without doubt this has been our most difficult passage so far.Ryan Horner
He also thanked team sponsor, McCambridge Duffy, for their support.
St Columb’s College has been the most successful school in the senior cup history having lifted the coveted trophy three times in the past five years.
And they renew their rivalry with fellow Derry representatives, St Joseph’s Boys’ School in next Wednesday’s U16 final.
Amazingly it’s the third time in three years these group of players have clashed on Finals Day. At U12 level, St Joe’s defeated St Columb’s 4-2 and in last year’s U14 showpiece, Jordan McEneff - brother of Derry City’s Aaron - netted a brace, including an extra-time winner to bring the trophy back to Buncrana Road.