Wednesday’s N. Ireland Under-12 Cup Final will be contested by two Derry schools as St Columb’s College and St Joseph’s Boys’ battle it out for the 2014 title in the Ballymena Showgrounds. (Kick-off 12.00 p.m., 3G pitch).
St Columb’s College last won this title three years ago and manager, Ryan Horner is delighted to see his talented young side back in the final and with the guarantee that the N.I Cup will be brought back to the city once again.
Creggan school, St Joe’s feature in their second consecutive final in this competition and Mr Horner was full of praise for the efforts from the North West schools.
“It is fantastic testimony to the football fraternity of our city that two local schools will compete in the final,” said Mr Horner.
“This competition began way back in September 2013 with 51 schools from all over the country competing and here we are with two local schools, being the only two left standing.
“Indeed, this will be St Joseph’s second final in a row, which is a fantastic and well deserved achievement as I know the amount of time and energy their coaches, Sean O’Kane and Paul Gibbons put into their squad!
“They have overcome very strong opposition on the road to Ballymena, beating both Holy Cross (Strabane) and Belfast Boys’ Model so we know exactly how tough it is going to be!” he concluded.
St Columb’s College began their epic journey began back in September 2013 when they received a bye in the first round of the illustrious competition.
In the second round, the Buncrana Road school didn’t have it so easy, however, as they were drawn away to CBS (Glen Road), returning home with a remarkable 6–0 victory. Goals from captain, Jack Coyle, a brace from talisman, Cahir McMonagle and a stunning hat-trick from ‘goalmachine’, Ben Wilson ensured a well deserved passage into round three for the College lads.
Up next was a very tough looking away tie against Fort Hill who had seen off local rivals, Lisneal in round two. Again, the St Columb’s squad warmed to their task, recording another impressive 6-0 victory. All the goals came from the usual suspects with Jack Coyle adding another to his tally before the prolific, Ben Wilson accumulated another brace to his collection and Cahir McMonagle grabbed a tremendous hat-trick late on.
At the quarter-final stage, St Columb’s knew they had a very stern obstacle to overcome when they were drawn against Mid Ulster League and Cup champions, Dromore High who remained unbeaten in their 13 competitive fixtures, including seeing off a very strong Corpus Christi side in the previous round.
Furthermore, Dromore got off to a dream start in the quarter-final tie, scoring a wonder goal in the opening minutes, leaving the College lads with it all to do.
The score remained 1-0 at half-time and worryingly for St Columb’s, Dromore started the second half brightly as well.
Indeed, it took two outstanding saves from College ‘keeper, Leannan McCann to keep his side in the game, which seemed to spark his team mates into action.
It was that man, Ben Wilson who then grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck, scoring a well worked free kick to draw his side level before putting his team in front with a delicate chip from just outside the box.
Cahir McMonagle added another to his impressive tally before midfield maestro, Adam Taggart finished well from just inside the penalty area, putting the College boys into the last four with a flattering 4-1 scoreline.
Next, was another journey to Moyola for what proved a hard fought semi–final against an extremely well organised St Malachy’s College.
A lot of credit must go to the Belfast side who gave their rivals little time to settle on the ball. They clearly did their homework, stopping St Columb’s from playing their normal passing game.
Despite this, Cahir McMonagle gave the College a deserved advantage early in the second half with a terrific lob from all of 30 yards. However, this was clearly not enough for the Derry lads who pressed for the second to secure their place in the final.
Following superb build-up, Ben Wilson, swung a majestic ball across the box, which was met perfectly by the outstanding, Cahir McMonagle to score again.
The evergreen, Odhran Kennedy put gloss on the scoreline, adding a goal worthy of winning any football match at any level, which proved decisive as St Columb’s deservedly held on to their three goal advantage, booking their place in the final.
Joint College coaches Karl Bradley and Ryan Harkin went on to heap 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 Mr Harkin. “They have trained vigorously every week and deserve success”.
Bradley added: “As a new member of the coaching staff in St Columb’s, I have been impressed by both the quality and industry of all the young lads involved.
“They are a huge credit to the school and it is a privilege to work with them on and off the pitch!”
All three coaches expressed their deep gratitude to the parents of the boys for their continued support and encouragement.
Meanwhile St Columb’s College’s Under-16 squad will compete in the final of the N.Ireland U16 Cup tomorrow, also at Ballymena Showgrounds as they take on St Louis, Ballymena in this year’s showpiece. (Kick-off 1 p.m., Main pitch).
And St Joe’s will also be represented in the U12 Minor Plate Final as they take on Colaiste Feirste at 1.30 p.m. while in the Girls Senior Cup Final, Thornhill College take on Holy Cross.