NORTH-WEST Regional College coach, Willie O’Donnell, refused to allow his players to dwell on Wednesday’s heart-breaking Youth Cup Final defeat, preferring instead to look back at the magnificent record in the Under-18 competition.
Hopes of a third successive Youth Cup title for the college side, coached jointly by O’Donnell and Luke McCloskey, were cruelly extinguished four minutes from time as Corpus Christi striker, Joe McClenaghan pounced to settle what has been an evenly contested showpiece.
That goal brought to an abrupt end the Strand Road college’s incredible 17 match unbeaten run in the Under-18 campaign and O’Donnell, who was gracious in defeat, expects next season’s squad to make amends.
“When your opponents score four minutes from the end it’s always going to be very difficult to come back” insisted O’Donnell.
“We enjoyed the run we’ve had in this competition. We’ve gone 17 matches over the years without defeat, we reached the final and we lost 1-0 so we’re very proud of the lads.
“But we’ll be back again next year, and there’s a lot of positives to take from this performance.
“We played very well throughout this tournament and we’re very proud of the lads for reaching the final. We’ve had a lovely day and only one goal separated the teams so that shows you how even it was.”
It was certainly an evenly contested encounter and it was always going to be difficult to take given the manner of the defeat.
Boasting several N. Ireland Under-18 internationals in their ranks, the NWRC had an excellent chance of securing a memorable hat-trick of successes in the Youth Cup competition on a day when all four N.I. Schools Cup Finals were played on the same day for the first time.
The Derry lads had their fair share of chances to claim victory, particularly the impressive Darren McFadden’s chance with 10 minutes remaining and having caused problems for the Corpus Christi defence throughout the contest, his coach was disappointed frustration got the better of him deep into added time.
“Darren McFadden had a great chance in the second half which probably would have won the game at that stage but their keeper pulled off some magnificent saves as well.
“His sending off was disappointing, but it was just sheer frustration and he was too eager and he got himself sent off,” concluded the NWRC coach.