ST. JOSEPH’S Boys School will attempt to bridge an 11 year gap and lift the N. Ireland Umbro Schools Senior Cup tomorrow when they take on Holy Cross College, Strabane in the hotly anticipated final at Ballymena Showgrounds. (Kick-off 1.30 p.m.).
The Creggan school have been wallowing in the shadow of St Columb’s College’s recent dominance in the N. Ireland Schools competitions but finally have their opportunity to shine in tomorrow’s North-West derby showpiece.
Having missed out on reaching the finals of the prestigious tournament twice in the past three years, St Joseph’s Boys manager, Paul Breen is quietly confident his side will be crowned champions tomorrow afternoon for the first time since their 2001 success.
“It’s been 10 or 11 years since we were last in the final and we shared it at that time with Corpus Christi, Belfast after the game went to a replay and then penalties,” said the Portadown man.
“Yes, St. Columb’s College have dominated the competition in recent years, but in the last three years the College have beat us in two semi-finals, so St Joseph’s have generally been there or thereabouts and this year we’ve managed to slip through the net despite a tough run through to the final.
“In the quarter-finals we beat Rockmore Grammar 4-0 at Moyola and in the semi-finals at Windsor Park we beat the Boys Model 2-1 in a very good match.
“This final will be a big North-West derby and they will prove to be tough opposition. It’s a big occasion. There’s several finals on the day but the Under-16 really is the Blue Riband. It’s the schoolboy competition that’s most sought-after.
“The other finals are very important too but this is the highlight final of the day. We’ll be quietly confident because we’ve had a very tough pathway to the final and beat several good teams along the way.”
Special guest for the Finals is N. Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill who will be there ruling his eye over the next generation of players coming through and Breen believes there are plenty of talent within his current team to catch his attention.
“This year we don’t have any players involved in the N.Ireland underage set-up where in past years we had people like Shane Duffy, but this year we have a guy who’s just got a two year apprenticeship with Charlton Athletic, Micheal Martin. But throughout the tournament it’s been a team effort to get to the final and not so much about individuals.”
College in U-14 Showpiece
Meanwhile, St. Columb’s College will take on St Louis Grammar in the Intermediate Cup decider at 3.30 p.m.
Admission for the finals day is £1 students and £2 adults.