ST COLUMB’S Under-14s kick-started the celebrations at the Ballymena Showgrounds when recording victory over St Malachy’s in the opening showpiece - but it wasn’t all plane sailing for the Derry school.
SIMON COLLINS was at Ballymena Showgrounds
Photos: Glen McIntyre
College striker, Mikhail Kennedy was hailed the hero as he provided the Derry boys with what proved to be the winning strike early in the first half but they suffered an anxious final ten minutes of the Intermediate Cup Final as the Belfast outfit twice hit the woodwork.
That being said, no one could argue with the result as James Greene’s side bossed proceedings from the start and clung on to make up for last season’s final disappointment and claim a superb victory.
The Buncrana Road school made a promising start to the game as Dylan McClean struck a free-kick from just outside the penalty area narrowly wide of the mark.
The occasion seemed to be getting the better of both teams as the match became disjointed and scrappy for long periods.
However, St Columb’s slowly gained the upper hand and took a well deserved lead on 17 minutes through striker Kennedy.
McClean’s corner was drilled towards the near post and when the St Malachy’s defence failed to clear, Eoin McNeill crossed for Kennedy to head home from six yards much to the delight of the travelling College support.
St Malachy’s best chance of the contest arrived four minutes later when Dean McClafferty’s defensive header at the near post from a corner fell kindly to Odhran Eastwood who struck sweetly on the half volley but just wide.
St Columb’s created a magnificent chance to double their advantage six minutes before the interval when McClean delivered a teasing corner towards the far post but Jack Higgins, under pressure, headed just over the crossbar.
The Belfast boys enjoyed a dominant ten minute spell at the start of the second half but they failed to convert possession into chances.
They were, however presented with a glorious chance to equalise on the hour mark when the referee harshly awarded an indirect free-kick when Conor Quigley made a superb last ditch sliding tackle inside the box which was gathered by Dylan Doherty.
From the freekick Eoin Conlon’s powerful strike from ten yards bounced back off the left hand post and the chance was lost.
That incident seemed to spark the game into life with both teams taking turns to attack but it was St Malachy’s who came closest on the stroke of full-time.
Shay Meighan’s corner to the near post was flicked on the volley by substitute Peter Healy but his effort struck the post for the second time as the Derry boys survived to secure the Intermediate Cup.
St Columb’s - Dylan Doherty: Dean McClafferty, Conor Breslin, Conor Quigley, Paddy Slevin; Stephen Duffy, Jack Higgins, Conor McDermott (Michael Lynch 45 mins), Dylan McClean; Eoin McNeill, Mikhail Kennedy. Subs Not Used - Rory Holden, Gavin Doherty, Kieran Duffy, Emmett Hargan, Declan Harley, Kealan McDermott, Kevin McCloskey.
St Malachy’s - Callum Donnelly; Conan Lyttle, Martin Murphy, Harry Griffin, Calum Kearney; Declan Kane, Conor McEvoy, Ryan Straney, Odhran Eastwood, Eoin Conlon, Conor Morgan, Gareth Morgan, Peter Healy, Patrick McDiarmuid, Ruairi Donaghy, Shay Meighan, Ryan Sullivan.
Referee – Damien Basketfield (Banbridge).