AN INSPIRED teamtalk was the catalyst for a stunning second half turnaround in the all-Derry NI Senior Cup showpiece at Ballymena Showgrounds as St Columb’s battled back to clinch a record 10th title.
St Joseph’s Boys’ School had raced into a first half lead courtesy of Emmett McGilloway’s well taken goal as the Creggan men dominated.
However a rousing speech from guest Derry City underage coach, Ronan O’Donnell - a former St Columb’s College pupil - at half-time sparked an impressive comeback.
And goals from Jack McLaughlin and Conor O’Donnell gave St Columb’s the lead before Jack Maloney missed a penalty. A remarkable solo strike from the prolific Aaron McGurk, who had scored in every round of the competition, put the game beyond St Joseph’s. And it was a goal worthy of winning any cup final, according to St Columb’s coach, James Green.
“After the first game of the season, I set Aaron McGurk a target of scoring in every single round and he has done it. But that goal in the final was the cream of the crop. It was a brilliant goal.”
The school’s Minor squad had set the standard with victory in the earlier U12 final so Green claims his side were under pressure to perform and complete the double for a second successive season.
“It was nice we got the double and I’m really pleased for Ryan Horner and the first years because I know how much work they’ve put in. They set the standard for the day and we had to live up to it.
“It was a tough game. When you have a local derby and then add in the fact that it’s a cup final as well and all the boys know each other, it makes it really difficult. We weathered the storm first half but second half we came out all guns blazing and knew exactly what we had to do.
“One of the other coaches, Ronan O’Donnell, who is a former pupil, gave an inspired teamtalk and I think that really hit home for the boys.
“We recognise we have a large pool of talent at the school and we expect to be winning every single competition. We are always trying to push the boundaries.
“We brought in Aaron McEneff this year alongside myself and Ronan O’Donnell. We try to increase the professionalism and challenge the boys a bit more. Even though it’s schools soccer, we try and push them that bit harder.”