NISFC Under 12 Final at Ballymena Showgrounds
St. Columb’s College 1, Holy Cross College 0
During a decade managing St Columb’s College Under 12 teams, Ryan Horner has guided the school to six Northern Ireland Cup finals.
It is a record which brings envious glances from schools across the north and speaks volumes about the conveyor belt of football talent being produced in the city and utilised so effectively on the Buncrana Road.
Three victories from his previous five appearances brings experience so when final number six against Holy Cross College, Strabane on Wednesday was drifting ominously toward extra-time and the dreaded penalty shoot-out, Horner knew exactly the player who could tipped the balance in St. Columb’s favour.
Step forward Eoin Doherty. As a Year 8, the young Tristar striker is 12 months younger than most of his Year 9 team-mates but had already displayed that priceless knack of getting crucial goals. Doherty already had a late, last 16 winner against Enniskillen Royal to his name before the final and his coach didn’t want to wait about for the lottery that is a shoot-out.
He needn’t have worried as Doherty once again fulfilled the ‘super sub’ role to perfection, chasing a long JP Owens through ball and taking advantage of a slip from Holy Cross keeper James Thompson to roll the ball into an empty net and secure his place in the St. Columb’s history books.
Doherty’s goal meant St. Columb’s retained the trophy and Horner was quick to pay tribute to a team that doesn’t when to quit.
“This young team went 1-0 down in the semi-final, got back to 1-1 just before half-time and actually scored with the last kick of the game when Paul Keogh scored, so this team has shown great character the whole way through the competition,” explained the College manager.
“We won the Under-12 cup last year as well so we were under pressure to retain it.
The thing about Eoin is he’s very quiet, just a lovely youngster so he doesn’t get too carried away or too excited. If there was anybody you could pick from the squad to come in and get the winning goal he would always be the ideal choice for me.Ryan Horner
“As a Derry man myself, it gives me great pride to say that the U12 trophy has been won this last four years by teams in the North West.
“We’ve won it twice in a row and Holy Cross won it before that; St Joseph’s the year before that. It shows there’s great work going on with D&D Youth teams in the town who are developing these players. To win four out of six finals isn’t bad.”
And Horner had a special word of praise for his modest match winner.
“It looked like it was going all the way to penalties and we were wondering whether or not to settle for penalties but we decided to take a risk and brought Eoin Doherty. It was just towards the end of normal time and he ends up getting the winning goal with the last kick of the game in extra-time.
“The reason we brought him on was because of that last 16 game. We won 1-0 and he scored the winner that day against Enniskillen Royal. He has that knack of getting important goals.
“We thought if anyone was going to get us a goal in a tight game it would be him. He’s actually a year younger, born in 2005 so a lot of the boys he was playing against were a year older than him.
“The thing about Eoin is he’s very quiet, just a lovely youngster so he doesn’t get too carried away or too excited. If there was anybody you could pick from the squad to come in and get the winning goal he would always be the ideal choice for me.”
Horner admitted the dramatic finale was tough on Holy Cross after a game in which neither side was able to fashion many clear cut scoring opportunities
“Because it was a derby, it became very cagey, Both teams know each other and cancelled each other out in the final. They are two very well drilled sides.
“The flair players on either side didn’t really get the chance to get going. Defences were very much on top.
There was no real clear cut chances on either side and both keepers were kept relatively quiet.
“The players dug in though and I’m delighted for them. They have put in a lot of work all year and it is fantastic to see that rewarded.”