THE FESTIVAL atmosphere at the opening of Ballymena United’s impressive third generation pitch was a fitting backdrop as St Columb’s College’s Minor squad played their way into the record books last Wednesday morning.
SIMON COLLINS was in the Ballymena Showgrounds
The Buncrana Road school secured successive N. I. Minor Cup victories for the first time in their history with a comprehensive win over Ashfield Boys’ School in an entertaining final.
Unlike when the Under-12s lifted this trophy at Stangmore Park last year, managers Ryan Horner and Xavier Prigent’s side were billed as underdogs in the build-up to this eagerly anticipated final.
However, the quality and sheer determination of this particular bunch of footballers was grossly under-estimated as they put their opponents to the sword from the outset.
And they were presented with two glorious opportunities to take an early lead but found Ashfield goalkeeper, Steven Geddes in outstanding form.
Both Stephen Duffy and Diarmuid McDermott forced Geddes into action in the opening stages but it was Ashfield that came closest to breaking the deadlock at the start of the second half.
Salu Jalu burst through on goal and lobbed the ball over College keeper, Gareth Muldoon’s head and as it seemed destined for the back of the net, Daniel Doran came to the rescue, clearing off the line.
That let-off immediately sparked the College into action and they raced clear at the other end where Matty Doherty was brought crashing down outside the penalty area and the referee awarded a free kick.
Joseph McCartie stepped up and powerfully drove the ball into the top corner of the net in emphatic fashion with a stunning strike fit for the occasion.
From then on St Columb’s dominated proceedings, with ‘man of the match’ Matthew Kirk in excellent form.
And with 10 minutes of the final remaining they made certain of victory and remarkable back-to-back successes in the competition as the ball was cleverly played through to Matty Doherty and when his initial effort was saved by the keeper, he made no mistake with the rebound, slotting into the unguarded net,
The win secured at least a ‘double’ success for St Columb’s with the Under-16s yet to play and Under-12 coach, Ryan Horner, who also guided last year’s U12 squad to the title, insisted the victory was a greater achievement than the school’s 2010 success.
“It’s a massive achievement for the school,” said the St Columb’s coach afterwards. “History has been made in more ways than one. It’s the first time in the school’s history that the Under-12s have won the trophy back-to-back.
“I think this has been a bigger achievement than last year as we were underdogs leading up to this game, we weren’t expected to win whereas last year we were favourites all the way through.”
And his fellow coach, Xavier Prigent wasn’t surprised that his side claimed the title against all the odds claiming they fully deserved their success.
“I’m delighted for the boys, they’ve worked hard and they showed the ability they have,” he said. “They gave 100 per cent, it paid off and they deserve it.”
As an added bonus, the Under-12s were delighted as they, and the other seven finalists on Finals day were presented with a brand new kit and training gear for the big day.
St Columb’s – Gareth Muldoon; Daniel Doran, Dylan Mooney, Joseph McCartie, Liam Clarke, Matthew Kirk, Steven Bulloch, Matty Doherty, Seamus Quinn, Diarmuid McDermott, Stephen Duffy. Substitutes – Tiarnan Hargan, Patrick O’Kane, Ciaran Deery, Matthew Doherty, Ruairi Thompson, Dermot McCrossan, Jacob Heaney-Henderson.