St John's celebrate with the inaugural Sean O'Kane Perpetual trophy. Photographs by Jim McCafferty.

Tournament proves a fitting tribute to memory of much loved Derry teacher

St. Joseph’s Boys School played host to the inaugural Sean O’Kane Perpetual soccer tournament on Tuesday morning at the Creggan school – a fitting tribute to a devoted and much-loved teacher who passed away earlier this year.

Winners of the inaugural trophy were local Creggan team “St. John’s A” and what a game they played in the final, led by their captain Seamus McShane they came away 1-0 winners against a plucky and resilient Rosemount side.

Hosts St. Joseph’s Boys’ School pulled out all of the stops ensuring the venue accommodated everyone. Eight teams participated from various schools throughout the city and demonstrated true sportsmanship on and off the pitch with referees and score keepers ensuring games ran smoothly.

The supporters were made up of Sean’s family, friends, work colleagues, representatives from Derry City FC, and indeed, his pupils. Speaking before the event, St. Joseph’s Vice-Principal Paul Kealey paid tribute to the O’Kane family, the late Sean and indeed, the organisers of the event.

Mr. Kealey commented: ‘The planning for such a big event today is no mean feat and we at St. Joseph’s are indebted to Mr. Paul Gibbons and Mr. Emmett McGinty for their exemplary organisation on the day itself.

‘We are also delighted to welcome the Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins and a deputation of players including Cameron McJannet, Danny Lafferty, James Akintunde and Caoimhin Porter. These players are excellent role models for young men in the city and we sincerely thank them for giving their time to support this event.’

The man in whose memory the tournament was established - Sean O’Kane - was an English teacher and Head of Year at St. Joseph’s Boys’ School when he passed away from cancer at the young age of 41 in January 2022. An excellent teacher and a committed sportsman, with a great passion for football in particular, it was appropriate that some of his colleagues decided on this tournament to keep his memory alive.

Fellow teacher Paul Gibbons, describing Sean as a wholly unswerving teacher who always wanted to get the best for his students said: ‘Sean was above all a committed teacher. He was anxious to get the best out of his pupils. Whatever he taught, he delivered with wholehearted devotion. Besides book knowledge, Sean would prepare his pupils for their whole life, thus enabling them to be men for others and be good and useful citizens in the near future.

‘It was because of this that he inculcated in his pupils’ virtues like love, honesty, truthfulness and open-hearted sincerity. He always opposed and fought against hypocrisy, dishonesty and injustice. And, like any good teacher Sean liked to be in the company of his pupils, always talking to them, motivating and encouraging them. He was an upright man and always showed his pupils the right path. He was loyal, unselfish, gentle and kind. In school, and in the community, Sean had a keen interest in football coaching activities. He maintained this lively passion for football throughout his illness. He will be sorely missed by us all.’

Joint event organiser, Emmett McGinty described the tournament as a celebration of all that was good

about Sean.

"This inaugural tournament has enabled local primary schools to develop the football skills of young people, instilling good moral values among students and to celebrate all that was good about the late Mr. Sean O’Kane and it was very fitting that his family presented the awards at the end of the event.’

Emmett added that the school’s vice-principal Paul Kealey summed it up beautifully when he remarked: ‘Today hundreds gathered to honour Sean’s memory and it was shared among the three things he valued most – his family, St. Joseph’s and of course sport.

"We at St. Joseph’s have no doubt that it was a fitting tribute to our friend and colleague and we hope it will be a recurring feature in our annual calendar."

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