St Columb’s College won the Under 12 Northern Ireland Cup for the first time in two years. Their epic journey began back in October 2018 when they were drawn at home against local rivals, Holy Cross, Strabane, recording a most impressive 8 – 2 victory. This result was even more remarkable as the College young guns fell behind very early on, but influential captain, Arryan KC, opened his account, following excellent work by Harry Crampsey. Next talisman, Jack Mc Laughlin helped himself to an impressive free-kick before the effervescent, Jack Doherty opened his account, following excellent work by Malachy Coyle and Jack Kirby, but Holy Cross hit back just before the interval. The second half was all about goal-machine, Arryan KC, adding further gloss to the score-line, netting an extraordinary five goals in fifteen minutes, ensuring his side’s safe path into the last sixteen of the illustrious competition.
Up next was a tough looking tie away to Belfast side, Holy Trinity. However, man of the match, Oisin Devlin grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck early on, setting up goal machine, Arryan KC to add another to his already impressive account. However, College ‘keeper, Ronan Mc Bride was soon called into action, pulling off a magnificent finger-tipped save, ensuring his team remained in front before Aaron Mc Laughlin, Jack Doherty and Jack Mc Laughlin rounded off yet more fantastic individual displays when adding to the score. Oisin Devlin then stepped up from the penalty spot after a foul on Kiernan Doherty, following great build up play from Caiden Boyle and Caodhan Gallagher, putting St Columb’s into the quarter final with an impressive 5 - 0 score line.
At the quarter final stage, St Columb’s knew they had a stern obstacle to overcome when they were drawn against the ever-improving, Omagh CBS. A lot of credit must go to the Tyrone side who gave their Derry rivals little time to settle on the ball. They clearly did their homework, stopping St Columb’s from playing their normal passing game. Despite this, the College young guns pressed for the opener and this came on the stroke of half time, following neat work from Luke Gallagher and Tiernan Doherty and a thunderous strike from yes, Arryan KC. St Columb’s came out a different team in the second half, but had to wait until the last five minutes of the game to book their place in the semi-final. Kyle Walker floated the ball into the Omagh box where the clinical, Arryan KC was on hand to smash the ball into the net, before Luke Prigent added further gloss to the score-line, following neat work from Evan Quinn.
Next up was a journey to Antrim for a very tough looking semi-final against unbeaten Belfast giants, Boys’ Model. However, the Derry lads blew their Belfast opponents away in the first half with that man, Arryan KC scoring very early on, following excellent work from Ben Hutton on the College left. Jack Mc Laughlin added another to his tally before Arryan KC completed his hatrick just before the interval, ensuring a safe passage into the final where they now faced another colossal task to win the trophy that eluded them last year as they had to play much fancied, Lagan College in the final at Allen Park on Wednesday 01st May, kick off 11 am.
However, St Columb’s started well in the Allen Park sunshine, with man-of-the-match Aaron McLaughlin dominating proceedings in the middle of the park. Despite this, it was Lagan who created the first opportunity, but College goalkeeper Ronan McBride got down brilliantly at his near post to make the save. That spurred the local school into life, and from that point they dominated proceedings. After having a goal ruled out for offside, St Columb’s opened the scoring on 12 minutes when Jack Doherty was fouled tight to the right sideline, and Oisin Devlin stepped up to send a sensational looping free kick to the top corner of the net. Horner’s team continued to go from strength to strength from there. Aaron McLaughlin had a good chance before the break to make it 2-0, but his effort whistled over the top of the crossbar.
St Columb’s College 1
Lagan Valley 0
St Columb’s picked up where left off in the first half, and they doubled their advantage when Luke Prigent went on a mazy run down the right before his shot was blocked as far as Jack Doherty who fired the ball to the corner from the edge of the box. Naturally, the College dropped deeper to protect their lead, but they had a strong threat on the counter attack, and they took advantage of that eight minutes from time. After clearing a Lagan corner, Jack Doherty found captain Arryan KC and he raced through on goal before sending a left-footed finish to the bottom right corner.
To their credit, Lagan kept chasing the game, but the College never really looked under any serious pressure. Luke Gallagher and Oisin Devlin were rock solid at the heart of defence, and their opponents struggled break them down as St Columb’s cruised to yet another impressive Northern Ireland title victory.
Manager, Ryan Horner was clearly delighted at winning another N.I. Cup, remarking, “This is my fourteenth St Columb’s College soccer team. We have been very fortunate in that we have reached ten finals but without doubt this has been our most difficult passage so far. Credit must go to the full squad of players who had to overcome very difficult opposition from the very first round!”
Coach Xavier Prigent also heaped praise on the players for their endeavour throughout the entire campaign. Prigent admitted, “It has been an extensive and taxing campaign but the attitude of the boys since the start has made it all worthwhile. They have trained vigorously every week and deserve their success,” before further adding, “I have been impressed by both the quality and industry of all the young lads involved. They are a huge credit to the school and it is a privilege to work with them on and off the pitch!” Both coaches expressed their deep gratitude to the parents of the boys for their continued support and encouragement with Horner commenting, “Without them, the exemplary attendance to training would be impossible!” He went on, “Huge credit must also go to Year 13 students, Niall Fielding and Tiarnan McGuinness as well as Year 9 pupil, Shea Healy who are massive reasons why this team have become Northern Ireland champions. Horner concluded by thanking team sponsor, Qualivend for their support throughout the year.
The St Columb’s squad consists of nineteen players with every member making an invaluable contribution to the team reaching the final.
Arryan KC (Striker and Captain): The most natural finisher in the squad who possesses an exquisite first touch. However, he is much more than just a goal scorer, working tirelessly for his team. He has the ability to run with the ball, teasing defences, offering an immense outlet, holding the ball up to great effect, bringing his team mates into the game.
Oisin Devlin (Defender and Joint Vice-Captain): An influential vice-captain who makes his team tick. He loves to break up the play and start attacks with his excellent range of passing. If he is on song in the final, he could give his team a vital edge, posing enormous danger with his dead ball expertise as well.
Aaron Mc Laughlin (Midfield and Joint Vice-Captain): The ‘midfield general’ of the team who loves to break up play and start attacks with his wide range of passing. Arguably, the most intelligent player in the squad who reads the game very well. He likes to get forward also, which is a great outlet for his team.
Ronan Mc Bride (‘keeper): Undoubtedly, the unsung hero of the squad with his top class shot stopping in the early rounds, and is a major reason why his team are in the final.
Luke Gallagher (Defender): A powerful defender who leads by example, missing little in the air or on the ground. He poses a real threat to the opposition from set pieces also and is a vital ingredient of the team.
Ben Hutton (Defender): A quality defender who can also operate in midfield due to his immense ability on the ball, giving his team a real spark. His enthusiasm for the game is an inspiration for the rest of his team.
Jack Kirby (Defender): Certainly the most versatile and honest player in the squad. Can operate anywhere in the back four to equal effect, which is a wonderful option for his team.
Caiden Boyle (Defender): A powerful centre half who lets nothing get past him and loves a tackle, making him most forwards’ worst nightmare.
Kiernan Doherty (Defender): A powerful centre half who is excellent in possession, which helps his team play out from the back. Loves defending and getting involved in the play, which is a tremendous asset for his team.
Harry Crampsey (Defender): Can operate at left back or centre half, which has proved vital for his team. A no nonsense defender who stops all in his way, using his excellent range of passing and dribbling ability to start attacks.
Tiernan Doherty (Defender): A terrific full back who loves to get involved in the action. He is only too happy to cover for his centre half’s when required and is not afraid to pour forward when given the opportunity.
Jack Mc Laughlin (Midfield): Arguably, the most skilful player in the squad who has come up with a lot of important goals. He holds the ball up to great effect, bringing others into play whilst terrorising opposition defences with his ‘box of tricks.’ A real handful for any defender who will be hoping to score in the final to add to his already impressive tally!
Zachary Doherty (Midfield): A tough tackling midfielder who never shirks from a challenge. Will put his foot and head in where others wouldn’t dare. He loves to get forward and uses the ball very well when in possession.
Luke Prigent (Midfield): Has incredible dribbling ability and unlocks opposition defences with his direct running on the ball. Possesses great pace as well as being an impressive crosser and certainly has a significant role to play in the final.
Evan Quinn (Midfield): A forward thinking midfielder who has an eye for goal. Has a tremendous first touch and loves running at defenders with the ball, providing great service for the front men.
Kyle Walker (Midfield): A creative midfielder who torments defenders with his excellent range of passing and ability on the ball. He has an eye for goal and on his day can be a match winner.
Caodhan Gallagher (Midfield): Can operate on the right or left to equal effect, which has proved very important to his team. Always plays with a smile on his face and his energy levels and range of passing are a great example for the rest of his team.
Malachy Coyle (Midfield): A hard-working midfielder who loves to link up play. He is fantastic on the ball, which could prove vital in the final!
Jack Doherty (Midfield): A very technical midfielder who is a nightmare for opposition defences when he is on his game. Has excellent dribbling ability and provides a real spark for the rest of his team.