College Young Guns Prepare For N.I. Cup Final!

St Columb’s have booked their place in the final of the Under 12 N.I. Cup for the second year running. Their epic journey began back in October 2023 when they were drawn against St Louis, Ballymena, recording a hard fought 3-0 victory. Talisman, Eoin opened the scoring before the effervescent, Daire opened his account. The second half was all about team captain, Finn, who added further gloss to the score-line. Charlie played Finn through, but Finn was brought down in the penalty area after a typical mazy run, dusting himself down, slotting home the penalty, ensuring his side’s safe path into the last 32 of the illustrious competition.  

Up next was a tough tie against local rivals, Holy Cross, but midfield general, Louis, grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck early on, setting up goal machine, Finn to add another to his account. College ‘keeper, Joseph was soon called into action, pulling off a magnificent finger-tipped save, ensuring his team remained in front before Finn added another to his tally. Holy Cross battled their way back into the game and deservedly pulled one back before Seamus restored his team’s two goal lead, following an excellent cross from Cain before Holy Cross grabbed another. Finn, recorded a remarkable hatrick after neat work by Oisin, Emmett and Harry on the College right, ensuring St Columb’s progressed to the last 16 with an impressive 4-2 score line.

St Columb’s knew they had a stern obstacle to overcome when they were drawn away to the ever-impressive, Edmund Rice in the last 16. A lot of credit must go to the Antrim 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 pressed for the opener, which came on the stroke of half-time when Finn tapped in after good work from Sean and Alfie on the College left. Edmund Rice pushed hard for an equaliser but found Kian and Ronan on top form at the back for the College. The Derry youngsters booked their place in the quarter final when that man, Finn smashed home, following neat work from James on the College left.

The quarter final against Sacred Heart (Omagh) was an even contest between two well-matched sides. It was the Omagh side who settled quickest, creating several chances but Harry in the College goal was on top form. Once the College settled into their passing game, they opened the scoring through the impressive, Daire, following neat work from Daragh on the College right. However, as is always the case in football, you are at your most vulnerable just after you have scored and Sacred Heart replied immediately after an exquisite finish from their number 9. The score remained 1-1 after full and extra-time, leading to a dreaded penalty shootout. To their credit, the College youngsters kept their composure with Finn, Seamus and Matthew, dispatching their penalties to book their place in the last four of the tournament.

This was followed by an intense semi-final versus much fancied, OLSPK, which burst into life when Daire scored from Alfie’s pass. The College looked to have booked their place in the final when Finn put them two up, but being the outstanding team they are, OLSPK roared back into the game after an outstanding finish from Ollie. OLSPK pushed hard for an equaliser, but the College defended in numbers and were relieved when hearing the full-time whistle, signalling their passage into the final.

The College face another colossal task to maintain the trophy that they won last year when they play, Belfast giants, St Malachy’s, in the final at the Blanchflower Stadium on Thursday, 18th April, kick off, 11.00 am.

Manager, Ryan Horner, was clearly delighted at reaching another final, remarking, “this is my 18th College team and we have been very fortunate to reach 12 finals, but this has been our most difficult passage. Credit must go to the full squad of players who have overcome very difficult opposition to get here.”      

Coach Xavier Prigent also heaped praise on the players for their endeavour throughout the campaign, admitting, “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 success.”

This team is indebted to the work of Year 13 trio, Jack, Luke, 13B, and Luke 13D who have enjoyed coaching the squad. Jack admitted, “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.”

Horner and Prigent expressed their 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.” Horner concluded by thanking team sponsors, Powergen Consultancy Services NI Ltd, for their support throughout the year.


Player Profiles:

The St Columb’s squad consists of 19 players with every member making an invaluable contribution to the team reaching the final.

Finn (Midfield and Captain): An influential captain who makes his team tick. 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 finisher who certainly has a significant role to play in the final.      

Daire (Midfield and Joint Vice-Captain): Has come up with a lot of important goals, 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.

Seamus (Defence and Joint Vice-Captain): 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 and is a vital ingredient of the team.

Harry (‘keeper): Undoubtedly, the unsung hero of the squad with his top class shot stopping, being a major reason why his team are in the final.

Joseph (‘keeper): An outstanding shot stopper who has an excellent range of passing, ensuring his team play out from the back.

Daragh (Defence): Can operate at right 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.

Matthew (Defence): A quality defender who can 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 to the rest of his team.

James (Defence): A powerful full back who lets nothing get past him and loves a tackle, making him most forwards’ worst nightmare.

Ronan (Defence): 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.

Kian (Defence): Can play in defence or midfield, which has proved invaluable in his team reaching the final. Loves a tackle and playing out from the back.

Oisin (Defence): A tough tackling full back who also possesses great ability on the ball, which helps his team mount attacks from the back.

Charlie (Defence): Can operate at left or right back to equal effect, which has been vital for his team. Loves to win the ball back and play into his midfielders.  

Louis (Midfield): The ‘midfield general’ of the team who loves to break up 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 from set pieces as well.

Eoin (Midfield): 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.

Alfie (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 well when in possession.

Cain (Midfield): Can operate on the right or left to equal effect, which has proved important to his team. Always plays with a smile on his face and his energy levels and range of passing are a great example to the rest of his team.

Harry (Midfield): A hard-working midfielder who loves to link up play. He is fantastic on the ball, which could prove vital in the final.

Sean (Forward): A technical player 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.

Emmett (Forward): The most natural finisher in the squad, but he is much more than just a goal scorer, working tirelessly for his team, holding the ball up to great effect, bringing his team-mates into the game.