Derry-Londonderry school St Columb’s College have become the first school to retain the Translink Schools’ Gold Cup.
The annual cup competition involves the eight post-primary schools across Northern Ireland who have been awarded the Gold Schools’ Quality Mark accreditation by the Irish FA Foundation. And it’s the only competition here in which schools play each other across three age groups (U13, U15, U17).
The schools play each other in group games (two groups) and the teams finishing first to fourth in their respective sections then match up on finals day in the competition, which is always entertaining as the teams battle it out for silverware and to improve their overall points total.
This year two venues were used for the finals: Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown and the New Blanchflower Stadium in Belfast, the home of Harland and Wolff Welders.
St Columb’s faced St Malachy’s College in the U15 and U17 finals and also in the third/fourth place play-off in the U13 section. All three matches were played at MUSA.
The Derry boys showed their class in the U13 and U15 age groups, defeating the Belfast side 6-1 and 5-2, however it was arguably the U17 game that provided the most drama on the day.
St Columb’s started brightly and took an early lead, however both sides had opportunities in a lively end to end game.
The game changed in the middle of the second half when St Columb’s had two men sent off, switching the momentum to St Malachy’s, and they pressed for an equaliser.
It was St Columb’s, however, who extended their lead, with several of the nine men breaking at pace and the slick move resulting in their second.
St Malachy’s responded and cut the deficit late in the game, however St Columb’s held on to win the trophy.
St Columb’s coach Mark Scoltock said: “We are delighted that the boys were able to retain the Translink Schools’ Gold Cup. The competition is so competitive and the boys did really well throughout the year.
“The finals against St Malachy’s were very close and we rode our luck at times but got over the line in the end. I would like to thank Translink for their sponsorship of the competition and their interest in schools’ football.”
The U13 final between Laurelhill Community College and Boys’ Model was played at the Welders.
The game was goalless at half-time but it sprang into life early in the second half when Gary Dickson raced through and tucked the ball home past the onrushing Laurelhill keeper.
Boys’ Model’s lead was shortlived as Henry Dubourdieu scored with a fantastic strike from 30 yards to level the game.
It was Boys’ Model who were creating the better chances and it was Dickson who got his second of the game heading into the final 10 minutes. The cup was secured late on for Model when Zach Gibson’s shot found the bottom corner, making it 3-1.
Gareth Allen, the Irish FA Foundation’s Schools and Futsal Manager, said: “I would like to congratulate all the schools on their participation and achievements throughout the competition and also congratulate St Columb’s on retaining the overall Translink Gold Cup.
“Translink are a fantastic sponsor and we look forward to working with them on developing schools’ football in Northern Ireland.”
The final standings this season were:
1. St Columb’s (Derry-Londonderry) 26 points
2. Boys’ Model (Belfast) 22 points
3. St Malachy’s College (Belfast) 21 points
4. Our Lady and St Patrick’s Knock (Belfast) 13 points
5. Laurelhill (Lisburn) 10 points
6. Holy Cross College (Strabane) 10 points
7. Ashfield Boys’ High (Belfast) 9 points
8. Bangor Academy 5 points
Translink Schools’ Gold Cup
Finals Day Results
(in descending order in each section; 1st-2nd down to 7th-8th)
Laurelhill 1-3 Boys’ Model
St Columb’s 6-1 St Malachy’s
OLSPK 3-1 Holy Cross
Ashfield 2-0 Bangor Academy
St Columb’s 5-2 St Malachy’s
OLSPK 0-3 Boys’ Model
Ashfield 4-4p Holy Cross (Ashfield won on penalties)
Laurehill 2-6 Bangor Academy
St Columb’s 2-1 St Malachy’s
OLSPK 0-3 Boys’ Model
Ashfield 5-1 Holy Cross
Laurehill 0-1 Bangor Academy