Kilkeel High School and Holy Cross College Strabane are set to face each other in this year’s Electric Ireland Schools’ Cup Final for senior girls’ teams.
The Co Down v Co Tyrone clash is being staged tomorrow (Tuesday 25 April) in Tyrone at Stangmore Park, the home of Dungannon Swifts. Kick-off is scheduled for 12noon.
Holy Cross will be defending the trophy they lifted last year following a 3-2 win over Belfast’s Mercy College in the U18 competition decider.
Both sides have had eventful runs to the 2023 final, defeating some strong opposition along the way.
For Kilkeel High School, led by Julie Houston, the journey started against Regent House (Newtownards) with a 2-0 win.
That brought them to the quarter-finals and the challenge of Belfast school St Louise’s. On the day Kilkeel were unstoppable and a dominant performance booked their place in the semi-finals against Antrim’s Parkhall Integrated College.
Both sides battled bravely throughout the last four encounter and could not be separated in regulation time. Kilkeel held their nerve to win the penalty shootout and book their place in the final.
Julie Houston said: “This is a fantastic achievement for our girls and for the area of Mourne. We are so excited for the final and wish the girls all the best for the final. In Holy Cross we face very strong opposition, but this is what we expect in a final of this calibre.
“This final is the pinnacle of schools’ football for girls in this country. I’m sure the final will be a fantastic showpiece.”
For Holy Cross College, led by Gerald Boyle, the path to the final was more straightforward, with victories against Cambridge Grammar and Devenish College before a repeat of last year’s semi-final against Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock.
And Holy Cross once again took the spoils with a strong performance against the east Belfast school at the Mid-Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown.
Gerald Boyle said: “The girls have been fantastic this year and this is a competition we love to be involved in. To make the final two years in a row is an incredible achievement and we know the girls will be pushing to repeat last year’s victory.
“Some of the girls in this squad have been in the stands watching other Holy Cross teams’ victories and celebrations and they will be hoping they can have that moment. Games like these are so important for football in this country and the development of the next generation of female players.”
Electric Ireland’s Anne Smyth said the competition had produced some great matches, adding that she has no doubt the final will be an excellent advertisement for girls’ and schools’ football.
Damian McLaughlin, Schools and Futsal Officer with the Irish FA Foundation, said: “The Electric Ireland competition is huge and is growing every year with new teams getting involved and new teams reaching finals. This year we have seen so many games take place across the county across all age brackets. The senior competition is very special for those who make it and win it as for some it is their last game of schools’ football.”
Last month 10 schools from across Northern Ireland took part in the Danske Bank Girls’ 11- a-side finals at the Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey – and both Kilkeel High and Holy Cross were among them.
Initially they were divided into two groups, with the winners of each group progressing to the final.
Group 1 featured last year’s champions, Dominican College (Belfast), along with St Cecilia’s (Derry-Londonderry), Portadown College, Parkhall Integrated and Abbey Community College (Newtownabbey). Parkhall topped the group with a 100% record to book their place in the final.
Kilkeel and Holy Cross were in Group 2 alongside Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock, Rathmore Grammar (Finaghy) and St Patrick’s College.
It was a tight group, however in the end it became a two-way battle between Kilkeel and Rathmore, with the Finaghy school edging their way through to the decider.
Parkhall had been unstoppable all day and they were clinical once again in the final. And Parkhall’s Jessica McQuillan, who scored twice, was the player of the match.
Image: The winning team from Holy Cross College in 2022.