Holders St Columb’s College have won the Translink Schools’ Gold Cup for the third year running.
The cup competition involves eight schools from across Northern Ireland battling it out over three age groups to be crowned the number one school in the country.
Although St Columb’s secured the overall title again - it’s the fifth year of the competition - they did not have it all their own way on Gold Cup Finals Day at Ballymena Showgrounds.
The Derry-Londonderry school lost out in both the U13 and U17 finals, however a win for their U15 team on penalties against Belfast Boys’ Model in the third-fourth place final was enough for them to register a better overall points total than nearest rivals St Malachy’s College (Belfast).
Boys’ Model celebrated U13 final success with a deserved 1-0 win and it was the same scoreline in the U17 decider with Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock (Belfast) defeating a strong St Columb’s team in the last game of a packed Finals Day programme.
The match of the day was in the U15 decider where Bangor Academy met St Malachy’s.
Bangor impressed in the first half, playing some fantastic football, and were 2-1 up at the break. Northern Ireland youth international Troy Savage produced a fabulous strike for one of Bangor’s goals.
After the interval St Malachy’s upped the tempo and scored two quickfire goals to lead 3-2. The game was end to end for the final 20 minutes, however St Malachy’s added a fourth to secure the trophy.
Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock teacher Neil McGaughey was delighted with the east Belfast school’s win in the U17 decider.
He said: “It’s a fantastic achievement for the boys to win the U17 final. They overcame some top schools in the group stages of the competition and we are delighted to defeat St Columb’s in the final. It is testament to the hard work of the players all year.”
David Cowan, Director of Commercial Operations at Translink, said: “The Translink Schools’ Gold Cup is a great example of the talent and team spirit young people across Northern Ireland regularly demonstrate.
“Team sport such as football plays a vital role in building confidence, encouraging team spirit, promoting active lifestyles and helping wellbeing. That’s why Translink is very proud of the long-term partnership with the Irish FA which supports young players from across Northern Ireland as they take part in this popular tournament.
“This year we were also delighted to support the introduction of taster sessions to promote football among young girls and provide a stepping stone to finding future talent in the sport.
“We were also able to bring our #PlayItSafeNI message to the finals, reminding young people how values like respect on the pitch apply off it, including when using public transport.
"I’d like to say well done to all the players who took part this year. You have made your schools and team-mates very proud.”
Translink Schools’ Gold Cup 2022-23 Finals Day
Final – St Columb’s College 0-1 Boys’ Model
3rd-4th Place – Bangor Academy 1-4 St Malachy’s
5th-6th – Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock 2-2 Ashfield (OLSPK won on penalties)
7th-8th – Laurelhill 2-2 Holy Cross College Strabane (Holy Cross won on penalties)
Final – St Malachy’s 4-2 Bangor Academy
3rd-4th – Boys’ Model 1-1 St Columb’s College (St Columb’s won on pens)
5th-6th – Our Lady and St Patrick’s Knock 0-3 Holy Cross
7th-8th – Laurelhill 0-8 Ashfield
Final – St Columb’s 0-1 Our Lady and St Patrick’s Knock
3rd-4th– Laurelhill 1-3 St Malachy’s
5th-6th – Boys’ Model 3-0 Ashfield
7th-8th – Bangor Academy 0-4 Holy Cross
1st St Columb’s College
2nd St Malachy’s College
3rd Belfast Boys’ Model
4th Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock
5th Bangor Academy
6th Holy Cross College Strabane
7th Laurelhill Community College
8th Ashfield Boys’ High
The Gold Cup is organised by the Irish FA Foundation and sponsored by public transport company Translink.
The three teams from each school participated in group stage games (groups of four) to earn overall ranking points and to determine their ranking for Finals Day.
You can see a gallery of images from the tournament below.