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Thursday 14 Mar 2024
National Stadium set to host schools’ cup finals

The National Football Stadium at Windsor Park will be hosting two schools’ cup finals next Tuesday (19 March).

First up is the U16 Girls Schools’ Cup decider between Portadown College and Kilkeel High School (10.45am kick-off; 25 minutes each way).

And that will be followed by the U18 Boys Schools’ Cup final between holders Integrated College Dungannon and Our Lady and St Patrick’s College Knock (Belfast). It is due to kick off at 12.45pm.

In the girls’ competition Portadown and Kilkeel made it through to the final after competing in an action-packed semi-final event at The Dub in Belfast.

Each school was placed in a group with five other schools, with the group winners securing a place in the final.

Portadown College faced some strong opposition in their group, from the likes of Rathmore Grammar (Dunmurry) and St Louise’s (Belfast), but the Co Armagh school emerged from it undefeated and without conceding a goal.

Kilkeel faced some tough tests in their section, not least from Belfast’s Dominican College, winners of the competition in 2022, and last year’s winners, Parkhall Integrated (Antrim).

All the games in the group were tight encounters. Kilkeel, Dominican and Parkhall all dropped points along the way but the Co Down school reached the final thanks to a better overall goal difference.

In the U18 Boys competition holders Integrated College Dungannon swept north Belfast school Boys’ Model aside in their last four tie at Newforge. The Tyrone school won the game 7-1.

ICD opened the scoring on four minutes through striker Calum Hunter, although Model levelled five minutes later when Ashton Larmour-McQuade netted from close range. Hunter fired Dungannon ahead again shortly after.

After the interval – it was 2-1 at the break – the cup holders turned on the style. Anijo Da Silva scored with a neat drive before James Burke added another with a superb solo effort.

In the closing stages Dungannon were rampant. With 10 minutes remaining Ethan Nethery netted with a 25-yard effort, Hunter completed his hat-trick and Burke added his second.

In the other semi-final Our Lady and St Patrick’s College registered a hard fought 2-1 victory over Ballymena Academy at Newforge.

Team captain Oscar McKenna opened the scoring for OLSPCK after 10 minutes and the east Belfast school then dominated possession, however they could make little impression on a solid Ballymena defence in which centre backs Craig McQuillan and Luke McLaughlin stood out.

Ballymena began to exert pressure either side of half-time and they equalised on 50 minutes. Fintan Steele slipped past two defenders before firing in a shot which was blocked on the line, and Cameron Eagleson reacted quickest to force the ball home.

That goal sparked OLSPCK into life and they scored what proved to be the winner in the 56th minute. James Douglas raced down the flank and his low cross into the area was met by Luke Doran who hammered the ball home.

The finals are organised by the Northern Ireland Schools’ Football Association and hosted by the Irish Football Association.

Tickets for both finals are now available. They are free of charge, however tickets are required for entry to the stadium.

The link for general tickets is:

And the following links are available for those who know the team they would like to support: 

Image: The team captains promote next week’s finals. They are: (from left) Hannah Davison of Portadown College, Oscar McKenna from Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Integrated College Dungannon’s Tommy Taggart and Zara Maguire (Kilkeel High School).