Northern Ireland Schools’ FA Finals Day proves to be a class apart
Belfast Boys' Model centre-half Lucas Galashan revealed he had no concerns about his side's ability to triumph in this year's Inspiresport Under-16 Senior Cup final at the Ballymena Showgrounds yesterday - even after going down to nine men.
The main event at the Northern Ireland Schools' FA Finals day was a tight affair with few chances, but when Model's Aaron McClean received a straight red card in the 60th minute, before Morgan Murray went the same way after a second bookable foul, it looked like Our Lady and St Patrick's, Knock, were in the box seat.
However, Model weathered the storm, taking the game into extra time, and Galashan netted a low and hard winner from a Tre Sterling corner in the first period. He later spoke of the self-belief he and his team-mates felt despite the adversity they faced.
"I thought we could still get the win - we are a good team, and have a good togetherness. All we needed to do was keep defending and get the winner," said Galashan.
"I was happy to get it - especially because I don't get that many. I've only scored two or three all season."
Praising the Glentoran Youth defender and his team-mates, Boys' Model coach Andy Blackadder beamed: "Character, passion, hard work - there isn't one word to describe these boys. It was a team display, and the school have a lot to be proud of."
Earlier, on the same main arena, St Columb's College's Jordan McEnuff got the day's matches off to a thrilling start in his side's all-Derry derby with St Joseph's College when he fired home from a second-minute corner.
St Columb's were clearly on top, and almost got the second goal their hard work deserved with Cahir McMonigle striking the crossbar and Callum Doherty launching over from the rebound.
St Joseph's emerged with a greater sense of purpose in the second half, and Caolan McLaughlin was unlucky to see his free-kick soar above the bar in the 47th minute.
Five minutes later, the striker was at it again, with a set-piece which landed on top of the net.
McLaughlin looked determined to score. He came close again with 10 minutes remaining, reacting quickly to a mis-clearance from goalkeeper Leannan McCann, but the latter redeemed himself with the save of the match.
McLaughlin finally got his reward just moments before the full-time whistle. It was fitting that it came from another free-kick, even if it was deflected on the way in.
A solitary goal decided matters in extra time - McEnuff heading in a corner for his second of the game.
Elsewhere in the 11am kick-offs, Holy Cross (Strabane) lifted the Under-12 Minor Cup with a 1-0 win over Our Lady and St Patrick's College, Knock, while St Joseph's (Donaghmore) thumped St Colmcille's High School (Crossgar) 6-1 in the Under-14 Small Schools Cup final.
There was drama out on grass pitch five in the Under-14 Intermediate Plate final, where after drawing 2-2 after extra time, Lismore defeated Cambridge House on penalties, while Devenish triumphed 2-1 over Kilkeel in the Under-12 Minor Plate final.
Newtownabbey were the winners of the Under-15 Small Schools Cup, with a penalty shoot-out win over St Colmcille's High School (Crossgar) following their 1-1 draw.
Meanwhile, Edmund Rice skipper Cillian Gilmour claimed the goal of the day with an ambitious lofted effort from the halfway line in his school's 3-2 triumph over Strabane Academy in the Under-16 Senior Plate final.
Out on the 3G surface, it was a goal-fest as the Under-18s of Foyle College heaped more disappointment on St Joseph's (Derry). The latter's Under-14 side lost earlier in the day and Foyle ran out 4-0 winners to clinch the Youth Plate.
The goals were all widely spread too, with Sam Hughes, Robbie House, Jack McNeill and Stephen Mills all getting in on the scoring act.
That just left Our Lady and St Patrick's College, Knock, and St Columb's College to close the show in the Under-18 Youth Cup. St Columb's captain Ben Doherty netted the winner in the 15th minute to complete a disappointing day for Northern Ireland Under-18 joint manager Frankie Wilson, the OLSPCK coach who had seen all three of his school's sides lose yesterday.