STRABANE ACADEMY …………….17
CARRICKFERGUS GS ……………….0
COACH Niall O’Donnell insists Strabane Academy’s historic victory over Carrickfergus Grammar School in the first round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup at Liskey Road on Saturday morning was much more than a cup win.
Two tries by skipper Oran O’Neill and a scintillating finish by Jamie Browne helped Strabane create history by reaching the second round for the first time.
As the Academy players now look forward to facing Lurgan College in the next round their coach was still savouring Saturday’s win.
“We have come a long way in recent years. This is much more than a cup win,” he said.
“On a personal level this is right up there with anything I achieved as cricketer in the North West or with Ireland.
“This means so much. The players were magnificent. This has completely consumed the school. Pick any superlative you want it and it would be fitting.
“In my opinion this will help put bums on seats in the school. Obviously cricket is our big thing but now we are playing in the Schools’ Cup and winning in the Schools’ Cup.
“Sport is really buzzing within the school, it shows that there is an ethos there, an expectation of success and the boys have really stepped up the plate.
“History has been made, it has set the benchmark.”
Played in front of an enthusiastic group of supporters the game ended with the home team emerging as deserved winners.
In the first half the young Carrickfergus side dominated in terms of territory but, despite the best intentions of players such as Iain Woodside, Benjamin McKay and Joel White, they could find no way past the dogged Strabane defence.
The Academy team had their moments in terms of possession but a lack of clear cut scoring opportunities ensured the teams turned around at half time with no points on the board.
The second half saw the game really spring into life. Strabane Academy enjoyed a sustained period of possession in the Carrickfergus ‘22’. A quickly taken penalty was moved to Adam McElwee who cleverly passed the ball back inside to his captain, Oran O’Neill, who was running a great line. Oran finished in style with an unconverted try to give his team a 5-0 lead.
Carrick responded in a positive manner only to see a number of gilt-edged scoring opportunities go a begging. Strabane then went back on the attack and increased their lead to 12-0 when Jamie Browne sliced his way through the defence to touch down for a try which was converted by Ralph Mealiff.
Jordan Mealiff and Ryan McKittrick then combined with Gavin Doherty to send O’Neill in for his second unconverted try of the game which secured the 17-0 victory for the Academy team at the end of this exciting first round encounter.
Strabane will now travel to play Lurgan College in the second round on Saturday 7th January 2017.