By Chris Caldwell
ONE thing you can’t question about Sacred Heart’s current crop of year 10 footballers is their character.
En route to a first ever McDevitt Cup Ulster Final the Omagh school have twice come from 11 points down at half-time to achieve draws, won a replay after extra-time and ended Rosses Dungloe’s 100 per cent record with a narrow 4-14 to 3-15 victory in the last four.
In that semi-final triumph, which was deadlocked at 2-06 apiece at half-time, the Sacred Heart lads showed their resilience and ability to keep going to the last, surging to victory with a run of points in the final 10 minutes, which proved crucial.
Previously, during their eight game campaign, they thumped St Mark’s Warrenpoint, under the tutelage of Down legend Liam Austin, by 13 points and have defeated their opponents in the decider, St Joseph’s Donaghmore, in the group stage to stand on the brink of history.
Until May of this year, no Sacred Heart team had ever claimed an Ulster title. That was until this group, then in Year 9, claimed the Faul Cup thanks to a 7-15 to 1-3 win over De La Salle Belfast, while the Year 11s also won their provincial crown.
That leaves this crop of youngsters on the edge of a rare achievement – winning two Ulster titles at different grades in the same calendar year – as the Omagh school chases a third provincial title in just over six months, after waiting its entire history for its first! “We’re delighted to reach the final,” beamed Owen Devine, who manages the team alonside Caolan Harvey.
“It would be remarkable if they can win it. It would be fabulous for the whole school community.”
And while Devine was keen to point out that his current charges are inspired by Sacred Heart old boys, like Tyrone star Mark Bradley, the late Dominic Earley, who was a member of the first school team to win a Tyrone Vocational Schools title, and the 10 former pupils who played for Tattyreagh’s Junior Championship winning side in 2017, he feels his players club coaches deserve a lot of credit for this team’s successes.
“We have 10 clubs represented from west Tyrone, which is a phenomenal number, but the school couldn’t compete if the club coaches didn’t do a good job,” he explained. So we’re very fortunate that the club coaches in west Tyrone are brilliant!”
The McDevitt Cup Ulster final will take place in Augher from 11am on Monday between Sacred Heart College and St Joseph’s Donaghmore, who defeated St Columba’s Stranorlar, in the other semi-final on Thursday) and Devine is expecting a tough encounter.
“We have already beaten St Joseph’s in the group stage, but they topped our group so we know they will be strong too,” he observed.
“It will depend on who performs on the day but they are very keen and dedicated and have the talent to back it up.
“The boys are champing at the bit and this season they have shown so much character. They never give up and fight to the end,” he concluded.
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