The Coleraine and District Schools Football Association (CDSFA) is to mark the 50th anniversary of the Doherty Cup with a commemorative tournament next year.
The one-off Festival of Football will run alongside the traditional blue riband football competition which is played for each year by primary school teams in the area.
It was the former Coleraine Football Club chairman, the late Jack Doherty, who donated the trophy to the Association in 1966 - and down the years thousands of boys - and girls - have taken part.
And to celebrate the milestone the C&DSFA will run a separate anniversary tournament at Ulster University’s Coleraine campus next May.
Twenty of the largest primary schools in the district will play a round-robin competition and will be placed into own-ability groups with the winners receiving a special plaque.
All of the players will receive commemorative medals and a T-shirt.
The C&DSFA will also run a competition with primary schools pupils to design a logo for the centrepiece of new Doherty Cup medals.
It’s hoped that an anniversary medal will be produced for the winners and runners-up of this year’s competition. There are also plans to add a new base to the Doherty Cup itself so that the winning schools can have their names engraved there for posterity.
In a break from tradition and to mark the golden anniversary both the semi-finals and final of the Doherty Cup will be played at Coleraine Showgrounds.
Gerry McAleese, from St Malachy’s Primary School, who has been involved in the running of the Doherty Cup for many years, said: “It’s a wonderful competition and people have many great memories of playing in it.
“For many young players who got to the final it was the biggest match they had ever played in - at a big stadium and in front of a big crowd.
“Over the years players such as Rory Hamill, Russell Kelly and Steven Lomas - who went on to have successful professional careers - took part in it as boys.
“But it’s not just those stars but generations of local families have played in the Doherty Cup - grandfathers, sons and grandsons and each have their own special memories.”
Gerry was also quick to point out that girls have also featured in primary school teams and some have made their mark including Lee Elliott from St Malachy’s who was a prolific goalscorer.
Gerry added: “Gerard Bradley, who lost his life in Australia last year, actually won four Doherty Cup winners medals as he played for us in P4 to P7. I don’t think that will ever be beaten because at that time St Malachy’s won it five years in a row.”
The Doherty family - including Jack’s daughter Margaret Lennox and her son John - continue to support the tournament faithfully and generously and attend the final each year to hand over the trophy and medal to the finalists.
Current holders Millburn PS defeated Leaney to win the Cup for a record 14th time last year.
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