IT was an emotional day for Dalriada’s football players and the family of James Elliott last week when the team won the area’s Under-18 Senior Cup for the first time.
The players and team management dedicated the victory to the memory of the promising footballer who died at the age of 14 in tragic circumstances in the River Bush in his home village of Stranocum in 2009.
James had previously been a key member of the year group which achieved the cup success last week in Ballymoney.
He actually captained the same year group at Under-14 level when they previously won the league title at Coleraine Showgrounds.
Last week, James’ family were special guests at the cup final at the Joey Dunlop Centre when James’ former team-mates lifted the Under-18 Senior Cup for the first time.
It was an emotionally-charged event.
With the trophy back at Dalriada one player summed up the mood when he said: “This one was for James”.
Dalriada football coach Ian Getty added: “This was a special win for a special team.”
James was regarded as one of the most promising ever footballers in north Antrim.
At the age of ten he was playing with a local youth side at Under-14 level and was dominating games and he soon came to the attention of Linfield and was snapped up by their youth set-up.
As an indication of how highly regarded the youngster was at Windsor Park, Linfield manager David Jeffrey attended his funeral.
At last week’s final in Ballymoney, the memory of James Elliott was key in the minds of those present.
The team was wearing a strip donated to them by the Elliott family after James’ death and another link to the youngster was the presence of match referee Willie McConaghie who had previously coached James at youth level.
Willie said it was an honour to be asked to referee the match.
Ian Getty told the Times: “It was an emotional day for the team and the players and everybody associated with the team would like to dedicate the victory to the memory of James.”
Meanwhile, Dalriada is regarded primarily as a rugby playing school but Mr Getty wishes to thank the contribution of the rugby players at the school who also turned out for the football team.
The Dalriada boys had a 3-0 victory over Loreto College last week at the Joey Dunlop Centre in Ballymoney.
This was the first time the school senior team had reached the final play-off and they certainly brought home the trophy in style.
A superb free kick delivered by Aaron Sparks resulted in the ball being bundled over the line by inspirational captain Adam Freeman in the 6th minute. Honours remained even for the rest of the first half but in the 61st minute Loreto were awarded a penalty and much to the delight of the large gathering of Dalriada supporters Calum Beckett produced a wonderful save.
This defining moment seemed to inspire his team mates as Michael Finnerty scored with a clinical finish to the bottom corner of the net.
By this stage Dalriada were in complete control and as the minutes ticked away Daniel Carton struck a superb free kick into the top corner to spark off great scenes of celebration from the Ballymoney supporters.
Outstanding performances from Paul Armstrong, Adam Freeman and Danny Brown ensured a second league championship (added to the u14 team win earlier in the season) has arrived at Dalriada.
Without doubt, this has been the most successful football season ever at the school.