ST MARK’S LEAN TOWARDS COLLEGES
Tuesday, 10 December 2013
ST MARK'S Warrenpoint U14 coach Liam Austin insisted that the time has come to move from Vocational Schools into the Colleges competition after his side suffered a heavy defeat to St Malachy's Castlewellan on Tuesday, writes Elaine Leddy.
This time last year St Mark's were comfortable winners over St Malachy's in the County final but when The Democrat asked one of Warrenpoint's coaches, Sean Featherstone, before throw-in last Tuesday how he thought his boys would do he said: "We have no idea, this is their only game this year, it's a baptism of fire."
Last week Benny Coulter - one of St Mark's most famous sons - wondered in his Democrat column why his former school haven't followed most of the other vocational schools across to college's football saying he would love to see it happen next year.
He said he obviously wouldn't expect them to compete in the top tier but within a few years he would hope they would gain enough experience to hold their own against the best.
Coulter's wish will most likely come to pass now because neither side learned anything from a final like this one.
After the match St Mark's coaches Liam Austin and Sean Featherstone consoled their disappointed squad.
Austin was not only saddened by the result but also by the unfairness of these boys being thrown in at the deep end into a final with no match play behind them - a situation that can only point towards the imminent demise of the competition.
“I think it's definitely time to go down the College route, this proves Vocational Schools football is dead," said Austin.
“I think it's unfair to expect any team to only play one match and that's the final. They don't know what they're up against. The boys need time to get to know each other as a team and play together. No matter how much you train during the year you need competitive match play," said Austin.
“St Malachy's were brilliant today, we were well beaten and we can't take that away from them but if you get a chance to play a team earlier in the year, you might get beaten but you can build on that and improve for the next game and that's how it should work," he added.
Austin seemed reluctant but realistic that St Mark's have little choice but to follow the pack.
"I think it's sad because a lot of our teams have done well in this competition over the years, but we need to look to the future and obviously the future has to be college football. A lot of the teams from last year have moved over to the lower divisions of Colleges, and that's fair enough, they're getting regular football.
“There is the aspect of teachers getting out for matches - it would have to be organised properly. But in saying that it would definitely up their level and get them matches."
St Mark's U14s may well have been comprehensively beaten by St Malachy's in this final but one match should never make or break a team. They will be back to compete another day, most likely in the Colleges tournament, where they would get the opportunity to play more competitive matches and develop as a team.
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