For the first time two Catholic secondaries reached the final of the English Schools FA Cup Final, held at Tranmere last week. James Penn reports on a thrilling battle between St Michael's, Watford, and Cardinal Heenan, Liverpool.
For the first time in its history, the ESFA Snickers Under 16 Trophy has been contested by two Catholic schools.
The tournament, which is open to all the schools in the country, saw St Michael's, Garston, from Watford, and Cardinal Heenan from Liverpool come face to face in an epic finale at the Tranmere Rovers on Merseyside, last week. It had passion, it had drama, it had skill. The one thing it didn't have was any goals.
But the fact that the game finished in a nil-nil draw doesn't seem to have bothered any of those concerned. In the end everyone was quite satisfied with the result. What is more, the players are probably grateful they were spared the possibly embarrassing results of a penalty shoot out.
No-one wants to be burdened with the responsibility of losing a match that way. Just think of Chris Waddle in the World Cup semi-final against Germany five years ago.
The two sides will share the cup and have it for six months each at their respective schools.
"I think it's right and proper it should be shared. Neither side deserved to lose," said St Michael's head of PE, John Ridgewell, who coached his school's side.
"It's just as well they didn't play extra time as they'd have been out on their feet. It would have been very hard on them. In St Michael's game against Denefield, that game went to extra time and the standard of football was not good.
"It wasn't a nil-nil (style of) game, it was very exciiing. Either side could have scored goals."
Mr Ridgewell went on to describe how the game had gone: "We basically had the edge in the first half. There was one very good chance: a nice ball into the far post from the skipper Paul Robinson but Ben Cowen missed. Another week he'd have put it away, but the pressure of the final had got to him.
"We dominated the first half. Cardinal Heenan came back out in the second half and for 15 minutes they really had us on the rack. But our goalie Grieg Thorpe produced some absolutely phenomenal saves.
"Towards the end of the second half we came back into it and in the dying minutes might have scored. But it would have been criminal if either side had lost it in the last four minutes.
"I can't talk for them, but I'm quite happy to share the trophy after playing 13 rounds and coming through from nearly 3,000 schools. I'm very proud of what we did."
St Michael's had travelled up in the morning before Thursday's game and stayed in a hotel before coming back south last Friday. It had been a real thrill playing at the First Division ground.
"Tranmere Rovers did us proud. We had a lovely meal after and it was a great experience playing at their ground."
The award for the most sportsmanlike performance went to St Michael's defender, Alan Beaton, who pulled off some vital last ditch tackles without resorting to the professional foul.
The school is planning to have a replica of the cup made with the boys' names inscribed.