Edenderry Primary School pupils marched towards an inaugural boys’ Northern Ireland final appearance to finish with silver from a pool of 198 sides.
Eight consecutive group wins set Edenderry up against defending champions Cookstown for the final showdown at Lisnagarvey.
Edenderry entered the tournament having enjoyed national glory with the girls’ squad in previous seasons but with the boys tasting a first regional title on the way to the Northern Ireland runner-up spot.
“The boys made a strong and determined start against Rathmore, with the players working hard to maintain possession,” said Edenderry coach Lesley Hanna. “We won 3-0 then played with increased confidence against Moneymore and excellent communication.
“Our third group match was against Downshire and demanded an improvement in focus and determination.
“Downshire had plenty of supporters but we made a strong early impression, with high pressure and teamwork on the way to a 2-0 victory during the most intense test.
“We edged past Omagh with a goal in the closing moments that helped us utilise the squad.
“Our final group match, against Campbell College, helped to extend the impressive form.”
Edenderry conceded a first goal of the competition in the Campbell test but recovered to secure success and top the group towards a quarter-final spot.
“We recorded a derby win over Bocombra then beat Stranmillis to seal a place in the semi-finals,” said Hanna. “The last-four date with Inchmarlo was played at an excellent tempo, with real intensity and excellent performances by both teams.
“The boys had worked so hard to reach the final, with the Cookstown game played out in front of a superb atmosphere.
“We had chances and a goal disallowed before Cookstown secured the overall title.
“It was clear our boys enjoyed every minute and played with such determination so should be proud of every performance.
“It was an achievement and experience that should stay with the players for a long time.
“The boys can hold their heads up high with finish with silver.”
EDENDERRY: Joseph Stevenson (captain), Charlie Maher, Bobby Newell, Tommy Smyth, John Speers, Will Greer, Calum McShane, Casey Finlay, Alfie Bullick.