THE most famous personality Victoria College has produced over the past 40 years is hoping to hand over the mantle to the school’s first eleven hockey squad at around 3.30pm this afternoon.
BBC Young Apprentice candidate Maria Doran will be there to cheer on her friends later today as they take on Lurgan College in the final of the Senior Cup at Lisnagarvey (2pm).
She won’t be alone as more than 500 students from the south Belfast school will be joining here on the sidelines along with a similar number from Lurgan.
Add on friends and family members along with members of the last Victoria team to lift the Cup back in 1973 and that should add up to an attendance of well in excess of 1,500.
The four figure crowd will create it’s own pressure - something Maria is well used to under the watchful eye of Lord Sugar and co - not to mention the scrutiny of TV cameras - during her days as a contestant on the popular BBC programme.
Maria will be passing on a few tips to the current Victoria squad although her experience, at first glance, might not strike you as having much in common with that of a hockey match.
“I am not the best person to be taking advice from when it comes to sport but the only advice I have for the team is to enjoy the whole experience, ” said the 17 year-old A Level student.
“When I was on the Young Apprentice I learned you can get caught up in the competitiveness of it all and forget to have fun!
“Competitiveness is great as long as you are having a good time along the way.”
Maria, like the whole school, has been caught up in the build up to today’s show piece which will undoubtedly be the biggest day in the Victoria players ‘ short lives.
Their opponents have been there, done it and got the tee-shirt before, having won the Cup two years ago before losing out to Ballyclare High in the final this time last year.
The Co Antrim side will start favourites but Victoria’s players will remember the same applied to Ballyclare last month in the semi final which was settled by a penalty shoot out after a 1-1 draw.
“When the team won the semi final the atmosphere was fantastic and in school our achievements are always recognised,” Maria recalled.
“It was mentioned in assembly and the girls were given a huge round of applause. It was a very proud day in Victoria College!”
“In school the atmosphere has been one of great pride for the team. We are all so proud of them and their fantastic achievement. We can really feel the excitement build up as the the final becomes closer and closer.
“It is a huge deal for our school getting into the final. There is a great sense of excitement for the team. We are a really supportive school when it comes to both pupils and staff and we are planning to support the girls the whole way.”
Stage fright is always a risk whether it’s appearing on television or playing in a Senior Cup final and sometimes it’s the team that copes best with the tension that prevails.
But Maria hasn’t detected any obvious signs of trepidation among the Victoria College players in the build up to the game and both teams will have to cope with the noise generated by that massive crowd.
“It is only natural to be nervous coming up to such a big event. I wouldn’t say that we can sense any obvious nerves among the team but we can most certainly feel the adrenalin flowing and they are really getting into the spirit of it,” she explained.
Maria admits sport isn’t her primary interest at school but all that will change for an hour, or more if the game goes to extra time, this afternoon.
“I always tended to be more drawn to the arts and enterprising extra curricular activities that my school offers.
“Although my interests never lay in the field of playing sport I along with the rest of the school are looking forward to cheering the girls on at the final.
“I have great confidence in our team. I think they have the enthusiasm, work ethic and passion for the sport to win in the final. I am hoping that the schools cup returns to Victoria College once again!”
Maria will be providing her own personal insight into the Senior Cup final in a special report in tomorrow’s News Letter.