THE sporting media’s attention was rightly focused on Alfie Devine yesterday when the 16-year-old netted in Tottenham Hotspur’s 5-0 win over Marine – becoming the club’s youngest ever player and scorer.

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Alfie Devine celebrates. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Keen Saints followers of a certain age will recall that Alfie’s dad Sean was a nippy half back who had a spell at Knowsley Road between 1987-91, playing 39 games at 6 and 7.

He sadly suffered a shocking leg break in the last of those matches – the Challenge Cup first round at Swinton and was transferred to Oldham the following year.

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His finest hour and a half in the red vee, however, came in the 1990 Challenge Cup semi-final – at a venue that young Alfie can hope to shine on in years to come…..Old Trafford.

Alas, this would end up in a late heartbreak in the closing minutes.

After crushing Whitehaven, Mike McClennan’s mob faced a more formidable and familiar foe in the last hurdle before Wembley – Wigan.

On paper Saints stood no chance – not against the best team money could buy; Andy Gregory and Shaun Edwards in the halves, and Kevin Iro, Joe Lydon, Dean Bell in the back line and Ellery Hanley in his pomp. These were the very guys who had made the men in the red vee such a laughing stock at Wembley ’89.

However, in an enthralling game worthy of the Old Trafford surroundings, a rejuvenated Saints stuck it to them – ensuring there was no walkover.

Making full use of the open spaces teen scrum half Sean Devine nipped in for the first with Les Quirk long-range gem being a score worthy of booking a cup final passage.

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Les Quirk

Taking the ball inside his own 20-metre line, the deceptively quick Cumbrian scorched around speedster Joe Lydon and then his long strides ate up the yards to take him past Ged Byrne and Steve Hampson for a wonder try.

The noise from the Saints contingent in the 26,489 crowd packed in the Stretford End reached a crescendo because suddenly there was a real belief that they could do it.

Crucially, Saints lost skipper Cooper through injury for a 10-minute spell – and while he was off the game turned and the lead became a two-point deficit.

A Paul Loughlin penalty levelled the scores 10 minutes from time and it became a game of next score wins.

There were half chances in the closing stages, particularly when Devine tore through the Wigan defence to roars of approval. Alas the support was missing and the young scrum half was dragged into touch.

On the other side of the ball Saints’ defence was also on its mettle, epitomised by a tremendous try saving tackle by teenage full back Gary Connolly on superstar Lydon.

After throwing all bar the kitchen sink at Wigan, and soaking up all in return, Saints lost in the cruellest of fashion 90 seconds shy of a hooter that should have brought a replay.

From 40 metres out Ellery Hanley blasted past four would-be defenders before popping a ball forward for the supporting Andy Goodway. The final pass was a mile forward – but the protestations were in vain as the GB second row plonked the ball beneath the posts.

The roars of ‘for-ward’ were closely followed by what was then that most awful sound in rugby league from the other part of the ground; ‘Wi-gan, Wi-gan, Wi-gan!’

It was a genuine heartbreaker – even Saints fans hardened by miserable Wembley defeats left the ground ashen faced, such was the manner of this loss.

It had been a classic game, one still talked about today by a generation of fans – and one in which you had to feel for forwards like big George Mann, Bernard Dwyer and Shane Cooper who had slogged their guts out against the big Wigan pack only to be foiled in the last minutes.

But you also felt for youngsters like the 20-year-old Devine on what would turn out to be his last big stage as a Saint.