The Academy U14 and U13 squads felt the pain of top end sport as both sides were given a sharp lesson on the importance of scoring in last week’s Ulster Hockey cup competitions. The first opponents faced Cody Large’s U14 side who have had a season of proper growth and some tangible development under a platform of quality coaching from the experienced head of Mr David Agnew.
The Keycare Ireland sponsored Academy 14s struggled to settle and paid a heavy price as an unmarked forward carved his initial shot for James Finlay to superbly save at full stretch but the rebound fell kindly for the second Regent forward who bundled the ball over the line after a mealy from McFarland, Bingham and Keery in a valiant attempt to keep the clean sheet. There was a wave of attacks and indeed three set pieces to the Academy side but the Regent keeper remained defiant and some slick attack from Louis and Charlie Rowe, alongside Matthew McKee and Seb Best, almost brought the equaliser on the stroke of half time.
The emphasis was upon regaining possession and the second half was all Academy with some great link play from Pollock and Louis Rowe putting Large in the clear but his backhand shot looped over and agonisingly nipped the bar. Further set plays went begging with solid Regent defence and they played the smart game keeping the ball in wide areas and making the clock empty out. The final minute gave the Academy one final chance from a set but the move was blocked well and Regent will now travel to CCB in the Ferris Cup with the winners representing Ulster Schools in the John Waring U14 Irish Schools post Easter.
It was to be a slightly similar tale for the Lewis Cousins’ led Academy U13 side as they made the trip to Sullivan Upper’s new and very impressive hockey centre. The 13s have enjoyed a very memorable and successful year with only a single defeat taken in early September away to Cookstown, followed by a continuous line of victories over RBAI, FSL, Wallace, CCB, Bangor, Regent, Kilkeel but stumbled in perfect conditions at the Hollywood venue.
The initial first half was really a case of all Sullivan with the Academy final ball to Matthew McKee just failing to stick and Ben Pollock who has been phenomenal all year in his partnership with the ace card McKee was thwarted by the Sullivan keeper from an acute angle. The boys crept in at halftime and Coach Cordner emphasized physicality and executing the close skills under pressure.
The second half was yet again a carbon copy of the type of flowing swift hockey the boys have played all year but the shooting boots had been left at home with chance after chance going begging or being well dealt with by the Sullivan keeper. So the game would go into extra time and further chances cleared from the line from Pollock, McKee and Walker saw the last ten seconds approaching.
From a crash field ball from back to front Sullivan grabbed a short corner and they made no mistake rifling it into the bottom corner past Connor Part who has enjoyed a season of fine performances – he was left with no chance as the ball was deflected high into the net. But as ever the boys never say die attitude almost grabbed another from the restart but with time against them the Sullivan boys would celebrate setting up the semi at home to Cookstown.
Coach Cordner will lament at the shortfall of goals gained in this match but he will quietly be satisfied at the amount of solid progress each member of the 13s Bannister squad has shown since moulding together in September. Every one of the squad should look forward to future opportunities to be coached and further hone the skills required to lift an Ulster title.
Both the 13s and 14s would like to publically thank all those parents, grandparents, family and friends who travelled to support both the Ferris Cup and Bannister Bowl battles.
Ferris Cup squad:
James Finlay(GK), Luke Watt, Jack McFarland, Charlie Keery, Kian Bingham, Charlie Rowe, Louis Rowe, Seb Best, Cody Large(c), Thomas Urwin, Cameron McCombe, Jordan Nummy, Ben Pollock, Matthew McKee, Josh Holden, Nathan Reid
Bannister Bowl squad:
Conor Part(GK), Lukas Moles, Simon Ferris, Murray Corkin, Morgan Murphy, Tom Hamilton, Matthew Stevenson, Thomas Cunningham, Ben Farson, Lewis Cousins(c), Ben Pollock, Matthew McKee, Jake Rainer, Ben Walker, Josh Brownlee, Matthew Spence, Denver Golby(GK)