The Academy 1stX1 Boys’ Hockey team took one step closer to the domestic double by returning from Raphoe worthy 4-1 winners to reach this year’s Burney Cup Semi-final. The squad, sponsored by Sintons at the Bridge, made the lengthy trip to Royal and Prior school knowing fine well that only a top notch performance would see off a side tipped to roll them over.
The squad had been well prepared in the run up and some timely returns from Dylan Cowan and Charlie Norris meant a fully loaded Academy would provide confidence in patterns and powerful set attacks. The game , played in front of a vocal crowd with a tremendous travelling support from Banbridge got off to the best possible start as Joel Reid collected a magnificent through pass from Nathan Liggett before pivoting and burying his shot past the hapless Donegal keeper top make it 1-0 Academy. The home side though stepped up quickly winning a series of penalty corners but Luke Roleston snuffed out their efforts very well and some fine defensive running meant defence was soon turned to attack and the Academy almost made it two when some fine individual play from Campbell set up Liggett who just came short on purchase – the Raphoe defender getting the guess right and clearing the danger.
Resilient defending from aerial after aerial was evident and James Anderson alongside Ryan Simms and Kyle Marshall did well in isolating the home side’s attacks – with Jake Rowe reaping the reward with quality outlet play. The half ending 1-0 to the Banbridge boys.
The chat from Cordner and Clarke at the interval revolved around patience and forcing home opportunities and the team certainly delivered as within two minutes of the restart an entertaining aerial from Kyle Marshall sent Philip Campbell on his way and the young Donacloney star swivelled and hit an unstoppable reverse shot from top circle into the far left corner – what a finish. The Banbridge support certainly enjoyed the next fifteen minutes as Bingham, Lockhart, Barlow and Reid all enjoyed plenty of possession but Raphoes never say die attitude was in abundance. The direct style hockey from the Raphoe midfield was rewarded when a cruel deflection saw the Academy concede a set play and the score was pegged back to 2-1 with Roleston having no chance from a third phase effort.
Rather than panic the Academy stepped up their attacks and really could and indeed should have cashed in on several key breakaways when they had players over but either mistrapped or unforced error led to lack of attempts. Nevertheless Jake Rowe and Kyle Marshal began to impose their influence and darting menacing runs from Liggett, Campbell and Reid led to an upgrade and the Academy’s third corner of the game. Once again up stepped Rowe and his drag ripped home found the side netting to restore the two goal advantage. Not to be outdone Lockhart and Reid continued to link well with Norris and Simms and with attention off Rowe it allowed him to sneak in collecting a free hit mid pitch before going on a solo run – waltzing to by line and flicking home the final nail in Raphoes Burney Cup hopes.
The boys now face Sullivan Upper in the Burney Cup Semi Final at Comber Road on Wednesday 8 March 17 at 1330. The Ulster Branch is charging £2 into the game (£4 Adults) and the boys would love to have a solid support at the game.
The squad would like to thank John Clarke, Matthew Bell and Simon Jess for their injection of thoughts and skills in the training lead up and the travelling past pupils, staff and parents for their wonderful commitment and support. They would also like to the Parents Association at Royal & Prior for providing food post game and the Principal of R&P for his kind words.
COACHES: M.CORDNER/J.CLARKE MANAGER:C.WALKER