Banbridge Academy Boys’ Hockey Under 15s travelled to Lisnagarvey Hockey Club just before Easter to play Cookstown High School in the Ulster Hockey Richardson Cup final. The match was a repeat of the Bannister Bowl final from two seasons ago which saw this group of Academy boys lift their first Ulster title.
After the superb progress made through the competition, which saw the Academy defeat Sullivan Upper, Wallace High and Grosvenor Grammar School, the boys entered the Final full of confidence but determined not to underestimate their opponents. The game started with end to end hockey but both sides defending well in their circles. Cookstown crashed several balls across the Bann goalmouth but Elliott Haw easily watched them by.
As the first half progressed, the individual brilliance of the Bann players started to show. Chris Curry was a constant threat, and his pressure along with Ben Ingram led to the opening goal. Cookstown struggled to get the ball out of their own half from several hit outs. Edward Rowe stole the ball just over the half way line and marched forward in a positive manner. Despite being repeatedly fouled he struggled on and rounded the goalkeeper before slotting the ball into the goal as he was off-balance.
This goal obviously unsettled Cookstown as within minutes they were two down. Again Rowe stole the ball in midfield but this time he slipped the ball to Mark Cowan who drove into the circle and scored from a narrow angle. Cookstown were not to lie down however as they pulled a goal back just before half time from a well executed penalty corner to give Bann a slender advantage at the break.
The words of wisdom given out by coach Miskelly and assistant coach Jess were well received at half time as the Academy boys started the second half on fire. Within seconds of the restart Chris Curry found himself in space in the circle but the ball bounced agonisingly over the back line. Cookstown started to have some joy getting the ball out through their right-back but a great tactical switch to bring on Cody Large up front for Bann soon blocked that line of attack. In fact Large created the Academy’s next chance as he crossed for an in-rushing Cowan who could only stretch to deflect the ball inches wide.
Edward Rowe showed why he has been a main-stay for the school 1st XI this season as he took control of the game and dominated it all over the park. From the next two Bann penalty corners, he rifled the ball past the bewildered Cookstown keeper to make the game save for the Academy. Cookstown all but gave up at this stage and on another day Thomas Acton and Large could easily have added to the Bann lead. The Academy defence of Josh Gibson, Christian Fee, Jamie McArdle and Matthew McClimonds, who were comfortable throughout the game, now found themselves becoming attacking creators as Cookstown retreated further towards their own goal.
The final whistle was greeted with cheers of delight as the Academy boys deservedly become champions. Captain Chris Curry thanked his teammates, coaches and the huge travelling Bann support who all witnessed a dominant victory.
Banbridge Academy Boys’ Hockey Under 15 2018 Richardson Cup winning Squad:
Elliott Haw(GK), Matthew McClimonds, Josh Gibson, Christian Fee, Jamie McArdle, Mark Cowan, Edward Rowe, Louis Rowe, Lewis Groves, Chris Curry(c), Ben Ingram, Charlie Rowe, Thomas Acton, Evan Calvert, Cody Large, Joshua Priestly