“Third Time Lucky” that’s the cry from the Banbridge Academy girls 1st XI camp ahead of their Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools Cup semi-final clash with Sullivan Upper from Holywood on Wednesday. The key fact that links in with this is that Sullivan and Bann have met each other at the semi or final stage of this competition over the past two seasons with Rory McIlroy’s former school coming out on top 2-1 on each occasion.
The locals had enjoyed the territorial advantage in both games but were unable to translate this ascendancy into goals and lady luck also deserted them when it came down to the crunch. Sullivan to their credit took their chances and ultimately this was what separated the two teams in both games. It is all set for another titanic battle when the two sides meet again and ironically for the first time this season having not already had their usual friendly fixture.
Bann will be looking to continue on from their impressive victory at Ballyclare in the quarterfinals and with the exception of the injured Lauren Megaw coach Neil Madeley is hopeful of having the rest of his squad available for the big game. This squad are aiming to go one better than a losing finalist spot in the early season Superleague Final when Armagh Royal gate crashed the Bann party to win2-1.
Bann have been in great form this season and already have the prestigious Topflight UK Schools Championship Trophy at the Lurgan Road base and aside from that Superleague defeat have enjoyed a near perfect run of victories in their friendlies. They work hard as a unit and will look to the likes so the Ulster and Irish stars Katie McKee, Emma Gregson, Nadia Benallal and Ellen Reid to make the difference. These 4 provide the flair but it’s the whole team approach that makes Bann such an effective unit.
Sullivan produced a rear guard performance to sneak past Methody in the previous round having scored early on in the game to win 1-0. Whilst not having a stand-out star in their team they are a hard working unit and will be a tough nut for the locals to crack. Their results so far have been mixed but have shown that they can mix it with the best when called upon. Add this to their cup pedigree and they will fancy their chances of extending their successes over Bann.
Wednesday’s game is at 2pm at Lisnagarvey and is the first game in a semi-final double header with Armagh Royal taking on Wallace High School in the other semi at 2.30pm. All four teams will be vying for a place in the biggest day out in Ulster schoolgirl hockey for the final on Wed 1st March. Can the locals Sullivan seize the moment? The form book suggests a Bann win but as the saying goes “it’s a funny old game!”