There was a sense of sporting relief as the Academy Hockey boys took on their first block fixture of 2021 at the weekend. The morning showcased 88 players from 12-18 years of age all lining out in the famous Academy strip and enjoying quality games against Wallace at Havelock and School. With 4 clubs represented the Academy is enjoying its rebuild from Junior level and in his 25th Season at school Master in Charge Mr Mark Cordner gave his obvious delight.
“I am grateful for the patience of parents, sponsors and players over the past year as things have been challenging. As a school I am indebted to the staff for continuing to coach hockey for the duration of the summer term and this has allowed us to be in a position to engage with competitive fixtures at the earliest opportunity. Our planning has been pivotal to us hitting the ground running and we now have 46 seniors’ players training hard week in and out to do the best we can for the school and wider community. We have players from Lisnagarvey, Banbridge, Portadown and Newry Men’s Hockey Clubs to cater for and the passion for the game is very much alive in school regardless of the hurdles faced.”
The Sinton’s at the Bridge Sponsored Academy Boys’ 1st XI game started slowly for both teams with chances at both ends leading to good saves early on from the Wallace and Academy keepers to keep the score level in the first quarter. The growing reputation of Academy hitman Matthew McKee opened the scoring halfway through the second quarter with an excellent finish when he lobbed the ball over the Wallace keeper after a fine through ball from Ben Pollock. The Academy confidence began to grow as they held most of the possession for the remainder of the game, the Wallace defence playing well to hold the score to 1-0 at the halftime interval. In the second half Wallace proved to be dangerous on the counter and made the most of any Banbridge mistakes leading to some promising counter attacks which were denied by Connor Part and James Finlay. Following strong team passing play, Banbridge doubled their lead in the fourth quarter through a well worked back post finish which was tapped in by Ben Pollock and Matthew McKee secured his brace just before the final whistle with a reverse shot from the top of the circle, which secured a 3-0 win for Banbridge Academy Boys 1st XI. The team face Methodist College Belfast on Saturday 11th September, where they will look to build on this strong start to the season.
The Academy Senior 2ndXI found Wallace a stern opponent going down 3-1 at home after conceding a soft deflection mid-way through the first quarter. The game was a chance to get a system and platform together and Thomas Cunningham was beginning to boss things in midfield as a neat pass from him to Joshua Cash allowed the newly found forward to ghost in and score a neat finish to level it. The second quarter saw the best from the Academy with Cash having opportunities to push into the lead but a moment of switch off saw Wallace grab the lead against the flow of play.
The third quarter was much better contested from the Lisburn men and it took some great tackling from Joshua Moles and Lewis Cousins to keep them at bay. The Academy had several short corners after some great work by Josh Osbourne and Nathan Reid but failed to trap and move it sufficiently to threaten the equalizer. With minutes left the game was beyond doubt as Wallace scored a well worked team goal to end the game 3-1 to the Lisburn outfit.
The Academy U13 boys fared better against a well drilled and skilful Wallace side conceding two well taken goals in the first and third quarter before Max Murphy scored a wonderful goal when Owen Dobson slipped the by-line ball to him on a plate to leave the score at 2-1. Some superb play from Shaun Ward and Andrew McQuiston in midfield alongside the darting runs of Charlie and Mathew Patterson almost saw the equaliser arrive but for some quality saves from the Wallace keeper. Not to be outdone the Academy keeper Archie Knox pulled off one of the best saves seen in recent times as he plucked the ball out of the top left corner to end on a high. A very competitive game and a great test so early in the season.