Banbridge Academy’s girls have won their first ever Ulster Hockey Junior Schools Cup, seeing off previous holders Rainey 3-1 in the final.
It was a thrilling Cup run with a victorious end as the girls scored 30 goals in six matches, conceding only three.
In the run-up to the final, they beat Hunterouse College 6-0, Bloomfield Collegiate 6-1, Ballymena Academy 5-0, Wallace High School 8-1 and in the semi-finals Sullivan Upper School 2-0.
The first five minutes of the final saw the Rainey girls moving the ball forward using width and aggressive play, but the Banbridge girls settled well, their defence of Ellen Reid, Holly Hannah and Claire Waring was consolidated by Gina Woods the team captain, who remained focused and calm. Their patience was rewarded after 12 minutes by a penalty corner. This was stopped and sent into the back of the net past Rainey keeper Victoria Causley by Katie McKee, the Banbridge centre midfielder.
Lauren McGaw and Sophie Mount, Banbridge attackers played well up front and directed their second corner which was again slammed to the keeper by Katie McKee, but Emma Gregson from Banbridge scooped it past on the rebound leaving the score 2-0 at half-time.
After half-time, a determined Rainey sent long passes through the centre again challenging the strength of the opposition but not connecting in the circle, the confident Banbridge keeper Rebekah Hillis saw the ball clear.
Banbridge retaliated and switched play, driving the ball down the right side. Gemma Hassan supported by Charlotte Campbell and Rebecca Dougan carried the ball forward with great skill which resulted in Banbridge’s third corner of the match. Again they scored by a very clever deflection from the back line from captain Woods.
The 3-0 scoreline inspired Rainey to play their best hockey of the match and in a last final effort, they connected through the left and carried the ball directly at a reeling Banbridge defence. Umpire Cyril Vennard awarded their first corner and in a confident and determined fashion the ball was stick stopped by Ellen Campbell and slammed home by Carla Brown.
A delighted Rainey had little time to celebrate as the closing whistle blew to herald a victory for the outstanding Academy side.
This result reflected the recent development of Girls Hockey throughout the Provence and the high standard of coaches available in the Banbridge area. Ireland and Ulster player and Banbridge Academy coach Bruce McCandless focuses on the all round development of hockey players and has contributed alongside Banbridge Hockey Club coach Sheree Totton to this team’s success.
Banbridge Academy Junior Development Squad players: Captain Gina Woods, Rebekah Hillis, Tanya Thompson, Zoe McDowell, Ellen Reid, Holly Hanna, Claire Warring, Rebekah Dougan, Emma Gregson, Charlotte Campbell, Katie McKee, Maeve Cummins, Lauren McGaw, Nadia Benallal, Sophie Mount and Gemma Hassan (Caitlyn Lyness)
Coaches: Bruce McCandless, Sheree Totton
Manager: Heather Camblin