Academy out to oust the holders in the first round of the Burney Cup

Academy captain Andrew Bennington will be hoping to drive his side to victory. Pic: Rowland White / Presseye
Academy captain Andrew Bennington will be hoping to drive his side to victory. Pic: Rowland White / Presseye

It’s a tie befitting of the highest occasion.

In fact, it’s a match-up normally reserved for the latter stages of Cup competitions.

Banbridge Academy's star man Jake Rowe will have to perform if they're to see off Wallace. Pics: Rowland White / Presseye

Banbridge Academy's star man Jake Rowe will have to perform if they're to see off Wallace. Pics: Rowland White / Presseye

But this weekend, Banbridge Academy and rivals Wallace High School will go toe to toe in the second round of the Burney Cup.

Thanks to the quirks of an open draw and in a repeat of last year’s final, the Academy will travel to take on the Lisburn school at Lisnagarvey’s Comber Road on Saturday morning (pass-back 10.30am).

Wallace have won the trophy two years in a row, beating the Academy in the final on both occasions.

In 2014, it took penalty flicks to separate the sides after Sean Murray netted an equaliser with the last hit of normal time for Wallace.

Banbridge's Mark Barlow in action during the McCullough Cup semi-final. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Banbridge's Mark Barlow in action during the McCullough Cup semi-final. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Last year, there was more late heartache for Bann, who succumbed to another last gasp goal to lose out 3-2. The season, the rivalry has already been renewed in the McCullough Cup with the Academy losing heavily 6-3 in the semi-final.

Because the tie is in the earlier stages of the competition, first out of the hat Wallace have home advantage. With Cup deciders, however, normally played at Comber Road anyway, that doesn’t phase the Academy lads.

Their young side certainly have character. They have already defied the odds to win the Irish Schoolboys’ earlier in the season.

And while their coach Mark Cordner accepts his opponents will be the fancied side this weekend, he wants another upset.

“Wallace are always at home in finals and semi-finals so that’s nothing new for us,” he said. “No matter what round it is, you just have to go there and beat them.

“We couldn’t play any worse than we did the last time we faced them (in the McCullough Cup semi-final), but then they probably couldn’t either. It wasn’t a great game and there were a lot of indidiual errors.

“I think it will be a cracking tie this time though. I think it will be close, it’ll come down to the rub of the green and discipline. They will be the favourites but there won’t be much in the game.”

To prepare for the match, the Academy begun training two weeks earlier than normal and were back in on 2nd January.

They have played a warm-up match against Banbridge Hockey Club and drew 3-3 in a repeat of the Irish final against Wesley College.

Their preparations aren’t over, either, as they take on both Regent House and Mossley Hockey Club on Tuesday.

“The attitude of the lads has been excellent,” said Cordner.

“We’ve made a couple of changes positionally and it’s going well. There are a lot of guys who have done a lot of growing too, because it’s such a young team.”

The Academy will look to the likes of Banbridge HC first team players Jake Rowe and Kyle Marshall along with captain Andrew Bennington to drag them through to victory.

Wallace, however, will be going out all guns blazing to make sure they end the season with silverware, having lost out in the McCullough Cup decider to a strong Sullivan side. They will be fired on by the likes of skipper Matthew Nelson.