Academy v Midleton
Bann began their group campaign last Wednesday with a well-deserved 3-0 victory over hosts Midleton College.
The Group B match hit-off in front of a huge partisan crowd who lined all sides of the pitch.
The home side started the game well and young Academy keeper Luke Roleston was forced to make an early save from a low shot to his left.
The visiting side’s nerves were settled mid-way through the first half when they were awarded their second penalty corner of the match and captain Johnny McKee dragged the ball home to score low past the diving keeper’s right hand.
Midleton appeared determined to get back into the game at all costs and eyebrows were raised at the challenges the home side were attempting. However, on 20 minutes Jake Rowe strode past several robust tackles as he broke from the half-way line, leaving defenders in his wake, and dispatched a fierce reverse stick shot past the stranded keeper to make it 2-0 at half-time.
The vocal support tried to lift Midleton in the second half but the Academy had done the hard work in the first half and the home side’s spirit seemed broken as they continued to be out-classed.
Timothy Watt in particular enjoyed a fine game at the helm of defence and any threats from Midleton were dealt with effectively giving them no circle penetrations in the second half. The third and final goal put the game beyond the hosts.
After a penalty corner had been charged down, the ball broke to Watt who calmly slotted the ball through the keeper’s legs before he had time to react. Young Mark Barlow showed promise of what is to come in future years when he came on to debut in the tournament and caused havoc in the Midleton defence.
Academy v rbai
On Thursday, the Academy had to overcome local rivals RBAI, who had lost 4-0 on the opening day of the Championships.
After the impressive display against Midleton College, coach Mark Cordner kept the same starting XI. But RBAI were determined to put up a tough defensive display against their stronger opponents and played the majority of the game with the whole team behind the ball defending. In fact, neither Luke Roleston nor Andy Adair, who shared the Academy’s goalkeeping duties, had a save to make during the entire match. Any RBAI attacks were easily dealt with by the Academy defence with Ben Knox and Sam Green impressing.
With no score at half-time, the Academy knew they had to take their chances in the second half. After direction from assistant coach Owen Magee, the team came out strongly after the break.
Once again captain Johnny McKee led the way by rifling home a drag-flick into the top corner of the net from a penalty corner.
Sam Farson doubled the lead when he pounced on a loose ball in the RBAI circle to fire high past the keeper into the roof of the net.
With goal difference a possible factor in deciding the group winners, the Academy continued to attack. Peter McKnight was a throne in the RBAI defence but it was Robbie Scott who made the scoreline 3-0 when he deflected in at the back post after some excellent play by Josh Rowe.
Academy v Wesley college
Going into the final group match against Wesley, the Academy now knew a draw would be sufficient to proceed as group winners to the semi-finals.
The game was a tense affair with supporters from both sides lining the side of the pitch. The Academy took the lead early on through Johnny McKee but they were undone immediately as Wesley equalised straight from the hit-off as the Academy’s defence was caught out of position. However, the boys continued to work hard and they went into half-time ahead after a goal from Robbie Scott.
The early stages of the second half followed a similar pattern with the Academy attacking and they increased their lead further after a superb goal from David Armstrong made it 3-1.
Wesley then had all the lady-luck for the rest of the game as two deflected penalty corners saw the Dublin side draw level. A nervy final 15 minutes for the Academy saw the boys clinging onto to their semi-final spot.
The players gave everything with many suffering from cramp as the game neared its conclusion. Wesley withdrew their goalkeeper for the final minutes of the game and played with 11 outfield players but the Academy held on to secure a 3-3 draw and a place in the semi-finals.