‘It’s not about size, it’s about ability, skill and strength.’

Banbridge Academy's Nathan Liggett take on Wesley's Harry McMahon. Pic: Presseye
Banbridge Academy's Nathan Liggett take on Wesley's Harry McMahon. Pic: Presseye

Even for a man so used to ushering his teams to success, Academy coach Mark Cordner couldn’t help but be overcome by Friday’s victory.

There was something different about this win for the Academy, a super-power of Irish Schools Hockey.

They’re usually amongst the front-runner but this time, they were tipped as the also-rans.

And that meant that even for such a trophy-laden coach, this side and their achievement was a special one.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” he told the ‘LEADER.’

“We expected a tough game and we got one but we played to a system and, all credit to the boys, they believed in themselves.

“There were unbelievable scenes at the end.

“There was real character from the boys to come back and I’m absolutely made up for them.”

Nobody outside the Academy’s team, largely made up of GCSE students, imagined they would come out on top of the island’s current crop of leading lights. But with Jake Rowe’s impeccable penalty corners, perhaps they always did have a chance.

“Jake has done really well, as has Kyle Marshall,” said Cordner. “Andrew Bennington has been phenomenal as a skipper and I’d single out Philip Campbell coming on as a Year 11. He’s tiny but he has great energy. It’s not about size, it’s about ability, it’s about skill and it’s about strength. That epitomizes what this squad is about.

“The character of this team has been unbelievable. It’s a very youthful squad who have got better game on game. They’re playing outside themselves and beyond their capabilities. We’re just so, so proud of them.”

Cordner, who hoped that there will be a ‘bright future’ for such a young squad, also made sure to praise Banbridge Hockey Club’s role in such a sweet success.

He said: “The players needed to be rested so a big thank-you to Mark Tumilty and Dougie Anderson for doing that at the club last weekend. That makes a difference.”