The Rivalry: Season Finale

The Banbridge Academy hockey team are all set for their Burney Cup final against old rivals Wallace High School on Wednesday. Pics: Rowland White / Presseye.
The Banbridge Academy hockey team are all set for their Burney Cup final against old rivals Wallace High School on Wednesday. Pics: Rowland White / Presseye.

It’s the climax of a saga that has been running for seven years.

And as this Banbridge Academy side gear up to take on their old rivals Wallace High School for one final time, there’s only one thing on their minds. They want the Burney Cup back.

Skipper Johnny McKee hopes to get his hands on the trophy.

Skipper Johnny McKee hopes to get his hands on the trophy.

“It’s the dream end for a lot of us,” said Academy skipper Johnny McKee before Wednesday’s final at Comber Road (pass-back 2.30pm).

“A lot of the boys are in Upper Sixth now and this will be our final game for the Academy. When we saw the draw for the semis, we all thought that this was the game that we want. We’ve gone up against this Wallace team the whole way through school so now there would be no better way to go out than to beat the enemy and win the Cup.”

McKee had to watch on last season as Wallace lifted the trophy after they completed a penalty-strokes victory against Bann, who had been just second away from success.

Sean Murray levelled the match with the last hit of normal time to set up the win for the Lisburn school.

But one year on and with a similar squad this time around, McKee says his side are all the stronger for the experience.

“We’re only missing a few lads from last year and they provide us with more motivation; to try and do it for the boys who have left,” said MKee

“Our squad has matured a year and we’ve been playing some very good hockey together.”

The Academy are chasing a fourth senior double after securing the McCullough Cup back in December with a 2-1 victory over the same opposition.

“The McCullough Cup went well so that gave us a wee bit of revenge but now we really want to do the double and get the Burney Cup back as well,” said McKee.

“We’ve been playing well. In the All Irelands at the start of the season, we played some good hockey but a tough group ultimately meant that we ran out of juice in the semi-final. Our McCullough Cup campaign was very good. We played well the whole way through, even in the final as we went 2-0 up.

“They got one back and it was tight in the end but we got the result.”

That McCullough success was third time lucky for the Academy, who had lost to Wallace in their previous two big encounters; the Burney final and All Ireland semi.

If they can come out on the right side this time around, they’ll pick up the Burney Cup for the 14th time and on the fifth occasion in the last six years.