THE NFU Mutual sponsored Academy U12 played their first series of games at both nine-a-side and full pitch 11-a-side format against hosts Newry Olympic HC.
The U12s were without several key players due to a junior SU weekend but with the emphasis on participation at this early stage the boys came up trumps at the Belfast Road venue.
The 11-a-side game saw the Academy knock it about with some style and Philip Campbell grabbed two fantastic strikes, a real eye catching individual with speed and skill in abundance. He was joined by the flair of the midfield unit in Harry Lockhart and Josh McAdam who both ended fine performances with a goal.
The team played some decent platform passing moves and were rarely troubled at the back with James Orr snuffing Newry attacks out.
So a very successful start from the boys on the full pitch format considering players unavailability with the other school event taking place.
At the nine-a-side tournament the boys did themselves and the school proud with Harry Lockhart scoring six, Philip Campbell eight, Josh McAdam four, Harry Farson three during their unbeaten four game run. The B side did very well with one defeat and three wins with Tom Stannage grabbing three goals and Matthew Holmes hitting in his first Academy goal.
The morning ended with hospitality from the Newry club, who themselves have enjoyed a real resurgence in playing numbers and depth of talent at all levels. This can only be good for local hockey and rekindles the rivalry with the stick and ball.
The school express thanks of course to all the players who committed themselves to Academy sport this morning as well as the parents for their tremendous vocal support at Newry. Further thanks to the staff of Mr Stewart, Mr Acheson and Mr Miskelly for giving their time away from family this morning. Finally to Warren Adams and Newry Olympic for the invitation to games so early in the season at this level, they look forward to returning the gesture over the next month at our school venue.
The Under 13 side too felt the loss of many players away on SU duty but still managed to field a sixteen man squad to travel to Kilkeel. Their game started brightly with Charlie Norris skinning the entire Kilkeel midfield unit before slipping the ball into the goal with a cool finish.
This kick started a goal fest with Callum Gibson continuing his fine season with a double strike of the highest order to give the Academy a 3-0 score line at half time.
The game went further away from the hosts when Issac Black lashed home number four after a well timed pass from Norris again. The Academy enjoyed plenty of ball and Jay Brackenburry made it five with a neat tap in at the back post. The last goal of the game came from a goalmouth scramble with Robbie Keown making it 6-1 after Kilkeel slotted home from one of their set pieces.
More challenging sides will come post Halloween and places on this squad will be difficult to maintain with some of the talent in Year 8 stepping up.
The Under 14 side for the second week enjoyed the talents of past pupil Matthew Bell as coach with Mr Cordner having to deputise for Mr Dawson with the 1st X1. He took no time to set up his team in dominant form this year, winning seven from seven so far and they made short sharp work of Kilkeel grabbing seven goals with no reply.
The Academy goals came from Nathan Liggett (2), Alex Wilkins (2), Ben McConnell, Ryan Jordan and Josh Peacock.
Meanwhile the Senior First X1 beat Kilkeel 6-0 in their final group game of the McCullough Cup.
The visitors picked up a substantial head wound in the opening minute, thanks to Dr Warnock who attended the injured pupil from Kilkeel.
This broke both sides concentration and a scrappy 18 minutes passed before Jonny McKee slammed home from top circle when given time to execute his rifled shot. Just moments later Ben Cosgrove limped off with a reoccurrence of a hamstring injury picked up at the beginning of September and Camin McCluskey replaced him in left midfield.
A better series of passes involving Armstrong, McCluskey and Hurst allowed McKee to dance his way through several challenges before his deft wall pass set up Rory Woods to double the lead in the 23rd minute. This seemed to act as a catalyst for more positive attacks and Warnock got on the end of a cross to make it 3-0 at the interval.
The second half saw more patient passing hockey with Woods and McCracken making some fine moves up front but unable to trap it in the circle when well placed. The rearguard saw several changes with the rotation of Ferguson, Neville, Knox, Hurst and Watt and with fluency now going forward McKee made it 4-0, then 5-0 with two slick set pieces to earn him his hat trick.
The returning Thomas Sturgeon got 30 minutes of hockey under his belt after a long leave with glandular fever and fully deserved the teams final goal with a neat sweep from the injection at the corner.
The attention this week will be all on the Seniors as they defend the Irish Schools title against Bangor on Wednesday at the Academy’s own Astro pitch for a 3pm start. This will be another first for the school, hosting no less than four games in the tournament and with a very long and vibrant squad the emphasis will be on gaining top level tournament experience for years to come. The fully committed team will be up against it of that there is no doubt but will hope their second game against Bandon Grammar at CCB on Thursday at 1130am goes their way. If this is the case a showdown against the favourites from Dublin Sutton Park will await at Lisnagarvey HC on the Thursday at 3.30pm.
The senior and junior hockey squads at the Academy are proudly sponsored by NFU Mutual and The Belmont Hotel, Banbridge.