Wins in games two and three of schools competition

BANBRIDGE Academy beat Bandon Grammar 4-0 in game two of the Irish Schools.

The game was quickly set alight when Jonny McKee smashed home a reverse stick on four minutes.

Again a fine run from Rory Woods set up McKee who smartly squared the ball for Warnock to make it two. Some composed and neat play from Armstrong and Reid sent McKee free and he finished well to make it 3-0 at the interval.

The second half began tentatively and Bandon seemed content to break down the flow of play. Several clumsy challenges meant the Academy were awarded several penalty corners and it was McKee who wrapped it up at 4-0 with still 23 minutes of the half remaining.

Again changes were made and the back four of Ferguson, Neville, Watt and Knox were calm and resilient to any Bandon attacks.

This result set the Academy up now for a showdown with Sutton Park, Dublin who themselves beat Bangor.

The Sutton Game will long be remembered for a number of reasons. Firstly the arrival of umpires to the delight of both schools, a situation unsuitable at this stage in any competition. The second was simply the quality of the hockey on show and the team spirit and belief that shows sometime skill can match will.

The Academy took the lead through a flying run by Rory Woods, and his reverse stick stunner saw a trademark pigeon celebration. The Academy panicked in the circle and sacrificed the lead just a few moments later and keeper Peter Bingham had little chance as the Sutton forward expertly levelled matters form the set piece with a fine bit of individual skill at the top circle.

The Academy once again played neat and skilful hockey and Jonny McKee danced through a melee of tackles before smashing home his reverse stick into the Dubliners top corner to give the Academy the 2-1 lead into the interval.

Tired legs and cramp were evident now on both sides and discipline too meant both teams suffered several green sin bin cards, little real advantage but staggering progress. Then with just 12 minutes remaining Sutton dragged home a peach to level it and give them the job of simply getting one more to make it to their first ever Irish Schools semi final under a youthful and passionate Scott Beattie.

It seemed that would be the case as with just four minutes to go they latched onto a through pass and nudged home the ball from the by line to put their team into scenes of celebration.

With the two umpires already having signalled two minutes remaining the Academy kept believing in their system and structure and Woods earned a free just outside the 25. The rest well to be truthful was like a story from Roy of the Rovers!

McKee passed free to Reid who checked left to right before hitting the turbo. With great eye contact he picks out Matthew Hurst who used all his cricketing skill to edge it high into the side netting with only eight seconds remaining.

The Academy crowd and players kept their cool and McCracken took the ball to the corner to see the game out. Once again Academy Hockey remained the only Ulster School in the final four.

The evening meal provided by Wallace High was excellently organised by their PE departments staff and showers of compliments came the Academy’s way for hosting group games at the school by the Ulster Branch.