THERE certainly was no unlucky thirteen for the Academy U13 side as they beat a confident Wallace High School side on their own home patch to claim the title of Ulster Schools’ champions once again.
The locals have shown solid progression under Coach Simon Jess this year and with the likes of Owen Magee, Matthew Bell, Michael Anderson and Matthew Bell all pitching in on a regular basis the team has developed into a squad difficult to beat.
Their passing and technical ability at such a young age was commented upon by both sets of supporters as skipper Marcus Murdock took the game by the horns and scored a wonderful power shot from the baseline in off the post to lead 1-0 after just nine minutes.
The backline of Montgomery, Nash and Gibson were taking everything the lively front six from Wallace could serve up and ably backed by Luke Roleston in goal the Banbridge boys looked slick.
The play of Charlie Norris and Joel Reid in midfield was simply beyond their years and Norris in particular showed a consistency worthy of carrying a top player label. This was backed up by the skill and speed of Alex Donnelly, Jay Brackenburry and Patrick McNiff who enjoyed the lions share of attacks and one such move involving both saw the ball slipped to Murdock who smashed across goal fro Patrick McNiff to sweep high into the top corner to score a special goal, making it 2-0.
The Wallace side continued to press all the Academy possession particularly with the infringing press, and one turnover resulted in the young Lisburn forward scoring a great goal to pull the score back to 2-1 at half time.
The second half would see fresh legs in Harry Lockhart, Mark Barlow and Philip Campbell and their tenacious energy and drive wore the back line of Wallace down. This gave Joel Reid, Alex Donnelly and Callum Gibson all chances from set plays and open play but the Wallace keeper was in inspired form to keep the score at 2-1.
With just minutes remaining Jack Montgomery and Mark McCullough linked superbly and Marks blocking capability shown throughout the final took its place in the limelight again as his pass put McNiff clear. The telling runs to by line and quality ball back to Murdock almost saw him double his personal tally but for a superb clearance from the Wallace defender.
With the last attack of the game it took Calvin Nash and Luke Roleston in goal to have clear roles as the two combined to end a promising vein from Wallace when they dealt calmly with the shot. The boys and staff enjoyed the final whistle and Marcus Murdock lifted the Ulster Schools Bannister Bowl for 2013.
He gave a clear and intelligent acceptance speech thanking Wallace, the supporters, parents and the coaches for a fantastic end to a memorable season.
The staff, players, coaches and Banbridge Academy as a whole would like to thank the parents and supporters from the local club and indeed wider district. They made this week a special occasion for all concerned.
Our thanks too go to Banbridge Hockey Club for their co-operation in resting senior players and ensuring their quality of play in finals was maximised by being fresh; to their loyal sponsors the Belmont Hotel and NFU Mutual, Banbridge as well as kit suppliers Shoefair Sports.
There is still one final remaining and the Second XI will be gunning for Friends School, Lisburn on April 13 at the Dub, Belfast with a pass back time of 9.30am. They will be hoping to make it a four-trophy haul for the boys’ hockey sides this season and for many it will be their last game in an Academy shirt. All support is very welcome for this last game of the current season.
SQUAD: L. Roleston, C.Gibson, C.Nash, J. Montgomery, J.Reid, P.McNiff, A.Donnelly, C. Norris, J. Brackenbury, M. McCullough, M. Barlow P. Campbell, H. Lockhart, N. Part, I. Black, M. Murdock (captain).