Mark Barlow netted a hat-trick, including a spectacular last gasp winner as Banbridge Academy U15s won the Richardson Cup last week.
They had fallen 2-0 behind to Methody in a hotly contested final at Comber Road before roaring back to level by the break and eventually win 4-3.
It’s the biggest final in Northern Irish junior hockey and the match was certainly befitting of the occasion.
Methody went 1-0 up with a well-worked early goal within the first five minutes. The Banbridge defence had been caught sleeping.
Methody maintained control of the game for the next 10 minutes and gave Bann very little room for error due to the physical work by their forwards.
This hard work resulted in another goal just minutes after the first. Banbridge were sloppy on the ball and had been forced to pay the price.
However, Banbridge kept their heads high and began to keep possession a lot better with midfielders Harry Lockhart, Mark Barlow and Harry Farson leading the way forward.
Phillip Campbell won their first short corner by Barlow’s effort was well saved. The Methody keeper couldn’t keep Bann out for long though, as they got a goal back.
After a smart series of play from the Bann midfield, Campbell lobbed the keeper spectacularly after Barlow smashed the ball in from the end line.
This injected energy into Banbridge’s game which consequently resulted in a late short corner equaliser scored by Barlow, who intelligently beat the first runner with ease and finished a strong reverse across the goal into the bottom right corner at the end of the half.
Banbridge had high hopes going in to the second half but Methody proved a difficult side to beat and regained the lead 10 minutes after the break.
Bann didn’t let this interfere with their mindset and after a demanding physical period, they equalised once again, Barlow with the goal. He netted after a scramble in the circle from a Ryan Jones shotto tie things up at 3-3.
Banbridge coped well with the building pressure and controlled the last few minutes of possession unquestionably. With this new found momentum and the physical fitness of the players, Banbridge were too much for the Methody defence which resulted in a short corner on the final whistle.
All of the Bann players were moved up. It was Banbridge’s last chance to put the game to bed and become victorious.
The crowd fell silent and Barlow stepped up at the top of the circle poised and focused. The ball was pulled out perfectly by Lewis Bingham and Barlow released a powerful drag flick which clipped the post before striking the net.
It was a heartbreaking way to lose for Methody, who overall were the better team on the day. Banbridge used their opportunities and their physical prowess to complete what was an incredible comeback and win 4-3.
BANBIDGE ACADEMY: Ryan Simms (C), Scott Dale (Gk), Ross Stewart (Gk), Mark Barlow, Phillip Campbell, Harry Lockhart, John Scott, Ross Scott, Lewis Bingham, Eddie Rowe, Ryan Jones, Harry Farson, Alex Jordan, Josh McAdam, Benjamin Logan, Luke McConnell
COACH: Mr Mark Miskelly