Banbridge Academy have been able to call upon Ireland stars Eugene Magee and Matthew Bell to help them prepare for Wednesday’s afternoon’s Senior Cup final against Wallace High School at Lisnagarvey (2pm).
The pair are role models for hockey players in Banbridge and further afield and Magee is one of just three players in Ireland who can boast more than 200 international caps.
Unsurprisingly, the Academy squad derived immense benefit from the two Bann players’ help in the build-up to today’s game in which both teams will be aiming to lift the famous trophy for the first time in the competition’s 110-year history.
Team captain Orla Thompson is hoping that the assistance of Magee and Bell might just give them the edge over the Lisburn school.
“Eugene and Matthew took a training session for the Banbridge women’s club team which involved a large proportion of the school squad.” explained the midfielder.
“Their expertise and attention to detail allowed us to work on our basic techniques as well as learning new skills and movements and it was a great experience to be coached by such hockey icons.
“However, no final is ever easy, and both teams want to take the title for the first time so there is definitely a lot to play for.
“I think the atmosphere from the crowd will also motivate both sides and so it will be a high tempo match.”
Orla is one of six remaining members of the Academy squad that lost the 2015 final and she is hoping for the perfect send-off before she leaves school later this year.
“We are now the older members of the team, so hopefully we can use that experience to motivate the younger players on the squad.” she added.
“It definitely acts as an extra incentive to win as it wasn’t nice being on the losing team two years ago, and we certainly don’t want to go through that disappointment again.”
“For me personally it would be a fab ending to my last year of school and it would also be a fantastic achievement for the school to finally get our name on the cup, but I know Wallace will be feeling the same way.”
Wallace captain Jane Kilpatrick can certainly vouch for that and, like her opposite number, is expecting a closely-fought contest.
“It will be an extremely difficult game, especially with both teams wanting to win it so much for the first time in their school’s history.” she said.
“Obviously we will be nervous and excited ahead of the match but we will just take it as it comes and our coaching staff have been giving us tips to help us cope with atmosphere, the crowd and our nerves.
“As a team we are just taking it like any other match and going through our individual routines.
“But it would mean a lot to us to win the cup and I think I can speak on behalf of my team when I say it would be the highlight of our time at school.
“It would be the perfect reward for all the hard work we have put in this season.
“There are seven upper sixth students in the squad so it will be our last chance to win it and It would be brilliant for the school to win it for the first time as well. “