Banbridge Academy triumph against Friends School

Banbridge Academy Senior Boys’ are the Ulster Schools’ Champions for the first time since 2016 after defeating Friends’ School 4-1 in the Burney Cup final at the Playball Arena, Stormont.

In front of a raucous crowd, captain Charlie Rowe lifted high the most prestigious cup in schoolboy hockey as the Academy completed the provincial double following their McCullough Cup triumph in December.

The Academy’s route to the Burney Cup final had been relatively straight forward. After a bye in Round 1, they defeated Campbell College 8-2 in the quarter-final with Charlie Rowe, Matthew McKee and Ben Pollock all scoring two goals each. Unfortunately, during this match, influential forward Louis Rowe broke his collar bone to end his season early. The semi-final, against Cookstown High School, proved a more stern challenge for the Academy boys, but their dominance paid off as they won 4-2 after a stunning hat-trick from Matthew McKee.

Sign up to our daily NorthernIrelandWorld Today newsletter

And so on to the final at Stormont against a Friends’ side who the Academy had easily dispatched earlier in the season 8-0 and 5-0 in friendly matches. But a cup final was never going to be easy. The Academy lads got off to the perfect start when defender Matthew Stevenson scored his first goal of the season after converting a penalty corner drag low past the Friends’ goalkeeper. However, if the Banbridge side thought this match was going to be all one-way traffic they were quickly proved wrong. A poor defensive tackle led to a Friends’ penalty corner and after Connor Part in the Banbridge goal had made the initial save, Tom Archbold was on hand to tap in the equaliser.

Team coach and manager with the Burney Cup at at the Playball Arena, Stormont, left to right, Mr Simon Jess (1st XI and U15 coach) and Mr Colin Walker (team manager)

The Academy regained the lead from another penalty corner in the second quarter. After the initial attempt was charged down, the ball broke kindly for Stevenson who slapped in his second goal. The Academy had complete control of possession as half-time approached but Scott Hosiack in the Friends’ goal was inspired as he kept out efforts from McKee and Tommy Dobson.

After the break, Friends’ became extremely defensive as they struggled to cope with the Banbridge onslaught. While Hosiack was keeping Friends’ in the game at one end, they had little threat in attack as Stevenson was magnificent as he marshalled the Academy backline. However, it took a piece of magic from Charlie Rowe to make the game safe for the Academy. He picked the ball up in midfield and drove with speed and skill cutting past four defenders, before sprinting along the by-line and lifting the ball over the advancing goalkeeper to score from a ridiculously tight angle. Minutes later the game was dead and buried when pressure from Matthew Spence saw the ball break to Cody Large in the circle, who lashed a superb reverse stick shot high into the net to the delight of the large support of parents and pupils.

There were emotional scenes at the end of the match as the players celebrated a magnificent achievement as they completed the provincial season in Ulster winning every game. After putting in a man of the match performance, captain Charlie Rowe said afterwards that: “It was an amazing game with a great atmosphere.

“This win now gives us more motivation and confidence heading into the All-Ireland’s in Dublin. The only regret is that I couldn’t play alongside my brother Louis due to his injury.”

Team, coach and manager with the Richardson Cup at at the Playball Arena, Stormont

Banbridge Academy Boys’ Hockey Senior Squad: Connor Part(GK), Charlie Rowe(C), Matthew Stevenson, Aaron Baxter, Seb Best, Luke Watt, Ben Walker, Tom Hamilton, Tommy Dobson, Matthew McKee, Matthew Spence, Louis Rowe, Ben Farson, Cody Large, Ben Pollock, James Evans, Josh Brownlee, Adam McKee, Denver Golbey(GK).

Ulster Schools’ Richardson Cup Final

Banbridge Academy 5 – 0 Royal Belfast Academical Institution

The Banbridge Academy U15 team convincingly won the Richardson Cup at the Playball Arena to become the Ulster Schools’ U15 Champions.

Pictured with the Richardson Cup and the Burney Cup, left to right, Mr Simon Jess (1st XI and U15 coach) and Mr Colin Walker (team manager)

After several tight matches earlier in the season between the Academy and RBAI, this was expected to be a close final.

The match started as expected with both teams being nervously defensive but RBAI had the best of the early chances, with Banbridge goalkeeper James McCoy making a number of impressive saves.

The Academy sprung to life mid-way through the first half when, from their first penalty corner, captain Ben Thompson fired the ball high into the side net to give Bann the lead to the delight of the large support. By half time, the lead had been doubled. Adam McKee played a wonderful through ball to Alfie Norris who was brought down to give the Academy their second penalty corner. With everyone’s eyes on Thompson, McKee stepped up this time to drag the ball across the keeper into the far corner.

Coaches Simon Jess and Colin Walker were thrilled with the half-time lead and the Academy boys grew in confidence throughout the second half. Max Nicholson and James Macauley worked tirelessly to thwart any RBAI attacks and Mark Hanna was a constant threat breaking from midfield. McKee further increased the lead when he stole the ball before going on a solo run and slipping the ball past the advancing goalkeeper.

Team captains Ben Thompson (Richardson Cup) and Charlie Rowe (Burney Cup)

After a succession of penalty corners, the ball eventually fell perfectly for Charlie Tumilty to slot in goal number four. McKee looked certain to complete his hat-trick when Josh Osborne fed him from midfield but McKee rounded the goalkeeper only to see the ball bobble just wide of the post. However, McKee was determined not to miss out and just before the final whistle he scored to make it 5-0 and earn his well-deserved treble.

The immaculate Ben Thompson lifted high the Richardson Cup to cap a remarkable season for the Academy’s U15 side.

Banbridge Academy Boys’ Hockey U15 Squad: James McCoy(GK), Ben Thompson(c), Adam McKee, Max Nicholson, Drew Copeland, Ryan Jess, Mark Hanna, Ollie Small, Alfie Norris, Tom Mawhinney, Shaun Ward, Michael McHugh, Josh Osborne, Charlie Tumilty, James Macauley, Adam Ewart, Sam Bingham.