All-Ireland glory for the Academy girls!

BANBRIDGE Academy Senior Girls’ hockey team travelled to Wesley College, Dublin, to take part in The Daphne Hall All-Ireland Schools’ Championship.
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The event was staged last Thursday and Friday.

Report: Banbridge Academy

The Academy qualified for the tournament by finishing third in the Wooden Floor Super League.

The winning team pictured with principal Robin McLoughlin and coaches Neil Madeley, Julie Sally and Jenny Leslie.The winning team pictured with principal Robin McLoughlin and coaches Neil Madeley, Julie Sally and Jenny Leslie.
The winning team pictured with principal Robin McLoughlin and coaches Neil Madeley, Julie Sally and Jenny Leslie.

This is a new competition to expand the All-Ireland experience to those school teams competing at the top end of their respective league and cup competitions, but just missing out on the silverware.

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First up the girls faced Crescent College. This match was fairly even and at half-time the score remained 0-0.

It was the Bann girls who broke the deadlock and scored through an expert Ruby Johnston short corner conversion with the game finishing 1-0.

Next up was Loreto Foxrock. The Academy were aware that Foxrock had beaten Kilkenny 3-0 in their first game and knew this would be a difficult encounter.

The celebrations get into full swing.The celebrations get into full swing.
The celebrations get into full swing.

Both teams cancelled each other out and the contest remained scoreless.

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On the second day, Bann played Loreto Kilkenny, hitting the net twice with goals from Ruby Johnston and Alyssa Somerville. The game finished 2-0.

Then it was a waiting game to see how the other match in the group would affect the final positions.

At this point, even though the Academy remained unbeaten, they needed to wait until Crescent had the win against Foxrock, to finish top of the table and gain a place in the final against fellow Ulster school, Portadown College.

The Banbridge and Portadown teams before the final.The Banbridge and Portadown teams before the final.
The Banbridge and Portadown teams before the final.

Portadown had proved so far this season a bridge too far for the Academy with the Edenvilla-based side winning both hard-fought games.

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The Academy side, however, were determined not to miss out on an All-Ireland title and it was a more confident and prepared side that lined out on a cool sunny afternoon.

Portadown asserted the early pressure and Bann had to work extremely hard to keep the free-scoring College forwards at bay. Gradually, the Bann girls began to get a foothold in the game using their entire outfield squad to keep the energy levels high and deny Portadown any real quality possession.

The first three quarters remained scoreless but with half chances going abegging at both ends.

Going into the final quarter, it was all to play for with two quality teams slugging it out for top place.

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Bann were on a roll and with six minutes to go they began to force a series of penalty corners.

From their third award, they executed the perfect finish with Ruby Johnston rattling the backboards with a superb shot to give her side the lead just when it mattered most.

Bann expected a reaction from a quality side that has been beaten in both the league and cup finals by Royal School Armagh – and they were not wrong. Portadown blazed forward in an attempt to get an equaliser, but the Bann defence and keeper Jasmine Magowan-Balfour were resolute and broke out at the end to relieve the pressure.

The final whistle sounded and a superb sporting final was brought to a close with Bann being crowned the Daphne Hall Trophy All-Ireland Champions – much to the delight of the players and a large number of parents who travelled to support the team.

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A fitting way to close out a very positive season for the squad as the leavers conclude their school hockey careers with a superb win and those returning next year will have a significant base to start building from next season.

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