Academy girls target an Ulster and All-Ireland double
Banbridge Academy won't be content to 'rest on their laurels' after lifting the Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools' Cup for the first time as they prepare for their all-Ireland championship debut at Havelock Park this week.
They desperately want to add the Kate Russell Cup to the trophy cabinet after defeating Wallace High 4-0 in the Ulster final, helped by a superb hat-trick scored by Katie McKee.
However, they realise that, even with home advantage, competing against the other provincial champions will represent a step up in class as they strive to emulate Methodist College, who did the double last season.
"It would be a dream to be crowned All-Ireland champions and the squad have been training hard and hopefully it will show in our game-play during the tournament," said Academy captain Orla Thompson.
"It would be a great way to end the season, but it will all depend on who performs best over the two days.
"Winning the Belfast Telegraph Senior Cup has given us the opportunity to play in this prestigious tournament, but if anything, there is more pressure as there is more to play for.
"There will be a higher level of hockey which will really push the team to our limits and all we can do is try our best."
Banbridge don't know too much about the opposition they will face on Thursday and Friday but they expect Leinster champions, Muckross Park, whom they play in their second game tomorrow, to provide the stiffest test.
"We were able to watch the Leinster final on video and it was a high tempo game, so I would expect the match against Muckross to be our toughest test."
Meanwhile, in the EY Irish Hockey League the focus of attention will be at the foot of the table on Saturday as Belfast Harlequins travel to Dublin to tackle leaders UCD and Pembroke face second placed Monkstown.
A point for Quins would be enough to keep them safe from the threat of relegation, provided Pembroke lose their game, but it's likely the race to avoid a play-off will go to the wire.
However, the Deramore side have been boosted by the fact they will have Gemma Frazer on board after the Irish international received a warning instead of a ban after accumulating three yellow cards.
The Ulster Elks will be automatically relegated if they lose to Loreto, while Pegasus and Ards face Railway Union and Cork Harlequins respectively.
WOMEN’S SENIOR FIXTURES
TONIGHT: Premier: Lurgan v Queen’s (7.45pm); Raphoe v Lisnagarvey (8pm)
TOMORROW: Kate Russell Cup: Ban-bridge Acad. v Colaiste Iognaid (9.30am); Banbridge Acad. v Muckross (12.40pm)
FRIDAY: Kate Russell Cup: Banbridge Acad. v Kilkenny Coll. (11am); Banbridge Acad. v Ursuline Convent (3.50pm)
SATURDAY: IHL: UCD v Belfast H’quins (2.50pm); Loreto v Elks (2.30pm); Cork H’quins v Ards (1pm): Pegasus v Railway (UUJ, 11.30am); Monkstown v Pembroke
Premier: North Down v Raphoe (1pm); Portadown v Dungannon (2.30pm); Queen’s v Ballymoney (1pm)
Senior One: Ballymena v Mossley (2.30pm); Rainey v Victorians (4pm).