Banbridge standing in the way of a Sullivan Upper double
Sullivan Upper's hopes of a schoolboy hockey double are still alive - but the spectre of All-Ireland champions Banbridge Academy looms large.
The Holywood school edged through their Sinton's At The Bridge Burney Cup semi-final at Lisnagarvey yesterday afternoon, beating Friends 2-1, but it's Banbridge they'll be facing in the decider as they bid to add to the McCullough Cup won in December.
Bann's second-half performance in the second semi-final triggered their 3-0 success over RBAI, with Kyle Marshall scoring two of goals.
But first Sullivan's success, and it was a tight one with Friends pushing them all the way.
Sullivan coach Andy Williamson said: "It wasn't one of our better performances but at least we're through and we've a week to fix things."
Sullivan, without the inspirational Callum Robson who is injured, went ahead after 21 minutes through Callum Carson but were pegged back 11 minutes into the second-half when Niall Magee rammed home a rebound from a penalty corner won by Cyril Varghese.
But the Holywood boys surged forward again and this time it was Fergus Gibson who slammed in the winner 11 minutes from time from a penalty corner rebound. Friends refused to lie down and came close to forcing extra-time when Jamie Dawson's effort struck the post following another penalty corner.
Banbridge found RBAI a tough nut to crack in the second semi and it wasn't until they scored twice in a minute early in the second-half that they began to assert their authority.
Marshall, who plays senior hockey with Banbridge in the Irish Hockey League, had a quiet first-half but he broke the deadlock with a penalty corner drag flick into the roof of the net.
And within 60 seconds, Peter McKnight popped up at the far post to touch home a crash ball into the circle.
RBAI, whose commitment couldn't have been faulted, tried to hit back but Marshall's runs deep into Inst territory were causing problems and he put the result beyond doubt with another penalty corner with five minutes remaining.
The three-goal scoreline hardly did RBAI justice, especially with Ben Mellor looking strong at the back, Jonathan Beckett lively in midfield and Ben Palmer and Ben McConkey with some delicate touches.
Academy coach Mark Cordner admitted: "Inst were set up well and gave us trouble in the first-half. But we were strong in the second-half and now are ready for another Burney Cup final appearance."
RBAI coach Graeme Francey accepted his side were underdogs but thought his players performed well, showed considerable commitment and probably didn't deserve to lose by three.
The final is scheduled for Lisnagarvey on Wednesday, March 16 at 2.30pm.