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Champions' players face new tests from school exams

By Graham Hamilton

Sullivan Upper had to cut their McCullough Cup celebrations shorter than they would have hoped last night - because many of the players are facing exams at school today.

The Holywood lads landed the trophy for the first time in the competition's 55-year history when they beat Wallace High 4-3 with a last-gasp winner at Lisnagarvey yesterday, but skipper Matthew Crookshanks admitted that they couldn't overlook what was lying ahead of them, even though there were plenty of reasons to celebrate.

"I've exams tomorrow, so I have to give them some thought too, and many of the players are in the same situation," he said.

"Mind you, Wallace gave us a bit of an examination in the second-half of the final but we passed with that late goal.

"It looked good when we were two goals up but it became quite tense when they pulled level.

"Our girls won the Schools' Cup last season and now the boys have the McCullough Cup, so hockey is on the up at Sullivan.

"But our win is only the start... the Burney Cup is next up early in the New Year, so a good run in that is our next target."

Sullivan couldn't have won the trophy had striker John Matchett not been in such good form.

He struck twice in their semi-final win over Friends and this time went one better with a hat-trick in the final, the winner coming with just 27 seconds left on the clock.

Matchett said: "I was tempted to pass the ball when I collected it at the edge of the circle but I knew we were into the final minute, so I thought it was best to have a go before the final hooter sounded."

And have a go he did, turning his stick onto the reverse and hammering the ball across goal into the corner of the net to mark a fairytale ending.

It was disappointment for Wallace for the second year running, having lost to Banbridge Academy in last year's final.

Their skipper Matthew Nelson, one of several outstanding players in the Lisburn team who hardly deserved to be on the losing side, said: "We had a good fightback in the second-half but there was no time left after Sullivan scored their late winner."

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