Katie shines as Bann earn big chance to end title wait
Belfast Telegraph Schools' Cup hockey
The Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools' Cup competition may be in its 110th year but a new name will soon be engraved on the trophy.
Banbridge Academy and Wallace High, who have never lifted the silverware before, both won their respective semi-finals 2-1 at Lisnagarvey yesterday afternoon and now just the decider on Wednesday, March 1 at the same venue stands between them and ending their famine.
Unlike their male counterparts who have won the schoolboy Burney Cup 14 times and appeared in 15 other finals, the Academy girls have just one final appearance to their name in the Senior Schools' Cup - two years ago when Sullivan Upper beat them 2-1.
And so yesterday's narrow success over Sullivan gave them some revenge as well as keeping their dream alive.
As expected, it was Katie McKee who pulled the strings for Banbridge, scoring one goal and looking head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch.
She glided past opponents with ease, set up chances for her colleagues and showed a skill level belying her age.
Indeed, it was McKee who put the Academy ahead, her low shot to the near post from the top of the circle beating Sullivan keeper Jenny Beattie after only 11 minutes.
Sullivan were unlucky to have an equaliser from Emma Hill wiped out a few minutes later, for a back-stick infringement in the build-up.
But then the Holywood school fell further behind in the 20th minute when the lively Nadia Benallel swept home after some hesitant defending.
It seemed the game was done and dusted but Sullivan refused to lie down and indeed still had their eye on reaching their third successive decider.
And as if to send out a warning, it took them only one minute to pull a goal back through Beth Young, who pounced on a rebound to slip the ball past keeper Alice Winson and set up an intriguing second half.
Things were more even in the second period and Sullivan marginally had more of the chances, with Laura McCaw particularly unlucky at set-pieces.
Firstly she had a shot come back off the post and then she had another well saved by Winson.
But Banbridge held their nerve and applied pressure in the final minutes as they ran down the clock.
Academy coach Neil Madeley said: "It was by no means our best performance but the bottom line is that we are through to the final.
"Sullivan defended very well, especially in the second half, as we expected they would, and we just couldn't get the third goal which would have killed off the game.
"When there is only one goal in it, anything can happen like a deflection, so it was a tense final quarter.
"Now we have three weeks to get things right for the final against Wallace."
BANBRIDGE ACADEMY: Alice Winson, Holly Hanna, Nadia Benallal, Sophie Mount, Emma Gregson, Charley Brush, Gina Woods, Orla Thompson, Lauren McGaw, Gemma Hassan, Ellen Reid, Katie McKee, Clare Liggett, Rebekah Dougan, Sarah-Jane Corry, Rebecca Huey, Rebecca Spence.
SULLIVAN UPPER: Jenny Beattie, Katherine McKee, Amy Bothwell, Hannah Jemphrey, Ali Gibson, Emma Hill, Laura McCaw, Erin Camlin, Janet Cunningham, Grace Jackson, Beth Young, Megan McDonald, Erin Davidson, Aimee Finlay, Julia Hill, Kate Bradley.