Treble hero Matchett ends Sullivan Upper's title wait
Wallace High 3-4 Sullivan Upper
The game isn't over until the fat lady sings... and that proved to be the case at yesterday's McCullough Cup final as Sullivan Upper's John Matchett completed his hat-trick with a last-gasp winner when everyone was anticipating extra-time.
Picture the scene - Wallace High and Sullivan were locked together at 3-3 in what was a pulsating decider and the hundreds of schoolkids along the sidelines had already started the countdown to the final whistle.
In fact, there were just 27 seconds left on the clock when Matchett collected a through ball at the edge of the circle and decided to have one last effort on goal before the umpires signalled extra-time.
Although faced with a tight angle, he took the shot on his reverse and it whistled past Wallace keeper James Ritchie to start wild celebrations on the pitch.
Up until that stage the man of the match tag could have gone to any one of a handful of players but that took away any doubt - it was impossible to look beyond a hat-trick hero for the award presented in memory of John Waring.
Sullivan, of course, had never won the McCullough Cup before and so a new name has been engraved on the trophy in what is the 55th year of the competition.
It was Matchett who had started the goal glut when he deflected in the lively Adam McAllister's pass after only 12 minutes and when Callum Carson added a second just four minutes later, there seemed no doubt that the trophy was heading to Holywood for the first time.
In fact, Sullivan almost added a few more, with Carson, Matchett and Callum Robson in particular causing problems for the Wallace defence,
But Wallace finally got to grips with the occasion and when their first penalty corner was stopped by a foot on the line, Andrew O'Hare stepped up to tuck away the penalty stroke.
That goal gave Wallace the incentive in the second-half and it was their turn to pin Sullivan back.
Skipper Matthew Nelson was starting to take control of the game in midfield and indeed it was he who produced the equaliser in the 45th minute.
He won possession just inside his own half and jinked his way down the right wing past defender after defender before cutting in and squeezing the ball in at the near post.
Back came Sullivan and McAllister tested keeper Ritchie again before all-rounder Matchett - he has already captained Ulster Schools in cricket - got his second goal, latching onto Paul McDonnell's through ball and crashing it home on the reverse.
Wallace refused to lie down though and O'Hare converted his second penalty stroke of the game after Nelson had been fouled in the circle to make it 3-3.
Then Jacob Hermon burst through the Sullivan defence only to see keeper Max McCone spread his body to deny him.
At that stage extra-time was unquestionably looming but Matchett just wouldn't give up and when the opportunity presented itself in the final minute, he took it with aplomb to end the Sullivan famine at senior schools level.
Afterwards, Nigel McCullough handed over the trophy to Sullivan captain Matthew Crookshanks, with the man of the match award going to Matchett and the player of the tournament award to Robson.
Ulster Hockey President David Larmour paid tribute to all the players and their coaches for what was an entertaining and skilful final.
"We had 14 goals from the two semi-finals and now a further seven in the final - what an advert for schoolboy hockey," he enthused.
SULLIVAN UPPER: Max McCone, Paul McDonnell, Tom Robson, Adam McCallister, Callum Robson, Ben Cree, Robin Watts, John Matchett, Matthew Crookshanks (captain), Fergus Gibson, Harry Morris, Matthew Morris, Ryan Wolsely, Euan Patterson, Callum Carson, Tom McCord, William Booker
WALLACE HIGH: James Ritchie, James McAuley, Adam Clarke, Patrick Hunter, Jordan Taggart, Andrew O'Hare, William Carey, David Arneill, Scott McCabe, Jacob Hermon, Callum Patteson, Matthew Nelson (captain), Jonathan Lynch, Ben Nelson, Aaron Scott, Craig Getty, Lewis Taylor
Umpires: Jamie Aiken, Russell Donaldson