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Belfast Telegraph Schools' Cup semi-finals: Academy captain Katie McKee aiming to clinch dream final chapter

 

By Graham Hamilton

Banbridge Academy captain Katie McKee is desperate to line out in a Belfast Telegraph Schools' Cup final for the third time in four years.

But the talented midfielder knows she has to keep those thoughts at the back of her mind as she prepares for this afternoon's semi-final against old rivals Sullivan Upper at Stormont Playball (1.30pm).

Bann and Sullivan have crossed paths for the past few years in the competition, and each time the outcome has been close.

And final year student Katie expects it to be equally tight this time, as Bann attempt to keep alive their dream of back-to-back title successes.

Sullivan came out on top in the 2015 decider, but Bann got revenge in last year's semi-final before going on to land the trophy for the first time in their history when Katie bagged herself a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Wallace High.

"Winning last year's final was absolutely amazing - words cannot describe it," said Katie.

"We were not only hockey players but a group who really got on, both on and off the pitch.

"It was also memorable as it was the first time that the school had ever won it, so there was great excitement.

"At this stage of the competition there are no easy opponents, so we are expecting a very tough game, as they will be trying as hard as us to get to the final.

"We lost three starting players from last year; however, their replacements have more than stepped up to the plate since coming into the team."

Sullivan captain Laura McCaw acknowledges Katie represents a big threat.

"We know Banbridge are a very talented and experienced side who will be well organised and used to the big occasion," she said.

"They have several good players, and obviously Katie will be one to watch, and also Nadia Benallal."

The second semi-final features Rainey Endowed and Friends School (3pm).

Rainey have never won the trophy before, but there are two survivors from their defeat in the 2014 decider when they lost 1-0 after extra-time to Lurgan College - current captain Erin Mulholland and Lauren Mulholland.

Erin said: "It's going to be a tough game for us but we have had a tough cup run to get this far and shown great resilience.

"We have players who have represented or currently represent Ulster and Ireland, including Alex Burns, Ellie Montgomery, Erin Anderson, Alex McKinlay, Charlotte Beggs, Lauren Mulholland and Bethany Scott, so there's reasonable experience in the squad."

Friends will be captained by Rachel Barnes, who is now in her final year at school.

Friends coach Lesley Rodgers said: "Rachel is a fantastic role model to all our young players.

"Hockey is just one of her many sporting talents and she and Amy Brown make a great team to lead our girls."

Friends last featured in the final in 1999 when they beat Omagh Academy 1-0, and will be keen to return to the big stage.

The final will be at Stormont Playball on Wednesday, March 7.

Belfast Telegraph

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