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Belfast Telegraph Schools' Cup: Twin incentive as Cup final foes Banbridge Academy and Wallace High go for glory

By Graham Hamilton

Banbridge Academy and Wallace High have a double incentive to land the Belfast Telegraph Schools' Cup this afternoon at Lisnagarvey's ground on Hillsborough's Comber Road (2.30pm).

Firstly, neither school has won the trophy before in the competition's 110-year history, and so a new name will definitely be engraved on it.

And secondly, the winners will get the opportunity to host the all-Ireland series later this month, which means home advantage will give them a great chance of chalking up an Ulster and Irish double.

Respective captains Orla Thompson (Banbridge) and Jane Kilpatrick (Wallace), however, don't want to think too much about the all-Ireland Kate Russell competition just yet, as they want to get over the Ulster final hurdle first.

Jane, who hopes to finish her school career by bringing the trophy to Wallace for the first time, said: "Our focus is on the final and, if we win, then it will be an added bonus to get playing on home territory in the Kate Russell competition."

And Banbridge captain Orla is very much in agreement.

"If it was to happen, it would be lovely to have the support from family and friends at our home venue in the all-Irelands and it would also create a great atmosphere around the school and local community," she said.

"But first we need to focus on the game at hand before allowing ourselves to think about potential games further ahead."

Both Banbridge and Wallace squeezed through their semi-finals on narrow 2-1 scorelines and it is expected that the probable four-figure crowd, made up largely from schools around the country, will see a close encounter this afternoon.

The Banbridge girls have watched their male counterparts land trophy after trophy at schools level and they are determined to finally emulate them by bringing home silverware.

Coach Neil Madeley has the girls well prepared and they have potential matchwinners in Katie McKee and Nadia Benallal, both of whom scored in their narrow 2-1 semi-final success over Sullivan Upper.

McKee in particular is the creative force from midfield and a joy to watch - she won Player of the Match when the Academy lost the 2015 final - while Benallal's speed and finishing power upfront marks her down as one to watch.

A handful of the squad, including McKee and skipper Thompson, featured in that 2015 final defeat, the only other time the school has been in the decider, and they are determined not to leave Garvey disappointed again.

But Wallace are also dreaming of breaking their duck, with coach Maggie Hunter keen to put the girls' game at the school in the limelight.

It was Rachel Houston and Alyssa Jebb who scored their goals in the 2-1 semi-final win over Royal School Armagh and they are two which the Academy defence will have to mark tightly.

But Jasmine Kirkwood's strong runs from midfield can also cause havoc, especially as she knows there's a sound defence behind her.

It is possible that one of the schools will end up with both the boys' and girls' Schools' Cup trophies in their cabinet this season - the Academy and Wallace boys are already through to the Burney Cup semi-finals and have been kept apart.

WALLACE HIGH: Nakhita Dowie, Alex Patterson, Anouk Morwood, Rebecca Ayerst, Harriet Matchett, Alyssa Jebb, Jane Kilpatrick, Jasmine Kirkwood, Emma Whan, Rachel Houston, Emma Coalter, Megan Getty, Sophie McKee, Holly McClure, Anna Curragh, Megan Bell, Rachel Steele

BANBRIDGE ACADEMY: Alice Winson, Holly Hanna, Clare Liggett, Sophie Mount, Emma Gregson, Charley Brush, Gina Woods, Rebekah Dougan, Sarah-Jane Corry, Orla Thompson, Lauren McGaw, Nadia Benallal, Gemma Hassan, Ellen Reid, Rebecca Huey, Katie McKee, Rebecca Spence

Route to the final

3rd round

Wallace High 5 Down High 0

Banbridge Academy 3 Rainey End. 1


Wallace High 2 Friends 0

Banbridge Acad. 2 Ballyclare High 1


Wallace High 2 Royal School Armagh 1

Banbridge Acad. 2 Sullivan Upper 1

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