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BRA end trophy drought as they hold off Friends

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Glory days: BRA’s Abbie Braniff scores to put her side 4-1 up

Glory days: BRA’s Abbie Braniff scores to put her side 4-1 up

Stephen Hamilton

BRA captain Julia Uprichard celebrates victory

BRA captain Julia Uprichard celebrates victory

Stephen Hamilton

Early strike: Friends’ Sophie Kidd celebrates after scoring

Early strike: Friends’ Sophie Kidd celebrates after scoring

Stephen Hamilton

Glory days: BRA’s Abbie Braniff scores to put her side 4-1 up

Belfast Royal Academy turned the clock back 46 years yesterday when they lifted the Belfast Telegraph Ulster Senior Cup for the first time since 1974 with a 4-2 win over Friends' in an exciting final at Lisnagarvey.

To do so, the north Belfast side had to come from a goal down, but they responded well and went into the interval with a 3-1 lead.

BRA added a fourth goal early in the second-half, but Friends' rallied superbly and, after pulling a goal back, they went on to dominate possession and, with a little luck, could have scored again.

But BRA, who defended resolutely when they had to, deserved their success as they showed a more clinical touch in front of goal.

It was BRA who had the first opportunity in the fifth minute after a tentative opening spell as both teams started nervously.

Niamh McIvor, the heroine of the semi-final shoot-out win over the holders Banbridge Academy, set up Sasha Logan, but she shot straight at Friends' keeper Cara McEwen, who saved comfortably.

Five minutes later, the Lisburn school went ahead when team captain Rachel Geddes passed to Sophie Kidd, who fired the ball home at the near post with a neat finish.

However, just two more minutes had elapsed when BRA levelled matters, McIvor's deft deflection from a narrow angle beating McEwen after great work down the left by Olivia Beattie and Emma Uprichard.

With just seconds remaining in the first quarter, it was 2-1 when BRA defender Megan Warke hammered in her team's first penalty corner of the game.

Then, with the second quarter just two minutes old, Emma Uprichard showed great composure and vision to find her older sister Julia, the BRA captain, at the edge of the circle and she scored with a powerful first-time shot into the net.

In the 26th minute, Friends' won their first set-piece and Ella Brown's effort was well saved by Erin Lavery in the BRA goal.

BRA finished the first-half the stronger side and McIvor had a shot deflected narrowly wide, before Friends' had a chance when there was no one able to apply the finishing touch to a tantalising cross from Ella Agnew.

Two minutes after the half-time break, BRA got their fourth goal when Abbie Braniff capitalised after the Lisburn team had lost possession as she applied a clinical finish to leave Friends' with the proverbial mountain to climb.

Going in search of their first Senior Cup triumph since 1999, Friends' got the goal they so desperately needed when the impressive Kidd fired home a penalty corner after the ball had been switched into her path in the 35th minute.

BRA were content to sit back and soak up any pressure that come their way as they still had the benefit of a two-goal cushion.

But all credit to Friends' who never gave up and launched attack after attack and ultimately winning the penalty corner count 6-2.

With four minutes remaining, Kidd went desperately close to making it 4-3 when her corner was expertly taken off the line by Eve Thompson, and that was that as BRA were about to celebrate ending their 46-year drought by lifting the famous trophy for the 12th time.

BRA: Erin Lavery; Megan Warke, Eve Thompson, Emma Dobbin, Olivia Beattie, Olivia Thompson, Emma Uprichard, Julia Uprichard (capt.), Niamh McIvor, Sasha Logan, Abbie Braniff; subs: Ellie Collins, Aoife Corry, Rebecca Dwyer, Kerry Uprichard, Anna Matthews, Molly McCourt, Olivia Donaldson.

Friends': Cara McEwen; Rachel Geddis (capt.), Sarah King, Hannah Wilson, Cathy Fox, Ella Brown, Ella Agnew, Darcy McGall, Sophie Kidd, Sarah Sandford, Rachel Kennedy; subs: Rachel Paul, Molly Davidson, Bethany Au, Kate Boomer, Melissa Wilson, Thea Wilson, Kate Erskine.

Umpires: Lyn Morrow & James Wray

Belfast Telegraph