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Kidd maintains there's no extra pressure as Friends' aim to end a 39-year wait

 

Final battle: McCullough Cup finalists Wallace High School
Final battle: McCullough Cup finalists Wallace High School
Final battle: Friends’ School

By John Flack

Friends' will be aiming to bridge a 39-year gap since they last won the McCullough Cup as they prepare to take on Lisburn rivals and holders Wallace High in tomorrow's final at Lisnagarvey (2.30pm).

However, Friends' captain Oliver Kidd isn't too concerned about the prospect of his team going 40 years without getting their hands on the famous trophy as he rates their chances of ending the drought.

They have been there or thereabouts in recent seasons and, indeed, lifted the equally prestigious Burney Cup - played in the post-Christmas period - just two years ago.

Today's game is the first Lisburn derby final for six years. On that occasion, Wallace captured the trophy, although the teams have totally changed since then.

Wallace hammered Methodist College 8-1 in the semi-finals a fortnight ago while Friends' had to dig deep to beat Banbridge Academy 4-2 after turning around two goals to the good.

Kidd will be one of the players Wallace will need to watch, and the Ireland Under-18 star plays his club hockey with national league leaders Lisnagarvey, who have been invincible so far this season.

Harry Scott was also on the Irish squad that contested a six nations tournament in Holland over the summer, while Conor Quinn, Conor Irwin, Matthew Aughey and Jamie Anderson played for Ulster in the Under-18 interpros in September.

So there is no shortage of talent in the Friends' line-up, while Wallace have potential match-winners in Max Taylor, who scored four goals in the semi-final win over Methody, and Ben Clarke, who hit a double in the same game, to name just two.

"The boys are really looking forward to the game and we are not really thinking about the length of time since we last won it, we are just thinking about our preparations for the game," said Kidd.

"We are not looking into Wallace too much and instead are just focusing on ourselves and what we need to do rather than worry about the opposition."

Kidd does, however, admit that Friends' need to produce a 70-minute performance tomorrow if they are to bridge that long gap, having squandered a two-goal lead in the eventual semi-final win over Bann.

"We relaxed a bit in the third quarter and took our foot off the gas a wee bit, but we got back into it in the final quarter and got the goals that we needed, but we can't afford to relax for a second against Wallace," he said.

"We just need to make sure what we do is right tactically, and obviously it would mean a lot to win it, especially personally as it's my last year at school.

"Yes, we won the Burney Cup two years ago, but we didn't win anything last year which was a wee bit disappointing, so we are just looking forward to it but we're not putting any pressure on ourselves.

"I think it should be a pretty evenly matched final but, because they won the double last season, they will probably start slight favourites."

Kidd's opposite number Ollie Patterson is looking forward to the final and believes his team are capable of making it a third schoolboy hockey trophy in a row, following last season's heroics.

He said: "Our squad are thoroughly looking forward to playing in the final against our local rivals.

"We have come through a tough group to get to this stage and had some important wins against the likes of Banbridge and Sullivan Upper along the way.

"With Ben and Max capable of scoring goals, and a solid defence led by Peter Milligan and keeper Ben Cooke, we feel like we are always in with a chance.

"The loss of several final-year pupils from last season means our young players have had to really step up and they will also play a key role in the final."

Wallace head coach Gareth Kidd believes the fact that two Lisburn teams are in the final is a credit to the schools and clubs in the area.

He said: "There is no doubt that hockey in Lisburn is in a good place with both Lisnagarvey and South Antrim riding high in their respective leagues and having great youth set-ups.

"It should be a great final and we are looking forward to being part of a special occasion."

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