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Last-gasp Morris spurs Sullivan to thrilling McCullough Cup win

Sullivan Upper 2-2 Friends' School

By Graham Hamilton

They thought it was all over... but on this occasion it wasn't, for Harry Morris popped up with an equaliser from a penalty corner right at the death to set up Sullivan Upper for a shoot-out success in the McCullough Cup final at Lisnagarvey yesterday.

Friends School had fought back from a goal down to lead 2-1 and were within a whisker of landing the trophy for the first time in 37 years, but Sullivan were awarded a penalty corner just fractionally before the final hooter sounded.

That means they were allowed to take their set-piece, and from that they won another three awards from which Morris finally broke Friends' hearts.

Extra time failed to separate the teams and so it went down to the dreaded penalty strokes shoot-out, with Sullivan winning 4-3 to add the trophy to the Burney Cup which they won back in March.

It was Sullivan's Fergus Gibson (right, receiving the cup from Nigel McCullough) who converted the winning penalty stroke and he admitted his side were relieved to see Morris produce that last-gasp equaliser.

"Friends started strongly and, although we were ahead at half-time, we thought the game was up when we trailed going into the final minute," said the Sullivan skipper.

"So it was a big relief when Harry got the equaliser. I think the experience of winning the Burney Cup in March and the McCullough Cup in December 2015 held us in good stead when it mattered this time."

It was always going to be a close affair, with both teams having their fair share of Irish Under-16 and Under-18 stars, but Sullivan went in as favourites and just about edged the first half with a single goal lead.

The second half, though, was a different story and Friends showed their character by turning things around - and all they had to do was hold out for the final few seconds.

But they couldn't, and Morris produced the equaliser from which Sullivan took full advantage to win the shoot-out.

Friends had started well and Matthew Milliken and Conor Quinn were denied from penalty corners but gradually Sullivan built up a head of steam.

Callum Carson cut open the Friends defence and it needed a last ditch tackle from Hugo Henderson just as Fergus Kerr was about to pull the trigger.

Eight minutes from the interval Sullivan finally took the lead with man of the match Paddy Crookshanks converting their second penalty corner.

And Gibson almost made it two when he flashed a shot across the face of goal after collecting a Morris crash ball at the back post.

Patrick Rose also went close but Friends made them pay in the second half when Andy Edgar's penalty corner found the bottom corner to level matters.

There was a bounce in Craig Cunningham's side now and it seemed the trophy was heading to Friends when the unmarked Jack McGall converted a cross to put them 2-1 ahead.

However, Morris sent the game into extra time to set up Sullivan for their shoot-out success and leave Friends devastated but with heads held high after a stirring performance.

The trophy was handed over to skipper Gibson by Nigel McCullough while Richard Waring presented the man of the match award to Crookshanks.

SULLIVAN: Thomas McCord, Paddy Crookshanks, Matthew Willis, Tom Robson, Michael Trimble, Callum Carson, Fergus Gibson, Matthew Morris, Harry Morris, Sonny Erskine, Fergus Kerr. Subs: Daniel Girvin, Patrick Rose, Isaac Hart, Tom McClintock, Djay Erksine, Jamie McCauley.

FRIENDS: Ryan Kirkpatrick, Harry Scott, Conor Monteith, Matthew Milliken, Rory Brown, Sam Anderson, Hugo Henderson, Ollie Kidd, Jack McGall, Conor Irwin, Andy Edgar. Subs: Matthew Hamill, Matthew Thompson, Jack Martelli, Matthew Aughey, Conor Quinn, Jack Simpson.

Umpires: Robert Johnston, Kieran McGoldrick

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