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Rainey chase silverware on three different levels


Up for the Cup: Four girls with their eyes firmly on the Belfast Telegraph Schools Cup at the semi-final draw, from left, Rachel Barnes (Friends), Ellen Mulholland (Rainey Endowed), Lauren Wright (Royal School Armagh) and Lauren McGaw (Sullivan Upper)
Up for the Cup: Four girls with their eyes firmly on the Belfast Telegraph Schools Cup at the semi-final draw, from left, Rachel Barnes (Friends), Ellen Mulholland (Rainey Endowed), Lauren Wright (Royal School Armagh) and Lauren McGaw (Sullivan Upper)

By Graham Hamilton

Rainey Endowed coach Carolyn Burns admits her nerves are shattered as she bids to bring hockey silverware to the Magherafelt school.

Her senior girls have won through to the Belfast Telegraph Schools Cup semi-finals and were paired with Friends when the draw was made at the Telegraph's Clarendon Dock base yesterday afternoon.

And Rainey's 2nd XI have made it through to the McDowell Cup semi-finals while their Under 14s are through to the last four of the Junior Cup.

But all three of those teams have one thing in common - they left it extremely late before they booked their places in the penultimate stage of their respective competitions.

The senior team scored with the last play of their quarter-final against Ballyclare High through Alex Burns - Carolyn's daughter - to force a shoot-out which they won 3-1.

And the 2nd XI needed extra time yesterday before Honor Graham scored the only goal of the game deep into the second period against Down High.

Earlier, the Under 14s squeezed through against Wallace High in the Junior Cup with their late winner coming a mere 20 seconds from the end.

"It's nerve-wracking," said Carolyn, a former Irish international who currently plays for Rainey's Ulster Premier League team.

"Mind you, it's really good that a small country school can have three of their teams into semi-finals.

"But I just wish that they all could score a bit earlier and take some of the pressure off me!"

Rainey are the only one of this year's semi-finalists never to have won the senior trophy before - they previously reached the 2014 and 1977 finals but lost both.

And Carolyn accepts it won't be easy for them to break that duck.

"First of all, we've one game to play before we can even think about winning the final," she stresses.

"We did beat Friends 3-0 in the SuperLeague earlier in the season, but they have many experienced players and will be out for revenge.

"We receive good support from our headmaster, Mr McCullough, and we hope to have a good crowd coming along to support us in the semi-finals."

It will be hard, though, for Friends to close out Rainey's top scorer - that's because the goals are spread around 10 different players, most of whom are into double figures already this season.

Although underdogs, Rainey have a lot to offer and have a good squad with many having played for Ulster U16s and U18s and Irish U16s and U18s, including Lauren Mulholland, Alex Burns, Charlotte Beggs, Betty Scott, Alex McKinley, Erin Anderson and Ellie Montgomery.

Friends last won the trophy in 1999 but can't be ruled out as they demonstrated in beating Lisburn rivals and last year's finalists Wallace High 2-1 in the quarter-finals, their goals coming from Rachel Barnes and Olivia Reid.

Sullivan Upper, meanwhile, are awaiting the outcome of the quarter-final between holders Banbridge Academy and Royal School Armagh.

The Holywood girls, who won the trophy in 2015 and reached the final again a year later, saw off Belfast Royal Academy in the quarters, with goals from Mary Smart and Erin McCaw.

That delayed Banbridge-Armagh encounter takes place tomorrow afternoon.

The two semi-finals will be staged on Wednesday, February 21 at Stormont's Playball, with the Rainey-Friends tie on second at 3pm and Sullivan against either Banbridge or Armagh at 1.30pm.

The final will be a fortnight later at the same Playball venue.

Finally, the Irish international women's team play their second game in the four-match series against Spain in Benalmadena at 12pm today.

Six Ulster girls are in the squad - who crashed 7-0 in their opener on Tuesday - and their final games are on Saturday and Sunday at 11am.

Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools' Cup semi-finals (Playball, Stormont, February 21): Sullivan Upper v Banbridge Academy or Royal School Armagh (1.30pm); Friends' School v Rainey Endowed (3pm)

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