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Rainey upset the odds to keep cup dream alive


Ballymena do their best to keep out Rainey in yesterday's Schools' Cup semi-final clash

Ballymena do their best to keep out Rainey in yesterday's Schools' Cup semi-final clash

Ballymena do their best to keep out Rainey in yesterday's Schools' Cup semi-final clash

Rainey Ednowed 3 Ballymena Academy 3 (Rainey won 4-2 on penalty strokes): Rainey Endowed are just one game away from winning the Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools' Cup for the first time in the competition's 107-year history after shocking fancied Ballymena Academy in yesterday's semi-finals at Lisnagarvey.

The Magherafelt school, who celebrated their 300th anniversary last year, reached the decider by beating Ballymena Academy on penalty strokes in an absolute thriller which produced six goals and extra time.

But an even harder task lies ahead of them in the March 5 final when they line out against current holders and hot favourites Lurgan College, who beat Ballyclare High 3-0 in the other semi played on the other Garvey pitch.

However, the players will first savour the experience of reaching the final before worrying how to deal with the next opposition, and so captain Claire Mulholland summed up the euphoria.

"I just can't believe it," she bubbled. "It's unreal, and we did it by scoring three goals.

"The thought of playing in the final is just tremendous."

But was she even a tiny bit worried when Ballymena took an early lead?

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"We hadn't time to worry, it was such a fast-paced game. It went one way and then the other."

When it came to the penalty shoot-out, Rainey were supreme.

Robyn Chambers, Tori Hastings and Nicole Heaney all put away their strokes with ease and captain Mulholland wasn't needed to take a fifth after Ballymena missed two of their efforts.

But spare a through for Ballymena, who unquestionably played a major part in a thrilling game which was a great advert for schoolgirl hockey.

In particular, Emma Kernohan who hammered in a hat-trick of penalty corner goals during normal time, but was one of two who missed in the shoot-out.

Rainey coach Carolyn Burns later revealed that her players had been practicing penalty strokes over the past week.

"We knew that many semi-finals have gone to strokes, so we practiced them meticulously at the Meadowbank facilities during the build-up," she said.

"The school has only ever reached one final before, losing 37 years ago to Regent House, so it's going to be a big occasion."

It looked bad for Rainey when Emma Kernohan crashed in a penalty corner in the sixth minute but it wasn't long until they levelled from a Hastings penalty corner and then took the lead seven minutes into the second half from another Hastings set-piece.

Back came Ballymena with Kernohan's second and when Robyn Chambers made it 3-2 for Rainey seven minutes from the end, it seemed all over, only for Kernohan to complete her hat-trick and send the game into extra time and finally the dreaded shoot-out.

RAINEY: Rebecca Allen, Claire Mulholland, Naimh Scullion, Tori Hastings, Zara Bell, Cara Sloan, Nicole Heaney, Robyn Chambers, Nicola Sargent, Rachel Burns, Kirsty McLarnon/ Subs: Alice Hardy, Sarah Caldwell, Aimee Stockman, Lauren Mulholland, Laura Bolton, Emma McClune, Erin Mulholland

BALLYMENA: Rebecca Jones, Rihanna Campbell, Gillian Weir, Jenny Sutherland, Zoe Dickson, Jessica Duncan, Lauren Kennedy, Leah Paul, Joanna Bailie, Anna-Lisa Horscroft, Emma Kernohan. Subs: Judith Loughlan, Suzannah Brown, Jade Lamont, Holly Taggart, Laura Galloway

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