Belfast Telegraph Senior Girls’ Cup Final
Jodie Simmons is in the rare position of having won a Belfast Telegraph Senior Cup final before, but she admits if she were to win her second with Royal School Armagh today, she would probably savour it just that little bit more.
The Armagh ace won the tournament with Banbridge Academy back in 2019 before transferring to Armagh and, while she claims she didn’t take her first win for granted, she does understand how important winning this year’s tournament would be in her final school year.
It was the Upper Sixth student who led Armagh’s fightback in the semi-final against Ballyclare High, scoring the equaliser before Annie Cunningham’s winner sent them into today’s final against Methodist College with a narrow 2-1 win, and Simmons is savouring the occasion more this time around.
“I was only a wee fourth year (in 2019), so I didn’t really understand the significance of it and what it meant, but now that I’m an Upper Sixth, to finish my school career in a final is unbelievable,” said Simmons.
“We’ve worked so hard all year and last year as well and it’s all been worth it in the end now to back it through.
“We always end up stealing it in the last quarter but I didn’t think the semi-final would be our day. I don’t know what was going through my mind. I passed line (into the circle), looked down and thought, ‘If I just hit this it might go in’. I couldn’t believe it. It was absolutely overwhelming to see it actually go in.
“Then I was thinking about which run-in I was going to take and all of a sudden Annie shoves it into the bottom corner. I couldn’t believe it, I thought I was dreaming. My heart nearly thumped out of my chest!”
Armagh have had to reach the final the tough way, facing quality opponents the whole way through the competition, and that should stand them in good stead going into today’s clash.
Their Cup run nearly came to an end at the first hurdle after a 1-1 draw with Friends’ School Lisburn, but the Armagh girls held their nerve to win the shoot-out 3-0, and another narrow 1-0 win over Royal School Dungannon preceded their tense victory over Ballyclare in the semis.
Armagh captain Lucy Johnston said: “I always had belief in this squad to reach this stage of the competition, and just making the final is a huge achievement in itself given the quality of the opposition we have had to play throughout our Cup run.
“We are all extremely grateful for everyone’s support, which has helped us to get here and will no doubt be loud again (in the final).
“Regardless of the result we can be proud of the season we have had. It has been an honour to captain such a talented team, but the desire is to go that one step further and win.”
Opponents Methodist College had a slightly easier path to the final, a comfortable 10-0 win over Lurgan College in the last-16 coming before a 5-1 victory over Regent House in the quarter-finals as they breezed into the final four.
But they, too, found the semi-finals a tricky ask against Rainey Endowed, with co-captain Ella Armstrong the only player to find the back of the net in a 1-0 game, and the skipper insists they are going to enjoy the day regardless of the outcome.
“I am super proud of my team-mates for all their hard work and dedication this season in helping us reach the final of the Schools’ Cup,” said Armstrong.
“We are all so excited and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to play in the final with my friends and knowing we have the total support of our coaches and the whole Methody community.
“It is every hockey girl’s dream and we are going to enjoy every minute of it given that girls in Ulster last year did not have this amazing opportunity.”