The Wallace High School boys’ hockey 1st XI have reached the McCullough Cup final for the third successive year.
Wallace secured their finals place after their semi final victory against old rivals and current Irish Schools’ champions Banbridge Academy last Wednesday at Lisnagarvey HC.
Wallace had to take part in a group playoff recently against Friends to determine who topped their pool after a 3 - 3 draw earlier in the season. After a tight first half the Wallace lads pulled away from their neighbours to record a well merited 4 - 1 win, Matthew Nelson, William Carey, David Arneill and Craig Getty the scorers.
This meant that the Lisburn school played Banbridge Academy last week for a place in the 55th instalment of the McCullough Cup, a continuation of a rivalry which has developed between the two schools in big matches throughout the past two seasons.
They were obviously wary of the threat posed by a Banbridge team who triumphed in the recent Irish Schools’ held in Belfast.
Wallace started the game brightly and Andrew O’Hare was instrumental in settling their nerves with a powerful drag flick from their first penalty corner of the match. A Ben Nelson tap in at the far post doubled the lead for the Lisburn school who were rarely troubled in the first half, Jordan Taggart a commanding presence at the back.
Into the second half and a newly motivated Banbridge side emerged, scoring quickly and putting Wallace under real pressure for a ten minute period. However, they were unable to get the all important second goal which enabled Wallace to pull ahead courtesy of three more goals from Andrew O’Hare and another well executed penalty corner tucked in at the far post by man of the match Jacob Hermon. Despite two goals from Banbridge, Wallace were deserving 6 - 3 winners.
This sets up a mouth watering clash against a talented Sullivan team who boast Irish underage players Callum Robson and Matthew Crookshanks, the game to be played on Wednesday 9th December, 2pm start at Lisnagarvey Hockey Club.
Wallace will go into the game on the back of a excellent run of form and their recent tour to Holland. They also possess a wealth of experience of playing in finals having contested five of the most recent six schoolboy competitions throughout Ireland, which includes back to back Burney Cup victories.
Seven Wallace players also recently represented the victorious Ulster under 18 and 16 squads in the interprovincial series in Cork and will bring the confidence from that tournament into the McCullough final. Captain Matthew Nelson was arguably the player of the tournament and was joined by team mates Jordan Taggart, Scott McCabe, Andrew O’Hare and William Carey as the under 18 team won all four games, whilst Year 12 pupils Patrick Hunter and Ben Nelson helped the under 16 team to four wins out of four also. Matthew, Jordan, Scott, Andrew and Patrick have also been selected for Irish training squads, another fantastic achievement for the Lisburn school who supplied four players to the Irish under 18 squad at the Eurohockey A Division in Santander last summer.
Matthew is understandably excited about the McCullough Cup final and commented: “It’s great for us to get to the McCullough Cup final for the third year in a row and we can’t wait to get stuck in on Wednesday.
“We really respect Sullivan as a team and know about many of their players but we have been playing well recently and are confident of playing well on Wednesday. As ever,there’s been a real buzz about the school and I’m sure a big crowd will make their way to Lisnagarvey for the game. They always create a great atmosphere for us and their support means a lot to us as a squad.”
The 1st XI would also like to thank sponsor Mrs Sandra McCabe from Oasis Travel who recently presented this years new playing shirts to the squad. This is the second year of the sponsorship deal and all involved in boys’ hockey at the Lisburn school wish to thank Oasis for their support.
McCullough Cup Final Squad: James Ritchie (GK), Scott McCabe, Jordan Taggart, Patrick Hunter, Craig Getty, William Carey, Jacob Hermon, David Arneill, Matthew Nelson (captain), Andrew O’Hare, Ben Nelson, Callum Patterson, Jonny Lynch, Aaron Scott, James McAuley, Adam Clarke, Lewis Taylor (GK).