Regent House hoping to earn historic Burney Cup final spot

Wallace's Ross Kelly
Wallace's Ross Kelly

Regent House are poised to go into unchartered territory, if they win Wednesday’s ‘Sinton’s at the Bridge’ Burney Cup semi-final, against Banbridge Academy.

The Newtownards-based school have never featured in a Burney Cup final since RBAI won it back in 1920.

But they will have to produce a top drawer performance, if they can stop Bann lifting an unprecedented five Burney titles in a row.

Regent Captain, Adam Tate knows that they have a tough game ahead of them but he is confident his side can reach their first final.

He said: “We might be going into the game as underdogs, but there is a real buzz in the squad and the guys have been working really hard and I feel that we can get one over on Bann this time round.

“Reaching the semi-finals is a great achievement, but to get into the final would be fantastic for the school and we will have loads of support for the game.

“This is an opportunity to put the school on the map, instead of it always being Banbridge and Cookstown.”

Banbridge are no strangers to the Burney, as they have lifted the trophy 13 times in 26 finals and are the first school to win it four times outright on the trot. But the County Down school want to make it five straight wins and another win will take them level with Cookstown High and also put them one behind Friends record 15 wins.

Now coached by Irish International Eugene Magee, Bann will be anxious to get their hands on some silverware, as they missed out on the McCullough earlier in the season and even failed to reach the semi-finals.

But since then, results have been going their way and in their captain Johnny McKee, he has the potential of being a match winner. Already an Irish Under 21 international, McKee looks like he is following his dad, John, and very soon will win his first of many Irish senior caps.

This season has been something of a rebuilding one for Bann and they already have unearthed a couple of very talented players. Jake Rowe is an Irish Under 16 international and Matthew Hurst was included in the Under 16 interpro winning squad.

It is advantage Bann, as they defeated Regent 5-0 earlier in the season, but past results count for nothing in cup games and it is who can step up to the mark on the day.

The pendulum of school power has definitely swung to Lisburn this season, as both Wallace and Friends’ will battle it in the other semi-final.

Wallace already have the McCullough cup in the schools trophy cabinet, after they defeated their Lisburn rivals in the final.

But whilst Wallace would love a schools cup double, they know that Friends will be out to win the Burney, something they last did back in 1978.

Friends’ dominated the Burney in the 70’s, winning it three times and sharing it twice with RBAI and Cookstown High. However, since that last win, they have only appeared in the final twice, in 1986 and 1995.

They would definitely not like to see another piece of silverware going in Wallace’s direction and Friends captain Matthew Sullivan will be hoping it will be their turn for the silverware. He said: “We have improved from the McCullough Cup final, and look forward to an even better game this time round.

“We are looking forward to playing in front of another big crowd. We have trained really hard for this and hopefully we can do it this time round.”

Ulster Under 16 star Aaron Martin has been in sparkling form this season and has notched up 30 goals, all from open play. And Martin has already caught the eye of Lisnagarvey coach Eroll Lutton, who drafted him into the squad for their Irish Hockey League game against Inst and Martin produced the goods, scoring in Garvey’s 4-2 win.

Friends’ will lose six players this season including Sullivan, Jack Henderson and James Milliken. And Milliken will be hoping that he can seal another sparkling goal-keeping performance, which saw the Ulster and Irish Under 18 keeper pick up the man of the match award in the McCullough cup final, even though they lost.

But Wallace look the team on form and have their eye on an Ulster schools double. The last time the High won the cup was back in 2001, when Timmy Cockram.

He, of course, went on to to become one of the most revered strikers in Irish hockey.

But it is the Wallace trio of Daniel Nelson, Mark McNellis and 16 year old Sean Murray who are all destined for Irish hockey stardom, who will be Friends’ biggest threat.

Wallace captain Ross Kelly said: “We are pleased to be involved in another big game this season and it’s always special playing in a big Lisburn derby.

“No doubt there will be another big crowd at Garvey for the game, which always helps to add to the atmosphere.”

It promises to be a superb double header at Lisnagarvey Hockey Club, with Banbridge and Regent hitting off first at 1.30pm. Followed by the local derby between Wallace and Friends at 3.30pm.