HOCKEY Banbridge Academy and Wallace High to meet in Senior Cup Final

Wallace celebrate their win
Wallace celebrate their win

There will be a new name inscribed on the Ulster Senior Schoolgirls’ Cup after Banbridge Academy and Wallace High won their respective semi-finals at Lisnagarvey on Wednesday to reach next month’s showpiece.

In two extremely close matches, Banbridge defeated Sullivan Upper 2-1 and Wallace were winners by the same scoreline against Royal School Armagh.

Although both winners have played in the final before - Banbridge in 2015 and Wallace six years ago - neither side has won the trophy.

All that will change after the final at Lisnagarvey on March 1 and, on the basis of Wednesday’s games, it will be a hard one to call.

In the first semi-final, Banbridge took the lead in the 10th minute when Katie McKee latched on to a penalty-corner, drove to her left and rifled a superb backhand shot low into the corner of the net.

Nine minutes later it was 2-0 when a great run down the right by Sophie Mount set up the chance for Nadia Benallal, who scored to put Bann in the driving-seat, or so it seemed.

However the celebrations had barely died down when, within 60 seconds, Beth Young pulled a goal back for Sullivan when she scored from close-range.

From Bann’s third penalty-corner near the break, Orla Thompson and Charley Brush both had sots saved by Sullivan keeper Jenny Beattie.

The action relented somewhat after the interval but Sullivan gradually began to look threatening as they won their first set-piece of the game in the 38th minute.

Laura McCaw went close to scoring the equaliser when she was unlucky to see her shot crash off the upright.

Three minutes later, the Holywood school won another penalty-corner and, this time, Bann keeper Alice Winton had to make a fine stop from McCaw.

Having weathered the storm, Banbridge forced a couple of late set-pieces and expertly ran the clock down in the dying minutes as they secured revenge for their defeat by Sullivan in the 2015 final.

Royal School Armagh were perhaps slight favourites going into the other tie, having won the inaugural superleague final before Christmas.

However, after surviving some late pressure, Wallace made it into the decider to bridge that six year gap when they lost to Lurgan College on penalties in the final.

Rachel Houston broke the deadlock in the 16th minute when she scored from a deflection to put Wallace into the lead.

But the impressive Hannah Irwin, who had earlier shot wide and struck a post, levelled matters with a fine individual effort six minutes later.

Alyssa Jebb scored from a penalty-corner on the stroke of half-time to restore the Wallace lead going into the break.

Six-times winners Armagh battled hard to find an equaliser and they were awarded a penalty corner seconds before the final hooter but they were unable to convert and Wallace held on for a famous victory