Two of Ulster and Irish hockey’s budding stars will be in direct opposition in Wednesday’s McCullough Cup semi-finals as Lisnagarvey strikers Troy Chambers and Oliver Kidd set their club allegiances aside and go head-to-head in Lisburn.
It should be a fascinating contest between Oliver’s Friends’ and Troy’s Wallace High, who have been at the forefront of the local schools’ game in recent years.
Friends’ won the John Minnis Estate Agents Burney Cup last season, beating Sullivan Upper in the final after losing the McCullough decider to the Holywood side.
The other semi sees holders Sullivan take on last year’s beaten last four side Methodist College, who will be going all out to go one better at Stormont.
Wallace, who have won both competitions in recent years, will obviously be out to recapture the glory days as they prepare to face their local rivals at Magheralave Road.
Wallace coach Gareth Kidd said: “We are obviously very much looking forward to the game on Wednesday. It’s not often that we get to play our near neighbours in a competitive game and the fact that it is a McCullough Cup semi final makes it even more special.”
“In terms of our team we have played well this year and narrowly missed out on a place in the Irish Schools semi final. Jonny Lynch and Troy are both Irish underage internationals and also making names for themselves with Lisnagarvey 1st XI in the EYHL, a real testament to their talents.
“We also have other players playing at Lisnagarvey and a healthy number playing for South Antrim firsts in the Ulster Premier League,” he added.
“Friends, we know, will be a real tough nut to crack and they also have a lot of very good players who have played underage for both province and country.
“However, we are very confident in our ability to go there and get a positive result. It will be a great occasion and there should be a really big crowd from Wallace there to support us.”
Gareth’s opposite number, Craig Cunningham, is of similar mind as he looks ahead to the local derby.
He said: “We are looking forward to the semi against Wallace, and we haven’t played them with full strength sides this year as we were both missing interpro players.
“It should be a good crowd as it is a local derby. We have 12 back from the Burney squad but have been troubled by injuries this year but hopefully we will be able to field a full strength team on Wednesday.
“It will be a tough game as they have some very talented players and got some big wins in the group stage, but we have been playing well also so it should be an exciting match.”