Ulster’s Under 17s captured the bronze medals at the Sainsbury’s UK School Games in Manchester yesterday when they defeated England 2-0.
Second half goals from Orla Thompson ((Banbridge Academy) and Jessica McMaster (Belfast High School) did the trick as Ulster finished the competition in style after beating Wales 6-0 on Saturday.
Ulster coach Steven Arbuthnot had set his sights on being in contention for a medal of a different hue going into the tournament but an opening 3-2 defeat by another of the three English sides effectively put paid to that ambition.
However it was a good finish to the tournament yesterday and beating any English team is always an achievement to be proud of such is their strength in depth and numbers.
Lurgan College player Kathryn Edgar captained the Ulster side who will now approach their inter-provincial title defence in Dublin in a confident frame of mind with three competitive fixtures under their belts - something the other provinces would be envious of.
“We had set out our stall to be in the gold medal play-off going into the tournament but it wasn’t to be after that opening defeat unfortunately.” said Arbuthnot.
“We had our chances in the opening game on Friday night but we didn’t manage to take them so that left us needing to beat Wales in the next game and it could have been more than 6-0 after a good performance by the girls.
“It was obviously good to finish with a win and get the bronze medals after beating England although it took us time to break them down.
“Their three teams are of similar standard and they are picked on a points system which reflects that so it was a good result for the girls.
“There is sometimes a bit of a fear factor when you go into any game with England but maybe it’s not so big a factor as it used to be in the past.
“Kathryn was an excellent captain and she is one of the more vocal members of the squad although there are several girls with good leadership qualities in the group.
“Now we will give the girls a week off and they will go back to their clubs and schools before we go back to preparing for the inter-pros which we won as Ulster U-18s last year.
“The tournament should stand us in good stead but the inter-pros are in Leinster so that will be tough.”
Three goals in each half saw Ulster comfortably account for Wales on Saturday and an opening goal from Thompson was followed by two from Rachel Burns (Rainey Endowed) and Katy McKee (Banbridge Academy).
The second half followed the pattern of the first with Ulster dominating possession and further goals came from McMaster who was again the architect of many attacks, Erin Getty (BRA) and a second for Thompson.
The local girls had run England close in Friday’s opener but went down 3-2 after taking an early lead through McKee.
England hit back to lead 3-1 with a goals on either side of the break before Armagh Royal’s Hannah Irwin scored a consolation with 10 minutes remaining.