Banbridge Academy have been far from idle since lifting the Belfast Telegraph Senior Cup as they prepare for this week’s All Ireland Kate Russell Cup bid in Dublin.
The Ulster champions will be up against their counterparts from the other provinces on Thursday and Friday.
“We had a few days off after the Belfast Telegraph final and then had a good friendly with Royal School Armagh which was very beneficial and ended in a 1-1 draw,” explained Academy captain Nadia Benallal.
“Since then we have just been working hard at our own game and managing a few niggling injuries as we get ready for four hard games in two days.
“Our coaches Mrs Todd and Miss Magee have been standing in for Neil (Madeley) while he has been unavailable and they have continued with our preparations.”
Nadia would dearly love to sign off her school hockey career with a second all Ireland title, having been part of triumphant the Kate Russell Cup team two years ago.
One of six survivors from the class of ’17, she is expecting a tough challenge, particularly from host team St Andrews, who include Ireland senior international Amy Elliott.
She added: “St Andrews being at home and with Amy will certainly be a threat but so will holders Kilkenny College as they gave us a really hard game when we were successful in 2017.”
“Crescent from Limerick and Coláiste Iognaid, from Connacht are also provincial champions, so we expect four hard games. There are no easy games at this stage as everyone will be out to pick up points.”
“Our coaching team will watch the other games as footage of the other sides in action is limited but we have several different set-ups which we can adapt depending on who we play.”
“Our timetable is very challenging with minimal breaks in between the games but we have a good squad with strength in depth which we can draw upon.”
“The girls have had a lot of school and club hockey over the last two weeks but Neil will manage our time on the pitch when we start.”
“It is the same for all the teams so it becomes a test of the strength of your squad and managing your rest periods.”
“To win it for a second time and in my last year would be the icing on the cake but we are under no illusions as to how hard it will be. We will be giving it our best shot but are fully aware of the need to be at our best.”