Both teams are agreed that penalty corners could well prove decisive in Wednesday’s eagerly anticipated McCullough Cup Final between holders Sullivan Upper and Wallace High at Lisnagarvey (2pm).
Sullivan have a potential match-winner in team captain Paddy Crookshanks, who hit a hat-trick in the 3-2 semi-final win over Methodist College while Troy Chambers could be the ace in the Wallace pack. Chambers, who is on Lisnagarvey’s books, scored both goals in the 2-2 semi-final draw with Friends’ before Wallace went on to win the subsequent penalty shootout.
“I’m very excited and proud to play for Wallace as this is my first ever McCullough Cup Final; it will be a special occasion for the team, particularly for my team mates playing in their final year of their school hockey,” said Troy.
“The atmosphere will be great with loads of support for both teams. As Sullivan are the holders it will make for a great final. In recent years they have been very successful and the team to beat. I am very familiar with their players as I have played with them at Ulster and Ireland, including club mates with whom I play at Garvey.
“Sullivan will be strong, fast, and well-structured. They are very clinical and I’m sure they will be looking to win penalty corners as they have had a lot success from these and we need to be ready for that. “
Wallace coach Gareth Kidd and team captain Jonny Lynch, one of Chambers’ Garvey team mates, are also looking forward to the challenge.
“The two teams have enjoyed a close rivalry in recent years with Sullivan edging us 4-3 in the final three years ago and also defeating Wallace 3-2 in the 2017 Burney Cup final.” Kidd recalled.
“The teams have met once this season in the group stages of the competition, something of a thriller with Sullivan two up at half time only for Wallace to go 3-2 up before a last gasp equaliser from Sullivan so a close game should be expected.”
Jonny Lynch, who is in his final year at school commented: “Our entire squad are very excited about playing in the final in front of a big crowd on Wednesday.”
“We enjoyed our semi-final win versus Friends’ but have refocused as we know that Sullivan will be another tough nut to crack. After drawing 3-3 with them in the group stages, the final is sure to be another close game but we will back ourselves to get the win. We have several match winners in our squad, none more so than Troy who has scored well over 20 goals this season already and is a constant threat to the opposition.”
“Adam Clarke and Ben Clarke also have the potential to score important goals, whilst our young goalkeeper Ben Cooke and the defensive team were outstanding in our semi final victory against a very strong Friends attack. We have a really good mix of pupils in their final year at school and also players in Years 11 and 12 who all have a vital role to play.”
Sullivan coach Paul Osborne, who has 10 players back from last year, says there is more to come from his side and also highlighted the Wallace set-piece threat.
“We won our McCullough Group without playing our best and likewise in the semi-final we were nowhere near our best but found a way to win,” said Paul.
“We are unbeaten against Ulster schools’ sides but haven’t been great to date. We played Wallace in our group and we led 2-0 at half time and were pretty comfortable. Then three quick corners and three drags from Troy had us on the back foot. We equalised in the last minute and a draw was probably the fair result although Wallace may dispute that having been so close to victory.”
“They have very strong players in Jonny,Troy and Cole Chambers who do everything but all the squad are well-coached and will know their jobs. Kiddo always has great movement in his teams and this one is no different so we will need to be switched on from the word go. Troy is their main source of goals, mostly from corners with accurate drags as he proved against us and again in the semi-final. We know we will need to be at our best to win but as with all our matches in recent years there won’t be much in it.”