The Prior Shield and the McCullough Cup are two matches that end the pre-Christmas term for the schools across the province. The Prior Shield is the prize awarded to the winners of the 2nd XI teams at the end of the final. The McCullough Cup is the trophy awarded to the winners of the 1st XI. Banbridge Academy had a hold over both during the last year, this was a chance for them to keep both titles as they had their 2nd XI in the final of the Prior Shield and their 1st XI in the final of the McCullough Cup. Attempting to take the titles from Banbridge Academy was Wallace High School 2nd XI in the final of the Prior Shield, and Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) 1st XI in the final of the McCullough Cup.
The Prior Shield – A sprint start for Wallace HS
With an aggressive and pushing start from Wallace High School and an early goal from a short corner scored by Harry Gowdy, Wallace were looking formidable at the start of the final match. Banbridge pushed back hard in the 1st quarter but couldn’t convert with the first quarter ending 1-0 Wallace High School. Banbridge Academy pushed back strong, with great possession in the 2nd quarter, culminating in an equaliser by Simon Ferris. This goal seemed to open the floodgates for Banbridge Academy, even with Wallace pushing hard and earning a short corner, they couldn’t convert their chance against a strong defence by Banbridge Academy. In the 2nd half of the match an early goal was scored by Banbridge Academy by Noah Lutton followed by a third by Daniel Reid. Wallace High School kept the pressure on and pushed back hard but a more dominant Banbridge went on to score a fourth and final goal sealing the match at 4 – 1.
A disheartened Wallace High School Captain Ben Calderwood gave a graceful speech at the end in which he said “thank you to the umpires for a fair match, fair play to Banbridge, congratulations on your win, it was a good match, I just want to say thank you to my team mates as well, for playing really well throughout the tournament, thank you to everyone who came down to watch today and a big thanks to Mr Armstrong for coaching us to get here.”
Lewis Cousins, Captain of Banbridge Academy 2nd XI said “thank you to Ulster Hockey for putting this event on, Wallace, thank you for a good game, every time we play you it’s always a good match, so thanks, thank you to all my team mates, all the work they’ve put in this year, behind the scenes, and it’s paid off here, it’s good to see. Thank you Mr Miskelly and Mr Barlow for all the work, and thank you Leber Medical for all the new kits as well.”
Marc Scott, CEO of Ulster Hockey took the opportunity to thank the teams, saying “thank you to firstly to the umpires for keeping the match a fair one, and thank you to both teams for being respectful and putting a fantastic and entertaining match for everyone here in attendance.”
The McCullough Cup – A Closely Fought Battle
The McCullough Cup started ferociously with Banbridge Academy pushing hard into the RBAI half and before long being awarded by their efforts with a goal from Captain Matthew McKee firing it over RBAI GK Callum Ullah to go 1-0 up in the first quarter. With an equaliser from RBAI by George Palmer, the score levelled up to 1-1 at the end of the first half. The second half started with a goal from Banbridge, and their Captain Matthew McKee proving why he is the leader of the pack with a fast paced goal against the strong RBAI team. RBAI found themselves deep in Banbridge Academy territory after this with a short corner being awarded. After 4 short corners, RBAI failed to convert and play went up the other side of the pitch, only to return back down to Banbridge Academy’s end soon after. With another short corner awarded to RBAI, the team finally converted after 3 more attempts to equalise the match at 2-2 with a goal from John Cunningham. Where the scored stayed. Meaning there would penalty run-ins.
The run-ins began with the home team not able to convert the first, followed by RBAI being denied their first also. Banbridge Academy scored their second, as did RBAI. Banbridge Academy closed in with a 3rd run-in scored, with RBAI following suit. Banbridge Academy had their fourth run-in saved, as did RBAI. A Banbridge run-in was scored soon after, RBAI kept up the pace with their own score next. This pace continued, ending in a great save by RBAI GK and Man of the Match Callum Ullah. Score in the run-ins ending 6-5 to RBAI.
Captain and double scorer Matthew McKee had this to say post match, “I’d like to thank everyone for coming down, thanks to the umpires and congratulations RBAI.” Whilst Matthew was disappointed to not get the win and hold on to the McCullough Cup the fight couldn’t have been harder. Words echoed by RBAI Captain Allen Lyons who had this to say, “Thanks to Banbridge Academy, great match, thanks to the umpires, thank you to Ulster Hockey and the McCullough family for putting on this great event. I’d like to thank the supporters, and finally I’d like to thank the players and the coaches, cheers guys.”
CEO of Ulster Hockey Marc Scott took the opportunity to say, “thank you to the McCullough family, who have supported this tournament for the last 60 years, this is the 60th time this tournament has been placed, so it’s a real legacy for the family. It came down to the wire and was a real fitting match for the 60th ever McCullough Cup Final.”