Royal School Armagh became the first side to lift the Ulster Super League title for a second time after beating Banbridge Academy 1-0 in Wednesday’s final at Stormont.
The game was a repeat of the inaugural final in 2016 which Armagh won 2-1 and the rematch was another close contest.
Armagh, coached by Pegasus boss and international cricketer Greg Thompson had the edge for periods.
But the Academy always looked dangerous on the break and had a star performer in Ireland Under 18 international Nadia Benallal, who was a constant threat.
However, it was the Armagh girls that started the livelier, forcing a quick penalty corner, and testing the keeper after only two minutes. This was followed quickly by another great save as Yasmin Morrow went close.
From then, the game swung between the two ’25’s with few chances really created in front of goal.
But the standard was very high and both teams played a similar style really opening up the pitch and making it an impressive game to watch. The game followed a similar pattern after the break but it was Armagh who scored the all-important goal with 16 minutes left.
A great run by Olivia Berry, who ironically plays her club hockey for Banbridge, set up Lucy Johnston, who scored with a first time shot for the all-important goal.
Armagh held onto their lead better in this match than in Saturday’s semi-final against Omagh Academy. Head coach Thompson was delighted for the girls who worked incredibly hard throughout the game and stuck to the task brilliantly.
He said: “Credit must go to Banbridge who threw everything at us and contributed to a great final.”
“They’re a very strong team who have competed at the top end of school hockey for a number of years and showed their quality throughout.”
“Neither team created many chances, so it was always likely to be a one goal game and it was fitting Lucy Johnston was in the right place at the right time to convert.”
“There a number of outstanding performances from both teams, but despite being only in Year 11, I thought Lucy was arguably player of the match.”
“It won’t be long until the Belfast Telegraph Senior Cup rolls around and this group of girls will be eager to perform well after Christmas.”
Academy coach Neil Madeley is also looking ahead to the Cup after rightly predicting that one piece of magic might prove decisive in the Super League final.
He said: “Finals, are usually tight games and this one certainly was between two competitive sides.”
“This was proved correct with chances limited on both sides. Armagh were quicker and stronger than us in the first half and slightly shaded it as we struggled to find any rhythm against them.”
“Then in the second half we enjoyed more possession but we still struggled to break them down. Then Olivia got away for the first time in the match and that bit of magic created the best chance of the game and they took their opportunity well.”
“To our credit, we kept going but could not find the quality to get back on level terms. To win games you have to score and that was the difference today as Armagh took theirs. We’ll dust ourselves down and get ready for the cup which begins for us after Christmas against either Dungannon or Kilkeel and that will be our focus now.”
“We’ll use the time in between to continue to work on our game as realistically the cup could be won by any one of five or six sides. It really is wide open this year.”
The Tier B final was even closer as Glenlola Collegiate edged out Grosvenor Grammar 3-1 in a penalty shootout after the Bangor girls twice came from behind to draw 2-2 in normal time.
Sophie Larmour and Jenna Breen were on target for Grosvenor with Erin Brown and Libby Morton, who hit a late equaliser, replying for Glenlola.
Glenlola coach Janice Heasley said: “It was a great team performance and I am really proud of all the girls”‘
All four schools would like to thank the pupils both past and present, staff, friends and parents for all of their support for the finals in the bad weather conditions. Neither game disappointed with a good standard of competitive hockey being created by this competition now in its third season.
Thanks from the four schools also go to the umpires, Playball, NISC, UHU representatives and the Super League organising committee.