Superleague Semi-Finals Preview

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Banbridge Academy have a chance to avenge last season’s Belfast Telegraph Senior Cup final defeat by Rainey Endowed on Saturday.

The teams renew their rivalry in the Super League semi-finals at Stormont after Rainey edged out Bann on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the cup final last March. On the way to the league semi-final, Rainey dismissed the holders, Ballyclare High, thus exacting revenge for their defeat in last year’s Super League decider. Academy coach Neil Madeley said: ‘It’s a great competition and the girls enjoy it much more than playing friendlies, especially as there’s a trophy up for grabs.”

“Rainey will be tough opposition as always and we haven’t played them since the Ulster Senior Cup final so everyone is looking forward to the rematch.”

In the quarter-finals, Rainey comfortably overcame Strathearn 4-0 at their indoor pitch last weekend, with goals scored by Betty Scott (2) Sara Semple and Charlotte Beggs. Banbridge also had a clear win over Wallace HS 3-0 with goals from Jodie Simmons, Ellen Reid and Katie McDonald.

“The semi final will prove a tough challenge for Rainey with an in form Banbridge achieving good results this season. But the Rainey girls are looking forward to a great game,” said coach Carolyn Burns.

The other semi-final sees Omagh Academy up against Royal School Armagh, who were the competition’s inaugural winners three seasons ago. Omagh had the hardest route to the semi finals against Belfast Royal Academy which went to penalty runs; the first time a school girls’ knock-out match has gone to the new system of splitting teams, after a 2-2 draw at full time. Samantha Crawford and Amy McCollum scored for Omagh during the match, while in the penalty runs, Omagh won 4-2 with goals from Jess Hood, Amy McCollum, Katie Ballantine and Neave Netherley.

Omagh coach Steven Arbuthnot said: “Two positive things stick out for me, we took our chances well and defended superbly under pressure in the final 10minutes.”

“However, it was one of our poorest performances in terms of keeping the ball – and this will need to be better if we want to beat Armagh. But we’re delighted to win a game when we weren’t at our best, as we have certainly lost tight games in the past in the same situation. Looking to Armagh we are very excited for this challenge. They are a well coached team with a lot of threats, and my team have enjoyed taking on these big teams this year. It should be a tough contest with hopefully plenty of chances for both teams.” 

“Armagh have more experience of these big occasions, so we will be out to make the most of our first semi-final in over five years.”

Royal School Armagh was the last team to qualify with a late start at Ardmore on Saturday against a talented Victoria College side, the game finishing 1-0. Armagh scored through Erin Mackey in the first half after a good start, but they had to dig in deep in the end to hold onto their lead after Victoria came storming back in the second half. RSA’s Head Coach Greg Thompson and his young squad are looking forward to the semi final as it will be such a big experience for the girls.

Greg says: “We missed out twice last season at the quarter final stages in the league and the cup, but the girls have been working hard and putting in some good performances.”

“That ultimately saw us top of a tough group and the defeat of Victoria College in a tight quarter final match on Saturday. We have not played Omagh this season yet, but have enjoyed some good games in the past few years and look forward to what I’m sure will be a very competitive match.”

As a result of their quarter final places, these top eight teams in Tier A got a double bye and will start in the third round of the Belfast Telegraph Schools’ Cup, which starts this week and culminates on Wednesday 6th March, when the winner goes on to the prestigious Kate Russell All-Irelands. This Ulster League has certainly sharpened up the teams earlier than normal and so the overall standard should be improving each season as a result.

The Tier B semis will be played on the sand pitch and see Grosvenor GS play the holders Bloomfield Collegiate at 9:30am and Glenlola Collegiate face Limavady GS at 11am. In the quarter finals, the results were extremely close. Grosvenor beat Foyle College 2-1, Bloomfield defeated Carrick GS 2-1, Glenlola beat Royal and Prior 2-1 and Limavady were 1-0 winners over Cambridge House.

Super League Semi-Finals (Stormont)

Tier A: Banbridge Academy v Rainey Endowed (9.30am); Omagh Academy v Royal School Armagh (11am)

Tier B: Grosvenor v Bloomfield (9.30am); Glenlola v Limavady Grammar (11am).

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