Yesterday Ulster Hockey hosted our annual U15 Boys Finals Day at CIYMS.
The tournament was split into two sections with Cookstown coming out as winners of the Performance Section, whilst Raphoe beat Instonians in the Intermediate Final.
The day got underway with the Intermediate semi-finals as Bangor took on Raphoe and Instonians met Mossley in the other tie.
It was the County Donegal side who got off to a flying start as they forced the young Bangor goalkeeper into a series of good saves early on. Their early dominance soon paid off as they took the lead after a well worked move saw the ball squared to the back post for a tap in.
That lead didn’t last for long as Bangor began to put the pressure on the Raphoe defence and got a bit of luck as an initial shot was saved, but the rebound fell to another attacker for the equaliser.
After a prolonged period of both sides going back and forth it was Raphoe who once again took the lead when a straight strike from the top of the circle was too strong for the goalkeeper. From there they took control of the game and soon extended their lead to two goals, but before the game was over they still had time to round off their strong performance with another quality finish as it ended 4-1.
In the other semi-final Instonians and Mossley put up a close encounter, but it was the side from Shaw’s Bridge who came out victorious.
The match started at a very high tempo with both defences looking impenetrable and the closest either side came in the opening minutes falling for Instonians. Their forward found himself one vs one with the goalkeeper, but after his shot looked to be saved it managed to trickle towards the line before needing to be cleared by a defender.
Next it was the turn of Mossley to go close as a period of penalty box pinball saw the opposition goalkeeper forced into a series of good saves to keep it at 0-0.
With chances continuing to fall for both sides, neither could find a breakthrough until the second half. An Inst attacker saw the ball land at his stick in the penalty are but with his back to goal, he took a touch to set himself before his strike found the far corner to open the scoring.
A period of Mossley pressure followed but the Instonains defence managed to hold firm to set up a final with Raphoe.
The final proved to be one of the most entertaining matches of the day with Raphoe eventually winning on penalty run-ins.
After a tense opening to the game, it sparked into life when the Belfast side took an early lead as their attacker was played through with the goalkeeper and kept his nerve to put his side ahead.
A positive response from their fellow finalists saw Inst give up a handful of chances which should have seen their opponents come back into the game, but they couldn’t get their goal.
Instead, the lead was doubled after Instonians continued to threaten on the counter and made Raphoe pay after the ball was squared to the back post for an open goal.
However, just minutes later Raphoe got their lifeline and a route back into the game, unfortunately for them they conceded straight from pushback to make it 3-1. Nonetheless the Donegal side didn’t drop their heads and sparked a dramatic comeback when two more goals in quick succession brought the score back level to 3-3.
Having given up their lead Instonians continued to push forward and soon got their lead back, but again they couldn’t hold on as the match would finish 4-4 and head to run-ins.
After a dramatic shoot-out which went all the way to sudden death, Raphoe were the side who prevailed to keep complete the comeback and round off a great tournament.