Wallace High staged a dramatic smash and grab act to beat Sullivan Upper 4-3 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the John Minnis Estate Agents Burney Cup final at Stormont on Thursday night.
The Lisburn school looked dead and buried after Sullivan had come from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 with 14 minutes left.
With only one goal separating the sides, there was always the chance that Wallace could mount a comeback but it had looked unlikely such was the Holywood outfit’s dominance after they went in front.
However, having been on the back foot for most of the remainder of the 70 minutes, Wallace summoned one last big effort and forced the penalty shootout with an equaliser that came with just 14 seconds on the clock.
Wallace held their nerve in the one-on-one ice hockey style run ins to repeat their McCullough Cup win over Sullivan which had come in identical fashion. In lifting the trophy, Wallace completed a rare schoolboy hockey double, adding the Burney to the McCullough Cup they won before Christmas.
Wallace coach Gareth Kidd was delighted at his team’s triumph and also paid tribute to the gallant Sullivan squad.
He said: “What an absolutely unbelievable night which showcased all that is good in schools’ hockey.”
“Credit to Sullivan for an incredible comeback and also to our lads who kept going to the very end of the game. They showed real courage to score that equaliser with 14 seconds left on the clock which is indicative of their never-say-die attitude.”
“That’s now three big games which we have won on run ins this year. We’ve practiced them a lot and that shows when it comes to scoring under pressure. We also have a goalkeeper, Ben Cooke, who shines with his ability in shootouts.”
“It’s an unbelievable way for our four Year 14 players to end their school hockey careers and I want to commend our captain, Jonny Lynch, vice captain, Zach Benson, alongside Adam Clarke and Thomas Cherry for all they have given Wallace hockey over seven years. It hasn’t always been easy but they’ve stuck at it through thick and thin and ended up winning a rare double in their final year.”
“To win both major cups is a tremendous achievement for our school and reflects on a dedicated coaching staff throughout all year groups. I especially want to thank my assistant coach, David Simpson, for all his efforts this year and he has been an integral part of the success.”
“Thanks to Ulster Hockey, sponsors John Minnis and our own staff and supporters who came out in large numbers to create a brilliant atmosphere. Finally huge congratulations to our players. Not only excellent on the pitch but great ambassadors for Wallace off the pitch as well.”
It was a superbly entertaining contest, first swinging one way and then the other but Sullivan certainly had the edge in possession across the 70 minutes, only to find themselves 2-0 down early in the second half.
Wallace almost went ahead from the first penalty corner of the game in the third minute but a defender brilliantly turned Troy Chambers effort onto the post and the ball rolled agonisingly along the line. At the other end, Matthew Willis’s pass was collected by Djay Erskine but his shot was well saved by Ben Cooke in the 15th minute.
Then a Harry Morris shot crashed off the post and Cooke saved from a Paddy Crookshanks effort as Sullivan looked the team most likely to break the deadlock. But it was Wallace who went ahead in the 28th minute when Troy Chambers fired home from a set-piece.
The Lisburn lads started the second half where they left off, and after Chambers had a shot saved by Sullivan keeper Fraser Todd, they doubled their lead in the 43rd minute when Oliver Patterson knocked in a cross at the far post.
But Sullivan replied with two goals in the space of seven minutes to turn the tables, first Harry Morris sliding the ball into the corner of the net after a good move down the right in the 47th minute.
Three minutes later, Crookshanks grabbed the equaliser with a rocket of a penalty corner and then Harry Yarr made it 3-2 converting a rebound off the keeper’s pads.
Wallace were under pressure after that triple setback and unable to get much change out of the Sullivan defence on the rare occasions they got forward. But they snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat when Max Taylor scored from close range following a long corner with the last play of the game.
Wallace then held their nerve in the shootout to break Sullivan hearts but both teams had played their part in one of the best finals for many years.
Sullivan Upper: Fraser Todd (GK), Sam Anderson, Harry Yarr, Patrick Rose, Michael Trimble, Matthew Willis, Patrick Crookshanks (Co-Capt), Matthew Morris, Daniel Girvin, Djay Erskine, Connor Smith, Tom McClintock, Isaac Hart, Nathan Keown, Jack McNeill, Harry Morris (Co-Capt), Harrison Dunlop (GK)
Wallace High: Ben Cooke (GK), Peter Milligan, Max Taylor, Tim Curragh, Cameron Forrest, Zach Benson (VC), Todd Benson, Oliver Patterson, Troy Chambers, Jonny Lynch (C), Adam Clarke, Paddy Watson, Sam Boyd, Ben Clarke, Thomas Cherry, Daniel McElhinney, David Furphy (GK)