Banbridge Academy v Rainey Endowed: Schoolgirls all set for hockey's Senior Cup Final
Rainey Endowed coach Carolyn Burns has already savoured one notable success along side her daughter Alex and the pair will be hoping to celebrate another today when holders Banbridge Academy provide the opposition in the Ulster Senior schoolgirls cup final at Stormont on Wednesday (2pm).
The mother-daughter combination came up trumps when they were members of the Rainey league team that beat Mossley in the Senior Cup final two seasons ago.
On this occasion, mum will be in the dug out while daughter, who was part of Ulster’s triumphant U18 inter-pro team this season, will be in the thick of the action.
Banbridge will start slight favourites with captain fantastic Katie McKee a key figure after her hat-trick in last year’s final and her star role in the semi-final win over Sullivan a fortnight ago.
But their preparations have been hampered by the big freeze since then while Rainey have been able to train at the indoor arena at Meadowbank.
“As the only covered hockey pitch in Ireland, it continues to provide us with the perfect playing and training environment.” said Carolyn.
“Meadowbank is a FIH Certified Field for Hockey and has always received praise from visiting teams outside of Ulster and indeed when (Australian legend) Jamie Dwyer took a training session there with the Ulster U21 men in 2010 he thought it was an amazing facility for hockey.
“So we are very lucky to have the use of such a facility but Meadowbank is a public amenity open to all.”
However, the Rainey coach knows that doing it on the pitch is what matters most and she realises Bann provide a massive obstacle to their ambition of a first Senior Cup schools’ triumph.
“We have played them regularly over the last three years and it is a couple of years since we have beaten Banbridge, they are a very strong team and dangerous in attack.” she warned.
“Katie is going to be hard to stop and we just have to try and do better than we have in previous matches against her.
“Although we reached the final in 2014, this is a separate team on its own journey and as I am always telling them the journey is often more important than the destination.
“I’m as interested in the player’s individual development as I am in the team and work hard to try and help them realise their own potential.
“As long as we produce girls who want to continue to play hockey when they leave school and we continue to produce players that are selected for Ulster and Ireland I am happy we are on track.”
Katie McKee, meanwhile, will be taking nothing for granted, despite the fact, her team have the favourites’ tag after going on to win the all Ireland title last season.
“Preparation has been difficult but we have been training indoors which sharpens your game and the girls have enjoyed it.” she said. “Rainey will have the edge in preparation but as finals usually are, it will come down to who can produce the goods on the day.
“We know them quite well as we have played them every year for the last few years but we are totally focused on our own game at the minute.
“We played them in the early rounds of the Super league this year and last and won both times but those games were very close despite the 4-1 score line each time and they were early in the season when both sides were still settling down.
“I have played with Lauren Mulholland, Erin Anderson and Alex Burns before and they will be the ones to watch in what is a good overall squad.”