HOCKEY: Banbridge Academy star McKee’s relief at Ulster success

The celebrations begin as Banbridge Academy finally win the Ulster Senior Schoolgirls' Cup for the first time. Pic: Rowland White / PressEye
The celebrations begin as Banbridge Academy finally win the Ulster Senior Schoolgirls' Cup for the first time. Pic: Rowland White / PressEye
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For Banbridge Academy’s hat-trick hero, there was a touch of relief about last week’s Ulster Senior Schoolgirls’ success.

It’s been a long time coming for the school - 110 years to be precise - and also for the senior members of the squad.

Katie McKee in action in last week's final. Pic: Presseye.

Katie McKee in action in last week's final. Pic: Presseye.

They came close back in 2015 when a final defeat to Sullivan Upper denied them a victory under the tutelage of now retired PE teacher Heather Camblin.

But she was at Comber Road last week to watch the girls getting over the line.

And her hard work certainly wasn’t forgotten by the star of the show, Katie McKee.

“Thank goodness we’ve got it for Neil (Madeley), Miss Camblin and all the girls,” she reflected.

Defender Ellen Reid receives a big hug from grandmother Hazel after a top performance.

Defender Ellen Reid receives a big hug from grandmother Hazel after a top performance.

“We’ve been in one final, another semi-final and played in the Super Cup final earlier this season as well. There’s been a lot of work and it’s been a long time coming.

“It’s such a good feeling. We’ve put in so much hard work over the last few years and credit to the girls who played their heart out.”

There’s little doubting it was McKee who provided the telling touch of class to see the Academy over the line with such aplomb.

But she is by no means the only sprinkle of true quality in a squad littered with top schools’ players.

Academy fans show their support for their favourite players.

Academy fans show their support for their favourite players.

And the ever humble Pegasus midfielder was keen to ensure the plaudits were shared.

“Everyone played their heart out,” she said. “Luckily the goals went in but it feels really good.

“I never expected to score a hat-trick but it was a great team effort and all the goals came from everyone working well together.”

McKee, of course, is the third sibling to hit hockey stardom in quick succession.

Showing off the Academy colours on an historic day for the school.

Showing off the Academy colours on an historic day for the school.

Older sister Lucy is now playing for Ards while brother Johnny captained the Academy to McCullough Cup and All Ireland Schoolboys success and is now a key member of Banbridge HC’s first team.

“For the girls, this is a first anyway,” laughed Katie. “Lucy only managed the semi-finals so I’ve got one up on her.”

Leaving aside the light-hearted sibling rivalry, there is certainly something about the McKee family and hockey prowess.

Coach Neil Madeley praised his star performer’s attitude, even if her motivation to come out on top, which seems written in the family DNA, did result in a yellow card soon after her second goal.

“It’s in there from Lucy and Johnny,” he said. “They’re a great bunch with a great attitude to the game. She leads the team and she’s driven to win. This was the perfect stage to showcase her skills. To score goals like that - textbook.”

Captain Orla Thompson heaped praise on her fellow midfielder, whose performance she recognised was a boost to the whole team on such a massive day for the school.

“That was some show for the crowd, wasn’t it?” smiled the bubbly Head Girl.

“She’s such a good player and she was on her game. That really helped the squad and uplifted the spirits. In the second half, we knew Wallace would put us under pressure. We were able to respond well which was really pleasing.”

It’s one major exam passed for the Bann girls, now on the All-Ireland test.

Bann will host the Subway All-Ireland Schoolgirls’ Championships at Havelock Park on March 23rd and 24th.

That tournament will be played on a round-robin basis between Banbridge Academy and the winners of the Munster, Leinster, Connacht and South Eastern regions.