Banbridge Academy’s Burney Cup victory on Wednesday evening gave a key insight into the future of hockey in Banbridge.
That’s the view of Academy coach Mark Cordner, who hailed the crowd that came down to watch the Academy’s 4-1 success over defending Sinton’s At The Bridge Burney Cup champions Wallace.
Jake Rowe netted twice while Nathan Liggett and Philip Cambell were also on target to set up a home quarter-final against Bangor Grammar on Saturday 27th February.
Understandably over the moon at such a spanking of their rivals, Cordner was even more pleased at the unique atmosphere which engulfed Havelock Park.
He pointed to the timing of the Wednesday evening fixture as a reason for the crowd and says it’s something that should be tried again.
He said: “There was a such a great crowd down. It was up there with the amount of people that came down for the IHL finals and it makes a real argument for floodlit hockey.
“That’s the way the game has to go and it shows that there is a real demand for it in Banbridge. People from Armagh, Portadown and other places had come over to watch.
“It made for a really good spectacle which was matched by our performance on the pitch. I’ve had a lot of texts from people talking about how good a game it was and what a high level of hockey was on show.”
If any of the crowd had arrived in late, they would have missed the opening goal, which arrived just 41 seconds in.
Nathan Liggett finished neatly into the corner after good work by Mark Barlow punished the Wallace stopper for an error.
Jake Rowe then made it 2-0 after six minutes with a trademark drag flick, low to the keeper’s right.
Wallace began applying lots of pressure but the visitors had to resort to a lot of crash ball due to the work rate of the Bann team. And the Academy continued to break on the counter with Kyle Marshall and Sam Green both going close.
Just before the break, Bann won another short corner after great skill and a shot from Peter McKnight. Up stepped Rowe to fire home, giving the keeper no chance to give Bann a 3-0 half-time lead.
The second half began with Wallace trying to break the deadlock but the Bann back four of Andrew Bennington, James Anderson, Mark Adair and Dylan Cowan were absorbing the pressure well.
And anything that did manage to get past the defence was well dealt with by goalkeeper Luke Roleston.
That was until the visitors won their first short corner of the night, which was driven into the bottom corner by a superb reverse.
At the other end, the forward line of Joel Reid, Nathan Liggett, Phillip Campbell, Mark Barlow and Peter McKnight caused constant problems and soon got their reward.
Barlow, who had an excellent game all night, displayed great skill along the baseline finding Philip Campbell who showed excellent composure to fire into the roof of the net.
That fourth goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Wallace as Bann began to create chance after chance. Kyle Marshall, Charlie Norris and Nathan Liggett all were unlucky not to increase the score line, which finished 4-1 to Banbridge.
“It was a super performance,” concluded Cordner.
“Even at 3-0, it was very edgy and we knew they would throw everything at us at the start of the second half.
“Kyle Marshall was incredible and Jake Rowe’s quality really showed. Peter McKnight was probably the pick of the forwards.
“It’s a big monkey off our backs. It’s probably three years since we’ve beaten them like that.
“A big thanks to everyone who came down and also to the club for putting on tea and coffee in the clubhouse.”