The saying goes that “there’s no ‘I’ in team”, there is, however, an ‘I’ in time. 36 years is a long time to wait for a second All Ireland Schools’ Hockey title, but that wait is now over as the Boys’ 1st XI won the coveted Tasmanian Shield on the newly laid blue turf at Havelock Park, on Friday 27th October.
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All Ireland Schools’ Hockey : Wednesday
The All-Ireland School’s tournament is possibly the hardest tournament to win in Irish Hockey – 5 games in two and a half days is a tall order for any side. The teams campaign commenced on Wednesday afternoon with the first group game against Ulster rivals Cookstown High School.
As is often the case, the first group game was a nervy affair and although Wallace created several great chances, it took some time for the Lisburn squad to get the goal through great work from Oliver Tumilty. The lads continued to push hard, and it was again Tumilty who would score the second goal to secure the first 3 points in the group phase of the tournament.
All Ireland Schools’ Hockey Thursday
Thursday’s schedule included 2 games against Leinster opposition – Temple Carrig and St. Andrew’s. Temple Carrig knew they were in for a tough game against Wallace and defended solidly. However, the Wallace team stuck to their tactical plan, remaining patient and went onto win by 4 goals to nil. Captain, Max Spence with 2 goals, with Luke Dennison and Oliver Tumilty with the other 2.
With St. Andrew’s drawing with Cookstown in their second match, the squad knew that if they avoided defeat in the last group game, they would progress to the semi-final stage. The team knew that playing for a draw was not the way to approach a dangerous St. Andrew’s side who have always been a difficult outfit for Wallace to beat.
With Daniel Murray setting the tone, the whole squad approached this game with a calm and focused mentality. Superb work from William McMullan and Ellis Shanks allowed the midfield and forwards to put their stamp on the game.
Milo Thompson continually provided a running threat from midfield and the regular rotation of forwards meant the St. Andrew’s defence were constantly being asked questions. Although a tense game, Wallace remained in control and came through with a 2-1 win – the goals coming from Charlie Banks and Max Turner.
Whilst the goal scorers often get the credit for winning the game, it is important to mention the magnificent double save made by goalkeeper, Matthew McLearnon. This proved to be a pivotal moment in the game and served to build the belief in the team that they had a great chance to make it all the way in this year’s competition.
With 3 wins from 3 in the group stage, Wallace travelled to Newry’s Canal Court Hotel for the Tournament Dinner, knowing they were in the semi-final draw. Following a great meal, Ireland Men’s Head Coach, Mark Tumilty, made the draw for the semifinals.
Wallace was drawn to play Bangor Grammar School, a side that have been getting stronger over the last number of seasons. Recent results between the 2 schools had been in Wallace’s favour, however tournament hockey does not always follow the form book.
All Ireland Schools’ Hockey Friday
Friday morning’s semi-final required more calm heads as Bangor set up with a very solid defensive shape that the Wallace team found hard to break down. Bangor capitalised on their early pressure and went into a 1-0 lead, which they retained until half time. It was clear that Wallace needed to change tactics and some tweaking of the plan allowed the team to better deal with Bangor’s tactics.
The second half started well, with Milo Thompson showing his class, which was a recurring theme in this tournament for this young star. He finished a great team goal and within 5 minutes Wallace were ahead through Max Spence. Fast forward, and before the end of the third quarter Milo Thompson extended the Wallace lead to 3-1. As the final quarter commenced, Bangor really stepped up the pressure and converted a short corner to make the score 3-2.
The pressure kept building but Wallace stood firm, with Max Spence making an unbelievable goal line clearance from a Bangor penalty corner. Bangor kept pushing, but ultimately ran out of time and Wallace were into the final!
The squad had two and a half hours to prepare for the biggest game in school hockey. A focus on rest, rehydration, and recovery for the boys. Meanwhile, coaches McKnight and Simpson liaised with Tim Cockram on how to deal our final opponents, the impressive Waterford side, Newtown. A clear plan emerged to deal with the aerial threat that Newtown’s key player Peio Garate posed.
All Ireland Schools’ Hockey : Final
On to the final and in front of a huge crowd, the Wallace side started the game with the calm heads needed. They stuck to the plan, they dealt with the aerial threat and the introduction of Reuben Ilenotuma‘s electric pace on the right of the pitch, coupled with the midfield work rate of Dennison, Thompson and Spence, saw Wallace put their stamp on the game. Daniel Murray put Wallace ahead in the first quarter, but coaches McKnight and Simpson knew there was a long way to go.
As the game ebbed and flowed, Ellis Shanks marshalled the Newtown winger with ease and Daniel Murray and Harvey Begg showed maturity beyond their years to snuff out any significant chances for the Waterford side. Tumilty continued to be a threat whilst Banks posed a constant nuisance to the Newtown defence with his unpredictable running.
Max Turner continued to force mistakes with his selfless running and boundless energy. Newtown kept pushing and levelled the score in the 3rd quarter with a well taken goal. Wallace continued to create chances but could not convert.
Newtown were also pushing hard and but for another stunning save from Matthew McLearnon in the Wallace goal, the Lisburn side could have been reflecting on too many chances missed. As time ran down the dreaded shoot out loomed. Coaches and senior players knew it was down to a key word used in the squad throughout the tournament – “calm”.
As it was, the game finished 1-1 and so it fell to Matthew McLearnon in goal and the five brave shoot out takers to step up. As the shootout progressed, Wallace went ahead converting their first 4 chances. With Matthew doing enough to force an error from a Newtown player, it fell to the Newtown captain to keep them in the shootout. McLearnon stayed mobile and gave the Newtown player no angle and his shot came off the post. Wallace had done it!! Champions! Cue wild celebrations on and off the pitch. The All-Ireland Schools’ title was on its way to Clonevin Park for the second time!
This title is hugely important to the wider school community. There have been many semi-finals and finals over the last 15 years. To bring the Tasmanian Shield back to Wallace, after a 37-year break, is something that has been strived for by the hockey coaching team. It is even more significant in 2023 for two key reasons.
Firstly, Mr Kidd captained his school side, Wellington College to the title in 1993, exactly 30 years ago. Secondly, Oliver Tumilty made competition history as the first player to repeat the success of his father, Lee, in winning the same competition.
The coaching staff would like to thank everyone that has made this success possible. The players and their parents deserve huge amounts of credit for their commitment and attitude. Our sponsors, Oasis Travel, Clyde Shanks, Kukri and Maxol, who’s support is invaluable. To all those students and staff who made it out to the matches, your voices were heard and made a real difference.
To all those past Wallace players that made it to the final, the atmosphere you created should not be underestimated. Finally, to the two local hockey clubs: Lisnagarvey and South Antrim; most of our players have come through your youth and mini hockey. We work hard and are dedicated to developing hockey in Wallace and this would be much harder without the synergy between the school and our local clubs.
Captain Max Spence was delighted with their victory and summarised what it meant to him:
“Becoming the All-Ireland winners has been the highlight of my hockey career. I knew the team had the potential to go all the way this year and it has been a pleasure to play alongside these hardworking and talented players. Our thanks must also go to our coaches at Wallace who have persevered with us over the years, both the highs and lows, and we know what winning this tournament means to them. I want to thank all the supporters who came out to cheer us onto victory and I hope to see them again on the sidelines soon.”
Matthew McClearnon, Luke Dennison, Reuben Ilenotuma, Harvey Begg, Charlie Banks, Daniel Murray, Max Spence (C)
Ellis Shanks, William McMullan, James Gorman, Harry Gowdy Max Turner, Connor Johnston
Oliver Tumilty, Milo Thompson, Ant Spence
1st XI Head Coach:
Mr McKnight, Mr Simpson, Mr Harper
Master in Charge of Hockey:
Mr G Kidd
Last modified: November 15, 2023