The Wallace High School came agonisingly close to winning the prestigious Irish Schools’ tournament in Cork in late October, falling to St Andrew’s College, Dublin in a superb final.
Wallace won all three group games to qualify for the semi finals for the second year in a row. Mount Temple were defeated 4 – 2 (Andrew O’Hare 2, Sean Murray and Matthew Nelson), a gritty Portadown College were beaten 4 – 2 (Matthew Nelson hat trick and Sean Murray) whilst Cork’s Bandon Grammar were defeated more comfortably than the 3 – 2 score line suggests in front of a partisan crowd (Sean Murray, Andrew O’Hare and Ryan Getty the scorers in this one).
The draw for the semi final was made, as always, at the Thursday night tournament dinner with the Lisburn lads pitted against local rivals Banbridge Academy in what was always likely to be a close and hard fought encounter. This was proved correct as Wallace came through a tough semi final winning 2 – 1 after a superb goal keeping display from Jordan McCartney and two well taken goals from Andrew O’Hare.
They knew that they were in for a really tough test in the final against a St Andrew’s team who were bidding to become only the second team in the history of the competition to win three in a row. Garyduff was the venue for the final and a large crowd helped to create an outstanding atmosphere for both teams with extra support for the Wallace team coming from their girls’ 1st XI who themselves had been playing matches in Cork as well as Portadown College and Ashton College, Cork who nailed their colours firmly to the Lisburn schools mast.
Wallace dominated the opening twenty minutes of the final with Mark McNellis looking assured in defence, Irish under 21 international Sean Murray playing as well as ever in midfield and Matthew Nelson (despite carrying a hamstring injury into the final) a constant menace up front. Indeed, it was Nelson who opened the scoring deservedly in the 12th minute when a cleverly worked penalty corner was deflected into the Andrews goal.
As the half wore on the physically bigger St Andrew’s team started to get a foothold in the game and a succession of penalty corners resulted in a equaliser for the Dublin school. This was followed by another goal soon after which put Wallace on the back foot but they bravely battled on with Jacob Hermon and Nelson looking dangerous on the counter attack.
Unfortunately Wallace conceded a penalty corner on the final whistle of the first half and the drag flicker was again clinical to take a slightly flattering 3 – 1 lead into the break.
Into the second half and St Andrew’s were thankful to their captain and Irish under 21 keeper Jamie Carr who showed his class to deny Hermon, Murray and Ryan Getty. Jordan McCartney was relatively untroubled at the far end but unfortunately (and through no lack of trying) Wallace could not get a goal to put the pressure back onto Andrew’s.
Commenting on the tournament, Wallace assistant coach Gareth Kidd said: “Although we are disappointed to lose the final there is a great sense of pride in the achievement of reaching an Irish Schools final. The players will remember the tournament for a long time and especially the great atmosphere from the final with both teams superbly supported. We now look forward to the rest of our domestic season and with a McCullough Cup semi final before Christmas know that we have to get back to work as soon as possible.”
Wallace Squad: Jordan McCartney, Thomas McRoberts, Mark McNellis, Jordan Taggart, Craig Getty, Patrick Hunter, David Arneill, Sean Murray (captain), Scott McCabe, William Carey, Ryan Getty, Matthew Nelson, Jacob Hermon, Andrew O’Hare, Jonny Scott, Ben Nelson.
Individual players from the squad have also gained deserved representative honours with nine players being selected for the Ulster under 18 and 16 squads for the interpro tournament in Dublin next weekend. Captain Sean Murray has been selected in the under 18 squad and will hope to be available having suffered a fractured thumb in the Irish Schools’ final. If he makes it he will be joined by Mark McNellis (one of the stars at the Irish Schools), Ryan Getty, Matthew Nelson, Scott McCabe and Andrew O’Hare. Jacob Hermon will represent the under 16 squad for the second time and will be joined by debutants Craig Getty and Patrick Hunter.
Over the half term holiday junior players in the school were invited to a training session on the new school astro turf which was taken by former pupils Raymond Geddis and Daniel Buser (both senior Irish internationals) and Peter MacDonnell (Irish under 21) who was co captain when Wallace last made the All Ireland final in 2009. All players enjoyed the day and were indebted to the three coaches who gave off their time so generously.
The 1st XI also wish to thank Oasis Travel for their sponsorship of the new away playing shirts which they wore in the final against St Andrew’s.
Last modified: September 8, 2015