U14 Hockey Report | 2022/23

The Under 14 A squad completed another outstanding season, despite enduring significant disadvantages in comparison to their competitors. Having finished Year 9 on a high, the girls and their coaches had hopes of putting up a good show in this season’s Junior Cup competition, but their preparation were hampered by the delays to the completion of the new Astro pitch, which hindered their opportunities to train effectively. Despite this, the group maintained a high level of enthusiasm throughout the season.

The first four months of the season saw all the fixtures being played away from home, the first of which being at local rivals Royal School Armagh. On this occasion the Armagh side came out on top, winning 3:1, Evie Girvan scoring the RSD goal. Next, the girls ground out a tough 1:1 draw with Banbridge Academy (E. Girvan), before being unfortunate to lose 0:1 against Killicomaine JHS in a game they dominated.

Their first victory of the season came against a strong Clounagh JHS side who they defeated 1:0 (E. Girvan). This was followed by a 7:0 win over Cookstown High (E M. McCreedy, H. Davidson, E. Girvan, E. Watt), a 2:1 victory over Lurgan JHS (E. Girvan 2) and a 2:0 win in the first round of the Junior Cup against Omagh Academy, with goals from Evie Girvan and Honor Davidson. In the final two games before the Christmas break, the girls produced an exciting 4:4 draw with Wallace High (E. Girvan (3), E M. McCreedy) and went on to defeat Methodist College 3:0 (E. Girvan 3) in the second round of the Junior Cup.

With the arrival of the new pitch at RSD and greater freedom to train, the girls kicked off the new year by gaining revenge over Armagh with a 2:1 victory (E M. McCeedy, E. Girvan). They then had their worst performance of the season, going down 1:3 to Killicomaine JHS (E. Girvan). However, they soon rallied to defeat Sullivan Upper 4:2 (E. Girvan 2, H. Davidson, B. Robinson) in the Quarter Final of the Junior Cup. This impressive result was followed by another, defeating Ballymena Academy 5:0 (E. Watt 2, E. Girvan, E. Hutchinson, E M. McCreedy) in their first game on the new pitch at RSD. Another fixture against Omagh Academy then saw the girls draw 1:1 (E. Girvan).

The team then were faced with their Ulster Junior Cup Semi Final against Wallace High School. In what turned out to be an exciting game, RSD took an early lead through a goal from Honor Davidson. Wallace equalised before half time and, despite RSD having most of the play and pressure, the game went to the dreaded run-ins. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be our day as Wallace triumphed in the shoot-out. There were plenty of tears for what might have been, but the girls can reflect with pride on how well they played. Ironically, the final game of the season saw the girls play the team who would go on to win the Junior Cup, Banbridge Academy. It would take a last-minute goal from Banbridge to split the teams in a very evenly contested game which ended 2:1 (E. Girvan).

Although it was disappointing not to end on a high note, the girls had an excellent season overall, competing with the best teams in Ulster in difficult circumstances. The whole squad contributed to this success. Megan Chambers continued to develop into a promising goalkeeper with a bright future in the sport and was one of the winners of the “Most Improved Player” award. Once again, the right and left back slots were regularly filled by Abbie Cardwell and Darcy Weir with typical reliability. In most games, the position of centre back was taken by Carla McCammon, who stepped up from the Under 13 side and performed admirably. The cornerstone of the defence was, without doubt, Emily

Watt. Her ability to read the game and to make important tackles at key times earned her the “Player of the Season” award. The defence was supported and enhanced by valuable contributions from Anna Bailey, who has grown in confidence over the two years on the team, and the versatile Poppy Hutchinson, who coped very well with being asked to play in a variety of positions.

This season, the midfield positions were quite settled. The right midfield position was filled by Abi Neill. Her competitive spirit and ability on the ball saw her start many of the team’s promising attacking moves. This season, the centre-midfield spot was taken up by Beth Robinson. Beth’s calmness on the ball and eye for a pass was invaluable for the team and her level of performance was recognised with her much-deserved inclusion in the Ulster Under 15 development squad. The left side of midfield was, once again, taken up by Elliot Hutchinson. Elliot continued to develop her level of skill to match her competitive edge and was often the player to break up opposition attacks. In support of these three, Hannah McIlwaine enjoyed another good season as the utility player in midfield.

The girls continued to pose a real attacking threat to their opponents this season, scoring 42 goals in their 17 fixtures. Once again, the main threat to opposition teams was Evie Girvan, who had another excellent season, scoring 24 goals in the process. The team is fortunate to have had one of the most talented young players in Ulster amongst their number. She has been a true example to her teammates, both on the pitch and when training, and I look forward to seeing how far she can go in the sport. Her outstanding form saw her being selected for the Ulster Under 16 squad. Again the other attacking positions were usually filled by Honor Davidson and Erin May McCreedy. Honor’s skillful trickery on the ball and Erin May’s powerful and direct running saw both girls contribute 6 goals each over the course of the season. Erin May’s impressive performances also saw her collect the “Most Improved Player” award at the end of season dinner. In support of the front three, Aliyah Watt, Lucy Knox and Chloe Potter all made important contributions over the course of the season.

I’d like to thank the girls for all their hard work this season, in challenging circumstances. To be the width of the goal line from reaching the Junior Cup final, despite being unable to train properly for the majority of the season is a real testament to their ability, tenacity and team spirit. It was therefore a real pleasure to finish off the season with a squad trip to London to watch the FIH Pro League fixtures in June where, despite a cancelled flight, the girls represented their school with customary class. A big thank you also to Mrs Simpson for her valuable help and support with the team this season and to Mrs Stewart for her assistance with the dreaded lunchtime fitness sessions. I have really enjoyed working with this group for the last two years and I really hope they will all continue playing and enjoying their hockey for many years to come, whatever level that may be at.

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