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Burney Cup returns to Friends’ for a record twentieth time!

On Thursday evening the Friends’ School 1st XI defeated Sullivan in front of a packed crowd at Stormont, winning the Burney Cup for a record twentieth time.

Having already met in the McCullough Cup final in December, both sides had pregame expectations of a difficult contest. On that occasion, Friends’ were the victims of a late goal before eventually losing on penalty strokes, but on this instance two late goals of their own were enough for Friends’ to secure a 2-1 win and bring the historic trophy back to the Magheralave Road after a forty-year absence.
The opening period of play saw Sullivan on the front foot with the Morris twins and Gibson creating chances and earning penalty corners for their team. Friends’ goalkeeper Jack Simpson was called upon to make several early saves and when he was beaten by a Sullivan drag flick, Connor Monteith stepped in with a goal line clearance. Sullivan looked the brighter side in attack and were rewarded for their pressure when Crookshanks slotted into the bottom corner from their third penalty corner, giving the Holywood school a well-deserved 1-0 lead. Sullivan continued to play the better hockey and had most of the first half possession but were unable to create clear goal scoring chances. Still, Friends’ looking dangerous on the counterattack and towards the end of the half they got a foothold in the game, leading to a goalmouth melee in which Harry Scott was denied by an excellent save from the Sullivan keeper.
In the second half, Friends’ maintained their momentum and it was now their turn to have the lion’s share of possession. However, Sullivan were well marshalled in defence and goal scoring opportunities remained at a premium. Continued Friends’ pressure down the right-hand side saw Conor Irwin dance his way into the circle, only to be denied by McCord in the Sullivan goal. This seemed to give the Lisburn side confidence and mid-way through the half Friends’ won their first corner of the game. Milliken’s effort was well charged down by the Sullivan runner, much to the disappointment of the Friends’ support. It was now Sullivan beginning to look dangerous on the break and a fine move saw them earn their fourth penalty corner. Again a powerful flick was making its way into the corner but a combination of Simpson and Edgar forced the ball over the crossbar.
With seven minutes remaining Friends’ got their breakthrough. A determined run by man of the match, Oliver Kidd, saw Friends’ win their second corner of the match. This time Matt Milliken’s powerful flick was stopped on the goal line by a Sullivan foot and Andrew Edgar despatched the resulting penalty stroke into the roof of the net. Sullivan were jolted into action but Friends’ continued to look for the winner. It duly arrived when right back Irwin met a Rory Brown cross to deflect into the goal with less than three minutes remaining. Sullivan responded to lay siege on the Friends’ goal but this time the defence held firm and the final whistle blew to spark scenes of celebration which will be etched in the memory of all involved!