All Ireland Schoolboys Hockey Report
Wesley began the All Ireland campaign with a great deal of promise, a team full of underage inter pro and international players. Hopes were high. First up were Bandon, a 4-0 score line suggests an easy game but score lines can be deceiving. However, the job was done and it was onto Thursday and two more group games. Thursday morning saw Wesley take on Friends first. Wesley started well and got themselves 3-0 up but allowed Friends to score before halftime. The guys refocused in the second half and it finished 6-1 with 2 each from O'Grady, Mawhinney and Gibney. On to the final group game against Sullivan. They were pegged as our main rivals in the group from before the tournament and so it came to pass as this was a winner take all match with progression to the semi-finals up for grabs.
Sullivan had a very good centre back and centre mid and proved themselves justifiably as our main group rivals and were difficult to break down. It was tight early on with both teams getting goals. In the final third Wesley's superior ball possession eased them ahead and it finished 5-2. Gibney again with a brace and one a piece from Samuels, Mawhinney and Hyland.
The tournament dinner in the Talbot hotel included the highlight of some thoughtful words from Ireland's senior mens coach Craig Fulton. It also had the more serious business of the draw for the semi-finals with Wesley getting a repeat of last years final against Banbridge.
Friday morning saw a good crowd of Wesley supporters and the boys were eager to take on last years winners. Wesley were dominant early on with the lion's share of possession and a couple of early chances created. However, midway through the first half Banbridge won and scored a penalty corner which was a shock after all the early dominance going with Wesley. Shortly before half time another Banbridge counter attack saw the ball break to a free forward in the Wesley circle who managed to lift the ball over O'Herlihy in goals for Banbridge's second. At half time stood a group of somewhat shell shocked players. With some strong and focused words from the coaches and captain the players re-grouped. They produced a barrage in the second half, taking residence in the Banbridge half of the pitch and controlling most of the play. A penalty corner goal from Gibney, a disallowed goal and countless other chances ensued. To Banbridge's credit they defended their circle with great discipline and work rate. Ultimately they did enough to see out the game and once again Wesley hearts were broken.