Over the midterm, twenty selected members of the senior hockey squad competed in the Hockey Schools Nations Tournament in Glasgow. At half seven on Saturday morning, the team departed Newbridge College for Belfast, sleepy-eyed but excited.
After a short ferry journey the team arrived in the hotel, shared with a number of other Irish teams.
The next morning, refreshed and ready for action, Newbridge faced English side Mill Hill. Being the first match of the tournament both sides showed signs of nerves however Newbridge capitalized first with a goal scored by Jenny Kelly. Growing in confidence, Newbridge scored again courtesy of Kate Hannon with an excellent finish, one on one with the goalie. The game finished 2-0 to Newbridge however it was clear that the team would need to improve and work more as a team to progress in the tournament. After a short break Newbridge faced home side Hutchesons’ Grammar School. The match started off with both teams exchanging opportunities until Hutchesons scored to lead by a goal at halftime. Though Newbridge regrouped and pressed in the second half with a number of promising circle entries the vital goal never came and the match finished 1-0 to Hutchesons. After lunch, Newbridges’ final game of the day was against fellow Irish school, Mount Sackville. A greatly changed Newbridge side started brightly, determined to finish the day with a win. Newbridge dominated the possession but mount Sackville defended well, ensuring that two or even three players were on Rachel McMullen and Kate Hannon. An excellent piece of goalkeeping from the Mount Sackville goalie prevented Jenny Kelly from scoring just before half time. In the second half, Newbridge displayed some fantastic forward play, with the whole team linking up and beginning to play as a team rather than a group of individuals. Unfortunately, despite Newbridge winning three short corners in quick succession, the match finished 0-0. The team’s obvious disappointment was eased when the news emerged that Newbridge would go through to the quarter finals on goal difference. The team returned to the hotel and enjoyed some retail therapy after a hard day's work followed by an entertaining game of heads up.
On Sunday morning, at six o’clock, though everyone was sore and tired there was a sense of anticipation in the air for the impending quarter final against George Herriots, perceived as the weakest side in the draw. There was a real feeling that Newbridge could reach the semi finals or even beyond. After a long warm up in a nearby park, Newbridge experienced a disaster start at the hands of a capable George Herriots team. Newbridge trailed 3-0 inside the first ten minutes and tensions clearly began to rise within the team itself. It took a stern regrouping at half time to snap the team into action and remind everyone of their role within the team. Newbridge stepped up their game in the second half, none other than Rachel McMullan with two excellent goals to really galvanise the team. For the final ten minutes of the game Newbridge pressed hard, the ball hitting the post a number of times however that elusive third goal never came. Heartbroken after such a close defeat, Newbridge were forced to switch their attention to the second match of the day against Salerno, still within a chance of coming fifth in the competition. It seemed that a repeat of the first match was on the cards when Salerno scored early on. However, Newbridge refused to give up. The run of play slowly switched in the team’s favour until, finally, Newbridge’s Aimee McGrath scored with an excellent strike into the bottom corner. The stage was set for the second half and Newbridge started again with a tangible intensity and hunger to score a second goal. Again, a number of shots hit the post but even after winning two short corners it was Salerno to score next - in the final play of the game. After the final whistle, the whole team was stunned, confused how the game was let slip away.
The final match of the day was against old rivals, Kings Hospital. In the first half, despite no goals being scored, both teams battled hard, aware that it was the last game of the tournament. At halftime, both teams made significant changes however no goals were scored and so, the match finished 0-0. Playing for pride rather than ranking both teams chose five players to compete in the shoot outs. Jenny Kelly and Eleanor Walsh missed the first two opportunities but the Newbridge goalie, Hannah Begley, made an excellent save to keep Newbridge in the contest. Rachel McMullen capitalised on another King’s Hospital miss to leave Aoibhe Burke the chance of winning the match. Aoibhe spun past the Leinster goalie to score and earn Newbridge seventh place. The whole team went wild and seventh place was celebrated as if it was first. Any memories of that morning's disappointment were long forgotten and Newbridge celebrated a successful weekend of hockey at the disco that night. Rachel McMullan was chosen as the Newbridge’s player of the tournament at the award ceremony while Rainey was presented with the cup after beating fellow Northern Irish side, Banbridge in the final.
Even after a rocky ferry journey home it must be said that the weekend was a massive success not only for the senior hockey team but for Newbridge College hockey itself. The future of Newbridge College hockey looks very bright. A big thank you must be said to our coaches Gavin Groves and Janis Kelly as well as to Ms. Lenehan and Ms Smyth for their support and guidance over the weekend.