SF 5

Belfast Cup Semi Final

Determination, drive and desire! Three characteristics displayed by our Year 11 football team during the Belfast Cup Semi Final clash with Ballyclare Secondary at Midgley Park on Tuesday afternoon. Both teams had met in the group stage of the competition with Ballyclare winning 2-1 in a very close game at Dixon Park in September. Yesterday, there was very little to separate the two teams, with Storm Kathleen doing everything in her power to ensure a difficult game for both teams.

Laurelhill, captained by Billy N, played against wind in the first half and found it difficult to get into a rhythm. Strong winds made even the simple passes difficult and Laurelhill struggled to play the quick one-two touch football that we have grown accustomed to this year. Ballyclare, playing with the wind, were good in the first half, with their centre backs looking very solid in defence and comfortable on the ball. Ballyclare took the lead on the 20th minute through a rather fortunate decision. A free kick was met by the head of the striker, Lewis palmed the ball down at his feet, collected the ball and looked to distribute the ball and hit Ballyclare on the counter. As the Ballyclare players ran back to defend, the referee blew his whistle and indicated a goal. It was ruled that the ball had crossed the line from the header, much to the bewilderment of all players and staff. However, the referee’s decision is always final and Laurelhill found themselves a goal down.

Playing with the wind in the second half made a huge difference to Laurelhill’s attacking play. Billy B and Billy N started to get a hold of the game and started linking well with Max, Noah and Spencer, as Laurelhill chased an equaliser. Harry and Max ran at the defence and held the ball up well, but Ballyclare’s defence stood firm. Billy B was restricted to long range efforts but to no avail. Max, being marked by a Northern Irish international, was superb, his hold up play resulted in multiple free kicks. Delivery from Billy B and Billy N was excellent, but the Ballyclare centre back was commanding and dominant in the air. However, the next delivery from Billy N was met by Isaac, who’s header was glanced just wide. Set piece after set piece, Laurelhill were gaining momentum, they were knocking on the door. Six minutes of added time was all that was left for Laurelhill to rescue their Belfast Cup chances. Another free kick, another narrowly missed opportunity. In the sixth minute of added time, Spencer won yet another free kick, this was it, the last chance of the game, it was now or never. Another excellent delivery from Billy N was headed on target by Jay, the keeper saved it but palmed it back into the box. Like all good poachers, Harry was there to follow in the header and smash the ball home to draw Laurelhill level, with the last kick of the game.

Ten minutes of extra time to decide who will progress to the final, momentum was well and truly with Laurelhill. Playing against the wind again, Laurelhill found a way to raise their game and deal with the strong gales. The boys moved the ball well and defended excellently to deal with the long balls being launched into the box by Ballyclare. Great link up by Billy B and Spencer earned Laurelhill another free kick. A fantastic delivery from Billy N saw the ball fall to substitute Joel, who’s effort curled away from the keeper and into the top corner, to send the supporters in the stand into raptures.

The second half of extra time saw Laurelhill show real determination, bravery and guts! Ballyclare threw everything they had at the boys but the centre back pairing of Isaac and Reuben were formidable. A final attack from Ballyclare saw their shot blocked and cleared by Noah, with the referee blowing for full time.

A fantastic display of courage and a never say die attitude has the Year 11 boys into the Belfast Cup Final. Mr Smyth and Mr Lyons are incredibly proud of their achievement.

We now look forward to the Belfast Cup Final against Boys Model on Friday 26th April at the Blanchflower Stadium.

Full Time (AET): Laurelhill 2 – 1 Ballyclare Secondary

Goal scorers: Harry D and Joel M

MOTM: Isaac L

Mr Smyth

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