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Academy girls bid for Ulster Shield glory

 
OMAGH Academy will contest their first major hockey final in nine years when they lock horns with Friends School Lisburn in the Ulster Schools’ Senior Shield showpiece decider at Stormont tomorrow  (Wednesday).
 
The Academy girls reached the final following a dramatic penalty runs victory over Victoria College at Royal School Dungannon the weekend before last with Friends seeing off the challenge of BRA in similar circumstances a few days later.
 
It’s been a largely successful season for Omagh, who reached the Super League semi-final only to be beaten by outright winners Royal School Armagh while Omagh’s Schools’ Cup hopes were ended by Ballyclare High School – who were edged out 2-1 by Banbridge Academy in Wednesday’s showpiece final – at the last eight stage.
 
Following that gut-wrenching defeat Omagh have demonstrated a greater focus, determination and desire and in recent weeks have recorded a number of impressive victories in clinching a place in Wednesday’s decider as well as defeating both Schools’ Cup finalists in friendly games.
 
Coach Lesley Dickson is quietly confident that her class of 2019 has what it takes to go all the way and finish the job.
 
“A final is a final and nerves will play a part, so quite often on these occasions it’s the team that settles first that has the advantage,” she said.
 
“It’s unknown territory for us in that we haven’t played Friends this year. They won on penalty runs and that was the story of the semis.
 
Like so many high-profile games, the final will be played at Stormont and for a number of Omagh players the Belfast venue has become familiar territory.
 
Omagh were defeated by Armagh on penalty runs in the Super League semi-final back in November and many of the same players returned in late December to help Omagh Ladies win the Senior League One Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
 
The Academy coach believes those experiences will serve her players well this week.
 
“Friends I suppose are a lot closer to Stormont but we have played there before in Super League and I think that will stand to us,” she continued.
 
“We were very disappointed to lose to Ballyclare in the Schools’ Cup because we have a very good team this year. 
 
“We have proved ourselves against the top teams and it would be nice to have something to show for it.”
 
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