U12 boys at National Finals

U12 boys at National Finals

By Mike Rushmere
9 May
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Ewan reports on his team, showing Thirsk as a force to be reckoned with.


Ewan was determined to keep his report short but has failed so far - so here goes...There was more then one occasion on Saturday where I stood on the Nottingham Hockey Centre watching the boys play against the best teams in the country and just smiled.
During our first team talk we talked about enjoying what was a celebration of what’s been an incredible season and to just express themselves on the pitch as much as possible. The results will take care of themselves - a cliché but true most of the time.
Thirsk were truly the minnow club in our group with Cambridge City containing one of the largest youth sections in the UK, Old Georgians being the hockey equivalent of Man City for Men’s hockey and Wimbledon being the Liverpool of the EH Premier Men’s & Women’s League. But the boys were up for it.

First up Cambridge City and the boys started well but conceded early against a well organised Cambridge. Our captain Ali pulled one back with a stunning reverse strike and the boys went in HT 1-1. The second half saw the boys find a new gear and really dominate at times - we maintained possession and controlled the tempo of the game like boys beyond their age at times and put three goals past a strong Cambridge who looked a bit shell shocked at times with Harry, Thomas PB & Tom all getting on the score sheet. Oliver M & Oli W proved a VERY dominante defensive presence. George came on as a sub defender and did what I think is one of the hardest jobs on the pitch - he slotted right in to a high tempo game in seconds and didn’t look out of place. Result 4-1 to Thirsk.
Game two was against Wimbledon - a hockey giant. The boys didn’t know how big a club their opposition came from and I was expecting a challenge from the London champions. They were very good on the ball but Thirsk just upped their game even more to match them and the teams fought toe to toe. 1-1 at HT with another belter of a score from Ali and our GK Rufus playing the match of his life; you could see the Wimbledon coaches were surprised. The second half battle with James showing us some great tackling but also shear determination to never stop tracking back in midfield. Our forwards Thomas & Tom took it in turns to run themselves into the ground always finding space. Wimbledon got in front and 3 mins later with probably the most controversial PC goal I’ve seen in a long time (but we’ll not dwell on that...) Ali ripped another belter of a shot to find the net and we were 2-2 with four minute to play. Both teams were struggling in the heat but Thirsk were dominating the 50:50 balls and kept possession well but as it often is with sporting occasions a last minute (and again very controversial tbh) Wimbledon goal saw them 3-2 and we ran out of time to pull back another. The boys dominated a very good team for long periods of the match. I was approached by both the Wimbledon coaches and other coaches who’d been watching to praise our performance - I’ve never seen them play like that before.
Game three was Old Georgians and for those of you not familiar with top flight club hockey this club’s M1 are virtually unbeatable just now. But Thirsk don’t care about such pedigree - the boys were frustrated by the Wimbledon result and had a point to prove. We started strongly again with James earning a starting spot in midfield to give Sam a well earned rest. Oliver M played out of his skin in this game tackling anything within 5 m of him, using the aerial pass to great affect and making his first of his goal line saves of the day showing the advantages of having a second GK on the pitch and he does not seem to worry about the lack of padding!
I have already mentioned Rufus but he deserves another mention in despatches. He showed us skills, athleticism and courage in goal we have NEVER seen from him before. The whole team rose to the occasion and we went ahead in the first 5 mins with a beautiful tip-in penalty corner goal from Sam (it’s my favourite of our four PC routines). Old Georgians were never going to roll over and pulled one back in the first half and we went into HT 1-1. The sun had been blazing all day and both teams were having to struggle with tired legs and the heat - a full squad performance was important and the boys gave it everything in the second half. Tom M did exactly what I wanted a rested sub to do - he ran the defence ragged, lost his man and scored a beautiful goal just after HT. The boys continued to empty the tank and looked in control for much of the second half but a late goal from Old Georgians, against the run of play, gave them a fortunate draw.
Feeling somewhat dejected the boys had to reset their heads and get ready for the 5th/6th play off again the NW England champions Deeside Ramblers - another big club. Thirsk were hurting but having had time to process their performances got themselves ready to go again and finish the season with a bang. Thomas PB had a blinder of a final match (our youngest in the squad but you’d never guess it). He’s a forward who just works and works until he’s finished. Thomas scored our first goal and five minutes later got his second - we went into HT 2-2 but showing increasing dominance. Final team talk of the season - leave it all out there and fight to the end.
There are a number of highlights from that second half - Tom M scored a beautiful third goal early on which gave the boys the confidence to really go for it. George and James both tackled as I’ve never seen them before - no comfort on the ball is what we work on and Oliver M made another stunning diving goal line save that had the crowd cheering and his father a bit emotional! But the one that left EVERYONE speechless (including the EH match officials) after the cheering subsided was Ali’s reverse hit (tomahawk) shot that was the shot of the day as far as I’m concerned. Unsaveable and unbelievable - right into the roof of the goal. 4-2 was the final result and another awesome whole squad performance.
Few facts and figures for you - in all the matches they’ve played in league, EH Cup and National Finals this season the boys lost two. In the National Final list of top ten scorers Thirsk had three players listed - no other club had more than one. We play real team hockey.
I am IMMENSELY proud of this squad and all the U12 boys - we played the best in the country and there’s virtually nothing in it. The team spirit and willingness to give everything to play their best hockey and be generous and supportive of their team mates is something special. Huge thanks to Sarah Broadwith for making this all happen and supporting me and the parents who were brilliant and have been superb all season - so looking forward to going again in Sept.
Told you I couldn’t keep it short...
Check out the EH results page at: EH Junior results
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