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U14 Boys End Season with a Bang

U14 Boys End Season with a Bang

Mike Rushmere16 May - 13:26
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The boys did the club proud at the Nottingham finals. Report by their coach Ewan McIntosh.

16 boys gathered at Nottingham Hockey Centre on Sunday - one of the top 8 teams in England. Spirits were high and with glorious weather we knew it was going to be a fantastic but challenging day. All the teams in the boys’ competition were strong but on paper there wasn’t much between them and with only 30 min matches putting pressure on opposition fast and getting front early was going to be key.
Our first match was against Midlands Champions Sutton Coldfield and both teams started playing early aerial attacks to gain territory pressure as quickly as possible. The battle of the aerials led to a great pick from the Sutton high forward just over the heads of Thirsk’s defence and with one touch it was in the back of the goal. Sutton got a second goal just before half time from a deflected PC but Thirsk responded immediately with a great shot from the top of the D from our captain Ali.
The heat was already taking its toll on both teams and half time was very welcome in a close fought battle. Thirsk dominated much of the possession and territory in the second half but just couldn’t get an equalising goal. Our PC wasn’t working as well as normal and though our attacking on the break was good the final pass and shot just eluded the boys and we match finished 1-2. It felt like if we’d played another 5 mins the result would have been quite different.
With only one hour to recover and reset heads before playing the tournament favourites in the second match it was a challenge the boys were keen to meet. Guildford won the tier 1 Cup this year with a narrow win over Wimbledon and we knew they had a very capable GK and liked to play the aerial game as well. Guildford also managed to get 3 green and 2 yellow cards in the space of 30 mins in their first match which the boss us were briefed on before push back - don’t get into anything & let the umpires do their job. Thirsk pushed into the Guildford half from the start knowing the importance of getting goals early. The hockey from both teams was impressive and Thirsk’s midfield managed to control the game with great affect Sam and Ali preventing many of the Guildford counter attacks but again we struggled to score against a well w organised defence and very strong GK. Guildford scored a field goal in first half but it remained a close competition until they score per two more in the later stages of the second half. Thirsk continued to push and fished the game with lots possession and momentum but couldn’t turn it into goals. A frustrating 3-0 score which didn’t really reflect how close the game was. Stand out performances from several in the team but Oliver M at Centre Back had his second outstanding performance of the tournament.
Our third group match was against Trojans and one we felt was very winnable with the improvements we’d seen in the first two matches. The heat was taking its toll on all teams and it was battle of stamina and mental fortitude. Thirsk played their best hockey of the tournament so far and controlled much of the first half. The umpires on the other hand suddenly appeared to loose control of the decision making and gave Thirsk a Green card in the first half then two more greens and two yellow in the second half. Three of the five cards were highly dubious - both of the yellows were simply wrong and free hits were awarded the wrong way leading the PCs and one of them resulted in Trojans winning goal. It was a real shame because it spoiled a good match. A discussion with the observing umpire manager after the game came to the same conclusion- the umpiring had poorly affected the game. The umpires’ debrief afterwards was a lengthy one. Not what was deserved in a National Final. There were many positives from the game - the squad had to dig very deep with all 16 boys playing until the could barely stand to keep a the score 2-1 with fewer players on the pitch. They battled to the end - never gave up.
And so we had a luxury of a 90 minute rest before taking the pitch one last time against our local rivals Ben Rhydding in the match to decide 7th/8th place. Matches had been so close up until that point that playing for 7th place didn’t seem right in some ways but that is tournament hockey. Both teams knew each other well and it was test of who wanted it more and had most left in the tank. Some of our squad had played every minute of the tournament so far at it was beginning to tell but the boys had one more match in them. When the whistle went it was a bit surreal. The pitch was silent and there was very little running off the ball - the teams were just exhausted. But Thirsk wanted it more with almost complete territory dominance in the first half and and outstanding performance from our defence back four George, James, Oli W & Oliver M. Ali scored twice inside two minutes in the first half giving pressure the results it finally deserved. Oli W scored a belter for a PC flick before half time and Huw put the match away with a lovely goal out of nothing in the second half. 4-0 and spirits very high it was a fitting way to end what had been a roller coaster of a day but a great demonstration of team spirit, grit and the determination to dig deep for each other even when disappointed and exhausted.
A couple of facts to illustrate how close the tournament was - despite coming 7th place Thirsk were the 4th highest goal scoring team and Ali was the highest scoring player in the tournament. I am MASSIVELY proud of this group. They have talent throughout but most importantly their team spirit is unbelievable. There were tears at times and at especially at the end (the author included!) but that’s what it’s all about. I’ve not mentioned them, but the real coaches of this team and Sarah who is the engine behind everything we’ve achieved deserve huge applause. Benjamin and Cameron are great coaches and I have a lot to learn from them. Sarah is over everything and without her this simply wouldn’t happen.
Finally (assuming you’ve stayed til the bitter end) a massive thanks to our parents. Your support has been amazing and the encouragement the boys get makes all the difference. We have a few weeks off before preparing for the Mercian Cup - a great way to celebrate an awesome season.
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