Over the last ten days there has been a flurry of junior hockey going on in the North Coast.
On Monday, Portrush, together with Ballycastle Ladies, held its first ever primary school blitz in Ballycastle.
The schools from the Ballycastle area, four of them taking part in their first ever hockey blitz, came together to play against each other in a mixed blitz at Quay Road.
Ballytober and Straidbilly schools kicked off the Blitz with some fantastic hockey on show, followed by another excellent round of games between Ballycastle Integrated and the joint team of Armoy and St Olcans Primarys.
The rest of the morning continued with equally high levels of hockey. The Portrush Hockey Club Chairman said, “This has been a fantastic success. Coaches Jonnie Watton and Ian Jinks, (through the funding provided by Ulster Hockey) have been coaching in eight schools around the Ballycastle area since October.
“This has provided the opportunity for boys and girls in rural areas to take part in sport and physical activity through hockey.
“We as a club are small and gain our players from all of the community and through the work of a small team we have started up a junior section this year to continue to provide these opportunities for these kids.
“We would like to thank all of the parents, teachers and staff of the schools who allowed our coaches to come into the schools and attend the Blitz.”
The Primary School Blitz was followed up on Thursday night in Coleraine, when our Coleraine Talent Hub took on a Coleraine Ladies under 13 select in a game to finish off before Christmas. This was the first time that many of the Under 11s and 13 had played together in the Portrush colours. This proved to be a fantastic game of hockey, with girls taking the game to the boys from the off, showing their experience and skill by overrunning the Portrush Defence with ease in the early minutes.
With every minute the Portrush boys gained in confidence and game awareness, taking the game to Coleraine initially through breaks, then in sustained possession and passing.
With 10 minutes to go the girls had gone 4-2 through some fantastic skills and perseverance in the Portrush final quarter. A goal with around a minute left on the clock made it all to play for at 4-3, with the girls holding out on what was an excellent show of hockey from both sides. A special mention must go to player of the match Noah Philips, playing his first match in goals without any coaching showed exceptional natural skills in goals, denying the Coleraine attackers a dozen or so early opportunities.
After the match the Portrush Secretary commented; “This was a fantastic game between these two young teams, although our boys have only been playing a few months they have shown the skill and talent of player with years more experience. We are also very grateful to Coleraine Ladies, for fielding such a great side. We as a club have watched the development of their juniors closely, we can only hope to emulate not only their success on the pitch but that off of it. I remember being at the first session of the new minis on a damp Saturday morning at the university. It is very pleasing to see many of those faces lining up on the pitch tonight, very well done.”
All of the Juniors and minis will return after Christmas, please keep an eye on our facebook pages for details closer the time. The club would like to thank Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, Ulster Hockey, Hockey Ireland for their assistance in hosting the blitz and thank Thomas Cartmill, Ian Jinks & Jonnie Watton for Umpiring.
The club would like to wish all of the boys and their parents a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.