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Rainey girls reign

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

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RAINEY Endowed School's hockey coach Carolyn Burns has labelled her Magherafelt team's historic first Ulster Senior Title as "indescribable" after the Rainey defeated Banbridge Academy on penalty stokes last Wednesday at Stormont.
Under the coach's tutelage, Rainey bounced back from a crushing penalty strokes defeat in the 2014 cup final to beat the holders in the same ironic fashion, to make history.
Throughout Burns' reign as coach, her team have taken it on a game to game basis, but she said there was an expectation on them to deliver this year with the quality of players and potential they showed during their 2014 exploits.
Speaking to the Mid-Ulster Courier, Carolyn was naturally proud of her girls and what they have achieved this season.
“It is hard to describe the feeling of winning as a coach, but it makes it even more special that I have worked with most of these girls as they grew up from P1 and through the levels and I've got a unique, close relationship with them all.
“I honestly couldn't ask for a better, more hard working and honest bunch of girls and I'm immensely proud of the whole team.
Carolyn, herself a Leinster medallist with Alexandra College in 1978, came up with a tactical masterplan which limited the freedom of Banbridge captain and starlet, Katie McKee.
“We had a gameplan, which the girls played perfectly. Unusually for us, we sacrificed our best marker, Charlotte Beggs to stick to McKee and only once did she steal a march on her, in which she scored, and some newspapers actually described Charlotte as sticking to McKee like a leech," she laughed.
“We also switched our strongest midfielder into the right defensive position as Banbridge prefer to attack down the left. That meant we could play aerial balls up and counter with our fantastic attack, which the girls operated perfectly," Burns told the Courier.
Carolyn Burns' girls ran their hearts out, closed down Banbridge at every opportunity, put in last-ditch tackles on a regular basis, and threw their bodies on the line in a bid to keep their hopes of winning alive.
“In all my time as a coach, I've never seen my team come off with more cuts and bruises on them, as they put their bodies on the line.
“Ellie Montgomery actually broke her hand with a few minutes left the on the clock, but played on despite this and even took a penalty stroke in the shootout," Burns said.
Carolyn said despite all the tactics and hard work put in throughout the cup run, it all boiled down to the inner belief of the team, which they had worked on in training.
“I actually set up conditioned three minutes games in training, and I told the girls, you are one nil down, what are you going to do?
“I wanted to instill an inner belief, as when they go onto the pitch, there is nothing I can do as a coach anymore. They have to get that belief from within themselves and I could actually hear them during the game encouraging one another to keep believing.
“This cup run has shown just that; we scored with the last play of their quarter-final and I was confident we would still equalise in the final when behind going into the last 15."
The equaliser in the quarter final was scored by Alex Burns - Carolyn's daughter - who also played in the final and the coach described winning the cup with her youngest child.
“As you could imagine, to win the cup with my daughter in the side was fantastic. It was my kids that actually got me into coaching as I was watching my eldest daughter play for an hour each time, and I thought to myself, this is silly. So I started coaching them and winning the cup with my youngest is so so special."
Naturally, most coaches would have been nervous, to say the least as they watched on as their players stepped up for their penalty strokes, but not Burns, who was even more confident once the whistle had blown.
“Actually, when it went to pens I was so confident because of the ability of our goalkeeper, Erin Mulholland and our penalty takers.
“Erin is a sensational shot stopper - which she showed in the final and we had seven players who could have taken the strokes and our only missed pen was Ellie, who broke her hand before the shootout," Carolyn said.
The senior side will now compete in the All -Ireland tournament on 22 and 23 March at Kilkenny College, Kilkenny.
Rainey Endowed School are looking to make it a treble with the 2nd XI and Under 14s both competing in upcoming finals, a feat for the school that Carolyn described as a "marvellous year for the school."

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