There is a volcano erupting in Hawaii at the moment, but apart from that, the hottest place on earth last Sunday was the Grammar School at Leeds. Our u14 boys were in the end of season playoffs for the second tier of the Yorkshire Youth Hockey League, and after months of frozen pitches and snow-covered Astro, the final tournament was played out in the baking heat of a blazing sun. Welcome to Yorkshire!
Simon’s squad looked strong, but with a couple of regulars missing the boys were down to a bare 11, which meant there were no subs to ease the heat. In the first game Adel dominated Brigg, who stubbornly held out until our makeshift centre back Charlie went on a mazy run and rolled the ball home. This should have been the start of a goal fest, but then Brigg drew level with a rare breakaway. After the initial shock, Adel got things moving again, with a trio of goals from George (who outran the defence and slotted inside the post) Matty (deflecting a huge aerial past the bemused keeper) and another from Charlie (short corner). 4-1.
In the next game Adel took on Huddersfield Dragons, with some great work at the back from Tanner and in midfield from Leo keeping possession and feeding the ball to team-mates. James and Joseph played some slick one-twos up the left wing, pulling the Dragons’ defence wide, and with Matty and George doing the same on the right, Charlie and Joe were free to maraud in the middle, with Charlie converting two short corner moves and firing a rocket into the roof of the net to bring up his hat trick. Joe, evidently feeling left out, launched a powerful flick straight into our unsuspecting centre forward Toby, who left the pitch injured. 3-0.
This set up the last group game, against Hull, who looked a bit bigger and stronger than most of the other teams, and so it proved. The match was a closely fought contest, with some superb saves from Mikey, including a shot clawed from the air to deny a certain goal. James and George came close to scoring, with Toby’s energetic attacking a constant goal threat, until he took a blow to the face and had to leave the pitch, again. Hull edged in front with a scrappy, contentious goal, and held on to their slim lead until the last minute, when Adel went down to nine men after Joseph (Hedge) tried his father’s robust tackling technique, and got a green card for his trouble. A quick counter-attack gave Hull a slightly flattering second. 0-2.
Adel had done enough to reach the semis, where they met Harrogate, winners of the other group. Adel bossed the match from start to finish, with an outstanding defensive display from Murf who intercepted most of the blue passes and swept forward on the right to relaunch the Adel attack, as he had done all day. Charlie scored two nearly-identical short corner goals, to seal the win 2-0 and set up a final against Hull, who had won their semi against Bradford on the other pitch. Sadly the final was a game too far for the 11 heroes in orange, after over two hours of hockey, and another two waiting around in the baking heat. Hull ran out 3-1 winners, with Matty getting the consolation.
The boys can be extremely proud of their performance: they came very close to winning the tournament, and on another (cooler?) day it might have been a different story. Most of these players will begin two years of u16s next year, and for those who haven’t already tried senior hockey, there is even more to look forward to. Thanks to Simon and to Andy Hedge for all their hard work with the u14s, and as always, to the mums and dads who turned out in force on Sunday to cheer on the boys. As we’re very fond of saying around here, “the future’s orange” !