For the children of Lucknow School in Havelock North there is no doubt they would like to see the Black Sticks triumph at the Hawke's Bay Festival of Hockey - but they have a pretty strong soft spot for the ladies in green.

As part of getting the community involved in the festival a "partnership" scheme was formed between the eight teams competing for the Hawke's Bay Cup and eight regional primary schools.

Part of that link was for each school to design and create a banner devoted to the team that was assigned to them by the festival's events co-ordination team.

Lucknow drew Ireland, and four enthusiastic young artists at the school began to draw up a plan for their banner.

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"The whole school got behind it and has got behind Ireland," principal Paul Grundy said.

And to everyone's delight, the Lucknow/Ireland banner took out the competition's first prize of a $350 voucher from Just Hockey along with 20 entry tickets for tomorrow's games and 20 for Sunday when the finals will be staged.

As the organisers had intended, there had been great rapport between the teams and their host schools with several of the teams calling to see the youngsters and even taking to the playing fields with them for a spot of hockey training.

Canada teamed up with Te Mata School, Australia with Onekawa School, India with Arthur Miller School, Korea with Taradale Primary, China with Frimley School, Japan with Parkvale School and the Kiwi Black Sticks with Nelson Park School.

When members of the Irish team called to see the youngsters at Lucknow, and to see their banner artwork, there was "plenty of excitement", Mr Grundy said.

"It was really great occasion," he said, adding it reinforced a surge in the sport of hockey at the school. "It is becoming more popular - we have around 30 players involved in hockey this year."

And when Ireland took on the Black Sticks at the Hawke's Bay Sports Stadium on Tuesday evening there were many excited young supporters from Lucknow.