Dungannon acquit themselves well but miss out on promotion to Irish League

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

DUNGANNON ladies made history again last week as for the first time ever, they qualified for the EYHL playoffs in Dublin.

With injuries, exams and unavailability depleting the players, a small squad complimented with reinforcements from the Seconds travelled to take on Catholic Institute, Old Alex, Corinthians and their Ulster rivals Queen's.

In what was a tight opening fixture against Catholic Institute, Dungannon struggled to get their passing game going as new combinations took time to settle in and Institute eventually won out a tight encounter 2-0 .

Playing hosts and tournament favourites Old Alex in their second match, Dungannon took the game to their opponents at every opportunity and with Karen Elliott in full flight and a midfield trio of Leeanne, Lisa and Diane working overtime to protect the defence, chances came but, unfortunately, went.

In a cruel twist, in their first attack late in the first half, a deflected shot from Old Alex created confusion in the Dungannon D and the ball was forced home.

Undeterred, Dungannon came out all guns blazing in the second half but as they tried to force the tempo were unfortunate to have their pockets picked in the third and fourth quarters as interceptions deep in the Dungannon half saw breakaway goals for the hosts and they earned a flattering 3-0 home win.

With limbs rested, a refreshed squad recommenced activities with their third game against Corinthians. The night's rest had worked wonders and the first half saw Dungannon's fast passing game repeatedly pushing Corinthians back but, unfortunately, the finish was the only thing missing.

Chances continued in the third quarter but, with a breakthrough beckoning, it was Corinthians who, against the run of play, broke and despite an outstanding save from keeper Anna McKeown, Corinthians were on hand to force the ball home for what turned out to be the decider.

As the weather took a turn for the worse as the heavens opened, Dungannon took on their Ulster rivals Queen's in their final fixture for local bragging rights.

Playing front foot hockey, Dungannon pinned the Denman Shield holders back and only inches denied Zoe Henderson from giving Dungannon a deserved lead.

With Lisa Millar pulling the strings from centre back and the industry of Georgina Mulligan in both defence and attack covering every blade of the pitch, Dungannon matched their opponents in every position and despite the conditions both sides attempted to play a fast passing game.

With time running out Dungannon won a penalty corner and, as the ball flew into the net from Leeanne Cassells' strike, the joy of the Dungannon players was short lived as the ball was deemed to have been too high.

As the final whistle sounded Dungannon celebrated their first point in  the tournament and a positive end to another season.

Due to player unavailability, Dublin provided Dungannon with an opportunity to assess the club's strength in depth ,with special mention to seconds players Emma Boyd and Emma Kilpatrick who turned back the years and reinforced the old adage: "Form may be temporary but class is permanent".

The prominence of Roslyn Graham and Jill Elliott in attacking roles from fullback further illustrated the development that had occurred over the season and with the industry of Leeanne Cassells, Samantha Kelly, Laura White and Sarah Winslow complimenting the pace of Karen Elliott, the youthful exuberance of Zoe Henderson and the trickery of Diane Robb, all their opponents knew they had to be at their best .

Squad for weekend - Victoria Kerr, Roslyn Graham, Jill Elliott, Lisa Millar, Emma Boyd, Emma Kilpatrick, Leeanne Cassells, Sarah Winslow, Diane Robb, Laura White, Sam Kelly, Karen Elliott, Anna McKeown, Georgina Mulligan and Zoe Henderson.

Coach: Stuart Bell.


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