LURGAN ladies’ firsts’ Irish Hockey League group campaign opened last weekend with defeat in Cork.
The depleted squad made the journey to the Republic of Ireland with just 12 players in the panel but a spirited performance provided a string of positives irrespective of the 2-1 reverse.
A bright start featured early pressure before the hosts settled and scored the first goal on five minutes from a fortuitous penalty corner.
Lurgan’s response offered signs of optimism thanks to Lucy McKee’s clever approach play ahead of a Zoe Hawthorne shot which forced the Cork Harlequins goalkeeper into a smart save.
Another Hawthorne attempt - off Sarah McClure’s creativity - tested the Cork shot-stopper before Charlene Hull’s hit drifted wide off a penalty corner.
Lurgan’s pressing game resulted in a string of scoring opportunities off the back of solid midfield play by Bethany Barr, McClure and Shelley Sloan.
The hard running of McKee, Hawthorne, Jo-Anne Wilson and Penny Joyce offered attacking options but determined defending by Cork left Portadown frustrated.
Cork offered a threat on the counter-attack - from, in particular, the Irish international left-back - but Serena Barr, Hull and Alex Hurst worked hard to keep Lurgan in contention.
Vicky Parks proved alert between the posts and her opposite number produced another fine save to prevent McKee from netting a first-half leveller.
Lurgan’s second-half approach was disrupted by the lack of strength-in-depth towards efforts to rotate players and formations. In contrast, Cork took advantage of the superior numbers to step up the attacking focus.
Wilson’s brave block kept the deficit at a single goal but Cork forced home number two soon after with a close-range finish despite Parks’ initial stop.
Lurgan’s reward arrived when Joyce superbly secured possession for the visitors and her near-post pass was switched by Hawthorne for McKee to net.
Parks and her Lurgan defensive colleagues combined to prevent additional damage in the 2-1 reverse.