Full marks for effort

Chloe McCann
Chloe McCann

Railway Union 3 Lurgan 2

Lurgan travelled to Dublin on Saturday for this 2nd round IHL match against last year’s beaten finalists Railway Union.

Having suffered a heavy defeat against the same team in this competition and at this venue last year it was a journey made with some trepidation.

Lurgan started the better of the two sides and in the opening minutes were knocking the ball about confidently. Julie Morrow won a penalty corner for Lurgan in the 5th minute and Sarah McClure’s goal bound shot was cleared from inside the post by a defender. In doing so the ball struck another Railway foot and from the resultant re-take another McClure shot on the reverse was deflected wide.

Railway looked dangerous on the break but the Lurgan defence held out well. Phoebe Preston has slotted in well with Charlene Hull and Louise Murray and Kerrie Burns is impressing week on week with her great tackling and determined running from defence causing all sorts of problems. A 15th minute Railway corner was cleared off the line by Lurgan captain Charlene Hull after a good attacking run-out from Jo-Anne Wilson.

Railway were beginning to apply pressure as Lurgan struggled to hang on but in the 19th minute they found a way through to open the scoring with a well worked move. Rather than succumb to this increasing pressure Lurgan hit back in style four minutes later. Charlene Hull hit Stephanie Moffett with a superb 30 yard defence splitting pass and the young Ulster U16 star rounded the advancing keeper and slotted the ball into the empty net for a superb equaliser.

Railway came out in the second half determined to impose themselves on the game and piled pressure on the Lurgan midfield and defence. Their frustrations were evident and some of their more physical challenges escaped the attentions of the umpires.

Alex Hurst who was doubtful up until the day of the match and had a great game in midfield, was almost taken out at the knees by a fiercely hit ball from point blank range and had a free awarded against her for her troubles. Sarah McClure turned on the style in the 40th minute with superb run and reverse shot which the keeper parried away.

Railway were awarded a penalty corner two minutes later but their routine was disrupted this time by Chloe McCann and the resultant hurried shot went wide. Five minutes later Railway went in front with a beautiful flowing move which was well finished at the far post.

Two minutes after it became 3-1 from a strike through a Lurgan stick which was hotly disputed by the Lurgan team and bench but which the umpires allowed to stand.

With a two goal advantage the fourth period should have been fairly comfortable for the Dublin side but it proved anything but. Lurgan defended an early Railway penalty corner but then hit their opponent with a beautiful goal on the hour mark. Phoebe Preston linked up well with Jenny Morrow and she picked out sister Julie on the edge of the Railway circle, Julie remained composed and squared a lovely ball across the circle for Chloe McCann to fire home on the reverse over the diving Railway keeper.

This second goal sent shock waves through the Dublin side and they had a player yellow carded for another over-zealous challenge.

Lurgan sensed their opponent’s nervousness and went in search of an equaliser. They thought they had it on the 64th minute when the Railway keeper lay on the ball after a Lurgan strike from a penalty corner had not been cleared. With the Lurgan team and bench expecting a penalty stroke, the umpire inexplicably awarded a free out to Railway and a relieved home side cleared their lines.

The Leinster Kingpins held out for the last three minutes for a narrow win but it was the young Lurgan side who deserved all the plaudits as they took their illustrious opponents right to the wire in this nail biting encounter.