Lurgan pulled off arguably their greatest win ever by defeating the Ulster Elks at Jordanstown and sealing a place in the semi-final of the Irish Senior Cup for the first time in the clubs history.
A 32nd minute penalty corner strike from captain Charlene Hull thumped against the Elks backboard and booked Lurgan a last four spot in Ireland’s most prestigious ladies hockey competition.
In a match played in atrocious weather with fierce wind and driving rain it was Lurgan who mastered the conditions better as they put Elks under pressure right from the off. Several early breaks up field had the Elks defence scrambling as Carly Johnston, Sarah McClure, Pippa Best and Emma Lindsay grabbed control of midfield. They never stopped running as they fought for every ball, never gave their opponents time to settle and released a flexible forward line of Chloe McCann, Zoe Hawthorne, Jayne Clarke and Kathryn Edgar which the coaching team rotated to great effect and maximum impact.
A lovely move at a 16th minute penalty corner almost gave Lurgan the lead but the ball bobbled off Sarah McClure’s foot just before she turned it home at the near post and the umpires awarded a free out. Against the run of play the Elks almost snatched the lead with a swift break up field but Naomi Costley was quickly off her line to block the shot. Undaunted Lurgan seized the initiative again and on 32 minutes were awarded what turned out to be the game clinching penalty corner. The initial hit out hopped on stopper Jayne Clarke but she kept her composure, regained control and slid the ball left to Charlene Hull who drilled it into the far corner of the Elks goal.
Before the match Elks were favourites to win and Lurgan came out for the second half expecting an onslaught but in truth it never really materialised. Lurgan’s wing backs Shelley Sloan and Alex Hurst shut out any attacks down the flanks and Charlene Hull and Louise Murray both had tremendous games in the heart of the defence.
Lurgan pinned the Elks back in their own half for long periods of the second half. They were unlucky not to add to their lead on several occasions. A superb run by Chloe McCann saw the ball played across the goal line and Lurgan were left scratching their heads at how the ball had managed to avoid going in. A sustained period of Lurgan pressure resulted in penalty corner awards on 26 and 27 minutes but the Elks defence managed to clear both of these. With the end in sight Elks put in a final push for an equaliser but despite one or two jittery moments the Lurgan defence stood strong and the team can now look forward to a huge weekend in Dublin later in the season.
This was a superb team performance and leaves Lurgan with the honour of being the only Ulster team left in the competition.
A delightful manager Darwin Murray said after the match, “It was a great team performance, we weren’t expected to win this one and we’ll be big underdogs down there, so we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Lurgan have no match this weekend due to the Under 21 inter-provincials taking place in Dublin and Lurgan Ladies wish all the best to players Louise Murray, Serena Barr, Bethany Barr and Lucy McKee who have been selected to represent Ulster at this prestigious tournament.