Lurgan 1 Railway Union 2
Lurgan put last weekend’s very disappointing Ulster Shield semi-final behind them with this battling display against Leinster kingpins Railway Union in a thrilling Irish Senior Cup match at the Junior High on Saturday.
Despite missing two regular first team starters Lurgan had their illustrious rivals on the back foot in the early exchanges and indeed were a trifle unlucky not to be in front in the first five minutes.
Charlene Hull broke forward in the second minute and fired a dangerous shot just wide after two minutes and two minutes later Sarah McClure and Emily McStea linked up beautifully to create a shooting chance which unfortunately for Emily again, went inches wide. But the encouraging signs were there and these were reinforced seconds later when Carly Johnston again had the Railway defence at sixes and sevens with a great break forward.
It was all going so well for the home side but they were cruelly exposed in the 7th minute when they got too casual outside their own circle, lost possession and paid the penalty as Railway opened them up with a slick move and finish to put the Dublin side in front from their first serious attack.
Railway drew inspiration from going in front and Lurgan did well to defend a penalty corner three minutes later. Lurgan regrouped and fought their way back into the match. Striker Zoe Hawthorne opened up the Railway defence with a great run in the 20th minute but they regrouped quickly to shut down the danger.
Three minutes later Railway opened up a two goal lead as the finished off a well worked penalty corner routine. It was rough justice on a Lurgan side who had showed as much quality as their opponents without displaying the killer instinct inside the circle.
All that was rectified three minutes later when Lurgan reduced the deficit with a piece of pure quality and individual brilliance. Lurgan midfielder Sarah McClure picked up the ball outside the Railway circle, dribbled past three defenders and fired in an unstoppable reverse strike shot that gave the keeper no chance.
Railway were stunned and Lurgan inspired as they went in search of an equaliser. Their frequent attacks on the Railway defence were repelled by a well organised unit and they also showed how dangerous they can be from set plays when another penalty corner shot went inches wide on the blow for half-time.
When Railway came out for the second half they quickly realised they had a real fight on their hands as Lurgan took the game by the scruff of the neck. They moved the ball quickly, attacked with pace and never allowed their Dublin rivals time to settle on the ball when the away side had possession.
A good strike from a 43rd minute penalty corner by Charlene Hull was well saved by the keeper as her defence managed to clear the rebound from the shadow of the posts. The umpires ordered a retake for an infringement but again the keeper got a glove on the strike and deflected it round the post for a corner.
Another Lurgan penalty corner two minutes later resulted in a Sarah McClure shot cleared off the line as Railway clung on to their lead. Lurgan’s intelligent use of their bench meant that the match was played at a high intensity with Stephanie Moffitt and Emma Gregson coming on to great effect.
Coach Robbie McMinn also alternated forwards Kathryn Edgar, Emily McStea, Zoe Hawthorne and Chloe McCann to ensure that maximum pressure was applied to the railway back line. Emily McStea was again unlucky in the 47th minute when she broke through the Railway defence only to see her shot from a narrow angle palmed clear by the Railway keeper.
Lurgan’s defence was under little pressure in the second half such was their dominance. Kerrie Burns had an impressive match at the back with her power and pace snuffing out any danger down her wing. Her Ulster under 18 colleague Amy Edwards on the other flank was steady and composed in one of her best games.
Try as they did Lurgan couldn’t snatch an equaliser as Railway defended stubbornly and rode their luck as several dangerous home attacks were defended and scrambled clear.
As the clock ran down the remainder of the match was played out mainly around the Railway circle but their greater experience allowed them to see out the win that will guarantee their place in the next round.
After the match they were the first to admit the match could very easily have gone the other way with Lurgan unfortunate not to force a penalty shot out.
Coach Robbie McMinn can draw a lot of positives from this terrific team performance with all involved putting in eye catching contributions. The one plus from the cup exit means that Lurgan can now channel all their energies into the remainder of the Premier league campaign and if they can maintain this level of performance then there is no reason why it should not be a very successful one.