HOCKEY: Lurgan desperate to end title race at home

Lurgan Ladies goalkeeper Suzie Taylor wants to bring the Ulster Premier League title race to an end at her side's home pitch. Pic: Rowland White / PressEye
Lurgan Ladies goalkeeper Suzie Taylor wants to bring the Ulster Premier League title race to an end at her side's home pitch. Pic: Rowland White / PressEye

Lurgan Ladies HC are fast becoming used to lifting major trophies - but they’re still desperate for a fresh take on league success.

The Ulster Premier League season will reach a nail-biting climax over the next few days with Lurgan, Ballymoney and Queen’s all still in with a chance of title glory.

Should Lurgan beat Queen’s at Lurgan Junior High School tomorrow (Wednesday - pass-back 7.45pm), they will retain their league title.

But if Queen’s were to come out on top, they would blow the race wide open.

It’s all a little complicated but should Queen’s beat both Lurgan and second placed Ballymoney on Saturday, they would end up top of the pile.

And Ballymoney are praying Lurgan slip up this evening to ensure they have a chance at a winner takes all showdown at Queen’s on Saturday.

Leaders Lurgan can ensure this weekend’s game is nothing more than a meeting of the also-rans.

“We really want to retain the title because we’ve been sitting top of the table or nearly top for most of the season,” said goalkeeper Suzie Taylor.

“We know we are capable of getting over the line and it would be absolutely heart-breaking if we were to fall at this stage.”

Lurgan won their first ever Ulster title last season but getting to do it on home turf would add a fresh delight to the evening.

“Hopefully there will be a big support there for us,” continued Taylor. “Last year, we had our big celebrations away from home when we realised we had won the league so getting the chance to do that at home in front of everyone would be really cool.
“It is possible that we could still win the league if we don’t win tomorrow night but we really want to lift the trophy on the pitch when we’re all together rather than finding out on Saturday that we’ve won and not even having a game.”

After winning last season’s Ulster title, Lurgan faltered in the EY Hockey League play-offs, meaning another season outside the top division in Irish women’s hockey.

Now Taylor is hoping they can use tomorrow’s game to build momentum going into the season-ending play-off matches.

“That adds an even bigger incentive, as if we needed one,” she said. “If we win the league, we go in at a later stage as well, which would be nice rather than having a couple of weeks of games to even get into the latter stages of the play-offs.

“Talking to people who play for Pegasus, it’s not that much more of a commitment than playing Premier League hockey.

“There are fewer matches and, yes you have to travel a bit, but going to Raphoe is almost as far as going to Dublin anyway.

“I wouldn’t say this year has been easy by any means but whenever we play friendlies against EYHL sides like Ards, we enjoy it more. We like testing ourselves against the girls who play that next level up. It would be great to get there and be able to test ourselves like that in every game.”

For now though, all eyes are on tonight’s opponents Queen’s, who are unbeaten in 11 games since their Ulster Shield final defeat to Lurgan on Boxing Day.

“It’s always tough against Queen’s,” said Taylor. “Even on Boxing Day,they put up a really good fight and they are very good from penalty-corners so we know we’re going to have to look out for that again this time.

“They’re on a good winning streak at the minute as well so they’ll be in good mood and determined to win the league themselves.”