Leinster Schoolgirl’s hockey Senior Cup final
Alexandra College 2 (Nicola Gray, Hannah McDermott) St Andrew’s 1 (Joanne Lavery)
Hannah McDermott showed sublime nerve in the heat of battle to win the Leinster schoolgirl’s senior cup title back in dramatic, silver-goal fashion for Alexandra College for the first time since 2007, their sixth title in all.
It ended St Andrew’s incredible run in the competition, denying their third successive victory and a seventh in nine years but they were up against side laden with quality with an aggressive outlook to boot.
They needed to do so after a low-key first half saw Andrew’s steal the lead with just 45 seconds to go to the break. Gillian Pinder – going for a very rare three in-a-row as a player – cracked a hopeful ball into the circle and while Joanne Lavery’s initial touch, with her back to goal, did not go quite where she intended.
She swivelled excellently, though, and got a shot into the left corner while her first touch had sent Emma Mee-Hayes the wrong way.
It was the sole clear chance before the interval as Sophie Marshall showed some early magic down the right while Emily Beatty’s breath-taking pace was shadowed by the excellent Laura Stephens and the defensive leadership of Vera Taaffe. The potential threat of Duke was also snuffed out and Andrew’s capitalised from this platform.
The Milltown school, however, were determined not to miss out in this repeat of the 2010 event and were in the ascendancy long before player of the match Nicola Gray scored the leveller in the 43rd minute.
Duke earned a couple of penalty corners, the second of which she banged toward the left corner but the post-woman could only deflect into the far corner.
They remained on top for the guts of the remaining normal time Andrew’s had their moments, Laura Pinder’s piledriver – created by Gillian Pinder’s sumptuous ball to the overlapping Joanne McDonnell – but Mee-Hayes smothered in unorthodox fashion but effectively, almost setting up a blistering counter.
Laura Pinder almost snagged a spectacular equaliser in extra-time, too, meeting a bouncing ball with a reverse-volley but it bumped over the bar.
It came in a frantic finish as Andrew’s aimed to cancel out McDermott’s defining goal. Silver-goal extra-time was scarcely 45 seconds in when Rebecca Evans spied a brilliant long pass to the unmarked striker.
She found her player perfectly and McDermott controlled and slid in with her second touch for a goal that will live long in the memory for the huge, noisy Alex crowd in one of the biggest national events for schoolgirls.
Alex now qualify for the Kate Russell All-Ireland school’s championships later this month in Limerick where they will face hosts Crescent, Lurgan HS, Loreto Kilkenny and the winners of next Tuesday’s tie between Salerno and Colaiste Iognaid in the Connacht decider.
St Andrew’s have the chance for instant revenge on the provincial circuit as they meet in the Senior Premier League’s title in a fortnight’s time.
Alexandra College: E Mee-Hayes, N Gray (capt), D Duke, R Evans, M O’Donnell, K Lenehan, E Hinkson, G Mulkerrin, H McDermott, A Ryan, E Beatty Subs: A Gibbons, J Turley, C Maginn, A Gleeson, A Roopnarinesingh
St Andrew’s: L Moran, L Gray, V Taaffe (capt), L Stephens, A Spain, H Sarratt, G Pinder, L Pinder, S Marshall, H Kinsman, J Lavery; Subs: K-A Cullen, J McDonnell, J Meredith, S Hynes, C Loughlin