ESB Electric Ireland Irish Senior Cup final
Hermes 1 (Lisa Jacob) Pegasus 3 (Suzanne Beaney 2, Arlene Boyles)
Pegasus’ weight of experience saw the Ulster side claim their 14th Irish Senior Cup crown at Belfield yesterday, former internationals Suzanne Beaney and Arlene Boyles doing the damage.
Despite their proud recent history in this competition, reaching a final of this magnitude was a completely new experience for eight of their panel.
But the Belfast side has plenty of know-how to guide their young charges forward as the wily Claire McMahon, backed up by the excellent Kirsty McCollum – both capped at international level – were able to guide the youngsters through the experience.
Stephanie Quinn looked like she belonged on the stage, a feisty performance in midfield while 18 year-old Vanessa Surgeoner will certainly benefit from playing in a front three with McMahon and Beaney.
Quinn’s pressing in midfield, flanked by Kate McConnell and McCollum, summoned plenty of well-placed early possession in advanced positions but it was Hermes who went closest early on when Eimear Horan battled through a couple of tackles.
Her pull-back from the left baseline, however, came at an awkward spot for the on-rushing Emma Russell, just by her left foot and the ball skipped across the goal-mouth.
But Pegs were squeezing the life out of the Dubliners and Surgeoner – the 18 year-old one of eight players making her first cup final appearance in the famous red jersey – looked the most likely to unlock the door.
Were it not for a string of interventions from the likes of Kerry McComish, Sarah Greene and Christine Quinlan, the Ulster side may have taken the lead sooner.
Emma Gray got down brilliantly to keep Beaney’s reverse out but the ensuing long corner brought the goal in the 28th minute as McConnell quickly got the ball back in motion from the long corner.
Beaney was lurking at the back post and, after a bit of a pile-up, she came up to take the plaudits rugby-style from the melee to claim the goal.
Like a tap, it released a flow of Hermes’ pent-up energy as Anna O’Flanagan drew a top-drawe, high stick-save from Sharon Moffett, the Irish forward eyeing out the top corner after steadying herself from Deirdre Duke’s pull-back.
Duke and Lisa Jacob combined for another sharp chance soon after, intercepted at the last by the Pegasus defence but the signs of life were more than flickering.
A couple of penalty corner chances came soon after the break for Audrey O’Flynn, the first needing another full length Moffett stick-save to hold it out.
But, right at the zenith of the Hermes’ flow, Pegasus countered as McCollum won a corner and Boyles battered home for 2-0.
Gray’s double save from Boyles kept the tie alive, especially as it came a minute before Lisa Jacob’s excellently taken goal.
Gillian Pinder swept the ball forward and while Russell may have intended to stop the ball and look left, her touch actually sent the ball perfectly into Jacob’s path all alone on the right. Whether by accident or design, the forward drifted a little further right before coolly flicking over Moffett for 2-1.
She was bidding to become a very rare breed in Irish hockey, a player to captain two different sides to the Irish Senior Cup and that goal gave real hope.
There was 18 minutes left at that stage, plenty of time to get a levelling goal, but a flurry of corners for both sides produced no further change.
But Pegasus worked their way back into the ascendancy, closing out the tie stronger. Surgeoner picked out Beaney once more 100 seconds from the end for a one-on-one shot which Gray smothered.
Second-phase again proved vital, though, and the long corner which followed saw McCollum drive past two tackles and Beaney unceremoniously smashed through two back-pedalling defenders to round off a deserved win.
The post match speeches were informative of both clubs state-of-mind. Lisa Jacob spoke of the transititonal nature of Hermes’ year and their “vision for the future” as they dealt with a large turnover of players with the new squad learning more about each other with every game.
Arlene Boyles, named player of the match, similarly pointed to the transitional stage Pegasus are in at the moment whilst graciously adding: “it was a classic game when we play Hermes; they play hockey right and allow us to play. It’s the way forward for hockey.”
It sends Pegasus back to Europe after a brief hiatus and they have the chance to upgrade the level they play at in the near future when they aim to win the IHL for the first time in Lisnagarvey. For now though, they bask in the glory of a 14th Irish Senior Cup title, their first since 2008.
Hermes: Emma Gray, Lisa Jacob (capt), Sinead McCarthy, Kerry McComish, Audrey O’Flynn, Jenny Burke, Eimear Horan, Sinead Connery, Christine Quinlan, Emma Russell
Subs: Gillian Pinder, Deirdre Duke, Aoife McCarthy, Laura Pinder, Anna O’Flanagan
Pegasus: Sharon Moffett, Kirsty McCollum, Nadine Graham, Claire McMahon, Suzanne Beaney, Kate McConnell, Arlene Boyles (capt), Michelle Harvey, Pamela Glass, Stephanie Quinn, Vanessa Surgeoner
Subs: Shelly Sloan, Amy Cooke, Kerry Harvey, Grace Irwin, Jessica Perry
** For The Hook’s live, minute-by-minute match-tracker, see below