Electric Ireland Irish Hockey Challenge final
Botanic 4 (Cliona McCullough 2, Aoife Nolan, Rhona Quirke) Kilkenny 2 (Ciara Lawlor, Lynn Darling)
Botanic were in dreamland last night as they added Electric Ireland Irish Hockey Challenge glory to the division five crown claimed a week earlier.
But their spirit remained undimmed and they took on the new season with relish. Some new blood, renewed determination and belief in the squad from both coaches and players and they powered through to produce an excellent league run after a sticky start, making the relatively new astro in St Mary’s a veritable fortress.
Indeed, they were to drop only four points since November with two draws to Three Rock Ladies, the eventual runners-up.
A measure of the team effort, the goals came from all over the park with almost every player on the team with more than one goal to her name. The title was finally decided by the game between second and third placed teams TRL and Loreto, their game ending in a draw and the title belonged to Botanic.
And they followed up with Sunday’s Challenge title having come through some great battles, past tough opposition from start to finish. Strong wins against Wexford (4-0) and Cashel New Inn (3-0) and a Monkstown game that kept the supporters on the edge of their seats until the last whistle, it set up a cracking final versus Kilkenny – chasing a double of their own – in Belfield last Saturday.
The Dubliners got the early breakthrough when Aoife Nolan pounced but the cats were back level with a good finish from Ciara Lawlor in the 12th minute. And they South East side went on to control much of the next quarter but it was Botanic it took a 2-1 lead into half time when Rhona Quirke scored from play.
It provided some impetus and they duly pushed on as the pace of Aoife Nolan and the skill Cliona McCullough were key factors. It was McCullough who made it 3-1, scoring from Botanic’s first corner, perfectly executed in the 53rd minute with a switch from Gillian McAuliffe to McCullough to slot home.
Kilkenny fought back and were handed a lifeline in the 57th minute from another corner scored by former UCD player Lyn Darling. It teed up a cracking closing phase in which McCullough got the vital strike, sweeping home to make it 4-2 and a gleefully received double.
So one step backwards, two steps forward for Botanic this year as they go back up to division four with a new lease of life for next year and a year to remember under their belts.
Botanic: Marie McDonnell, Niamh Morrissey (Capt), Niamh Fox, Angie Boran, Catherine Brown, Aoife Nolan, Cliona McCullough, Debbie Flanagan, Gillian McAuliffe, Maeve Madigan, Brid Nolan, Rhona Quirke, Mary Esther English, Dee Quinn, Deirdre O’Donovan, Niamh Barry
Kilkenny: Pam Farragher, Lucy Dooley, Jenny Wallace, Lynn Darling (Capt), Avril Atkinson, Niamh Spratt, Clair Phelan, Sue Shirley, Alice McGarry, Emma Ryan, Aine Buggy, Ciara Lawlor,Alex McClure, Lois Sheehan, Searlait Doyle