Railway pile on the agony for UCD; Keegan’s stroke puts Loreto into IHL final

finalised

Women’s Electric Ireland Irish Hockey League, semi-finals
Railway Union 1 (Julia O’Halloran) UCD 1 (Emily Beatty), Railway won 5-4 on penalties
Railway Union piled on the agony for UCD as they followed up their Irish Senior Cup final win over the students with a dramatic penalty shoot-out win to keep alive hopes of a third IHL title.

Emily Beatty had given the students the leas when she ghosted on to Jeamie Deacon’s disguised drag flick on 25 minutes, finding a nice line to the right post for the deflection.

Her side had just about shaded the first half proceedings in a much more open tie than the opening game of the day. Railway were always dangerous, though, and the second half started in rip-roaring fashion.

First, Jean McDonnell fizzed a shot across goal before Anna O’Flanagan almost unlocked the door with a delightful ball but Nikki Evans could not connect. It was level from a delightful move even if the final finish owed much to fortune.

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Emer Lucey’s crash ball was redirected left to Julia O’Halloran. She rounded on the shot and Deacon was unfortunate to not get out of the way quick enough, deflecting into the roof of the net in the 46th minute.

Now further goals were to come after that though Hannah de Burgh Whyte did brilliantly to take one effort off the line while Beatty’s ball fizzed across the face of goal just out of reach of O’Flanagan.

Railway rode out two corners in extra time to see the tie go to a penalty shoot-out. Grace O’Flanagan’s early save handed her side the initiative before Stella Davis did likewise from Jean McDonnell.

From there, the sides went toe to toe, Sinead Dooley sending it to sudden death when she was alert to flick home at the second attempt. Emma Smyth and McDonnell both finished off their second attempts before Grace O’Flanagan forced Katie Mullan wide and she could only hit the outside of the post to end the tie.

Railway Union: G O’Flanagan, I Joyce, K Dillon, Z Delany, J O’Halloran, H Jenkinson, J McDonnell, C Joyce, E Lucey, A Speers, O Fox
Subs: K Lloyd, K McKenna, E Smyth, S Dooley

UCD: S Davis, L Ewart, R O’Reilly, C Hill, L Brennan, N Evans, H de Burgh Whyte, C Watkins, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, J Deacon
Subs: B Flannery, K Collins Smyth, N Atcheler, E Beatty

Umpires: C Metchette, L Clifford

Loreto 2 (Caitriona O’Kelly, Nikki Keegan) Ards 1 (Chloe Brown), after silver goal extra time
Nikki Keegan’s coolly taken silver goal penalty stroke saw Loreto take up the first place in Sunday’s Irish Hockey League final in Grange Road, eventually overhauling a game Ards.

For the most part, the Dubliners held sway but found space hard to come by amid a packed orange defence with space at a premium. The clearest opening came when Ali Meeke battled her way through down the right wing and into Jessica McGirr’s path.

Her sweep shot was excellently saved by Naomi McKnight and fell Caitriona O’Kelly but as she was set to pounce, the quarter-time hooter cut short the chance.

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As time wore on, Ards started to forge the clearer chances. Brenna McEwen miscued one such effort while Chloe Brown’s drag-flick hit the back of one of the defenders before she put her side 1-0 up.

No one reacted to her auto-pass and she drove into the circle and angled home a thumping strike from the top of the D on the half hour.

In response, Loreto regained their control of the ball in the third quarter but, once again, there was minimal room to manouvere in the Ards’ circle and 25, stifling too much free-flowing hockey.

The equaliser perhaps typified this as the volume of bodies saw Ards unable to clear after a series of tippy-tappy efforts in front of McKnight with O’Kelly eventually squiriming the ball into the right corner.

Into the fourth quarter, Niamh Small was incredibly denied by a diving defender with five minutes to go while Nikki Symmons had the ball in the net from a crash ball touch at the right post but the hooter had again beaten her by milliseconds.

It meant extra time but Loreto made light of the inconvenience. Sarah Clarke’s cracking strike was denied but soon after Small was hacked down as she tried to round McKnight. Keegan duly flicked home the stroke for the vital silver goal.

Ards: N McKnight, T McLeod, N Elliott, J Vaughan, S Alexander, B Weir, L Mallon, L Mills, H McClurg, C Brown, C Adams
Subs: F Brown, B McEwen, H Coey, K Bennett

Loreto: J Elliott, A Meeke, S McGirr, N Keegan, C McKean, C O’Kelly, R Keegan, L Colvin, N Small, H Matthews, A Campion
Subs: N Symmons, S Scott, S Clarke, J McGirr

Umpires: A Keogh, M Flahive

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