Lightning O’Halloran strikes twice as Railway deny Loreto in IHL final once more

finalised

Women’s Electric Ireland Irish Hockey League final
Railway Union 3 (A Speers, K Lloyd, S Dooley) Loreto 3 (N Symmons 2, C McKean), Railway win 5-4 on penalties

Julia O’Halloran proved the match winner for the second successive women’s Irish Hockey League final as her superbly taken penalty piled on the agony on Loreto for a second successive year.

In the shoot-out but the Cork woman held her nerve to drift past Jessie Elliott in the one-on-one situation and finally land the title in the seventh round of penalties.

It meant they retained the title, claiming the national double for the first time in their history following March’s Irish Senior Cup success, sending them off to Europe in a fortnight’s time with a flourish.

For Loreto, it was final heartbreak once more but they played their part in a classic.The Beaufort side had led 2-1 after the first quarter, winning the penalty corner battle. Railway, though, got the first when a switch left to Julia O’Halloran was miscued but Irish international skipper Alex Speers mopped up, volleying home from close range.

That came in the fourth minute but the response was quick with Cathy McKean ramping Hannah Matthews swept shot over Grace O’Flanagan.

Railway were stung by the loss of skipper Emer Lucey who took a ball to the head, forcing further rejigging of their defence as twins Isobel and Cecelia Joyce were both unavailable after playing key roles in Saturday’s semi-finals

And Loreto took the lead from another innovative move switched right and then left to Nikki Symmons who bashed home. The second quarter was tighter though the chances kept flowing with O’Flanagan somehow denying Nikki Keegan while Jessie Elliott’s strong boot denied a volley of Railway attacks.

Sinead Dooley levelled early in the second half and Kate Lloyd’s virtuoso solo effort had Railway in front for a second time in the 49th minute. She latched onto a long pass from Holly Jenkinson, a delightful spin putting her in the clear before switching the ball to her favoured backhand and reversing home.

Symmons, though, sent the game to extra time when she cracked home her second corner. It was just her sixth game of the season as hip and hamstring injuries curtailed her campaign.

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Ireland’s most capped international almost won it in normal time only for Kate McKenna to brilliantly save off the line, modestly stating afterwards she knew little about it though it owed much to her cricket reflexes to bat to safety.

It meant extra time, a ten-minute spell which Loreto largely controlled, winning a pair of penalty corners but they were unable to convert, leading to penalties.

Elliott got Loreto off to a flyer when she blocked Smyth’s first effort – initially awarded a penalty goal before being ruled out on an umpire’s referral – but Grace O’Flanagan denied Niamh Small in round two to level things up.

Symmons kept her side’s hopes alive with a nerveless finish to send the tie to sudden death at 3-3. Smyth and Keegan progressed the score to 4-4 but when McKean shot wide, O’Halloran stepped up to be the gamebreaker once again.

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

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

Player of the tournament: Emma Smyth (Railway Union)
Goalkeeper of the tournament: Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union)
Top scorer: Anna O’Flanagan (UCD)

Jimmy O’Connor Player of the IHL Cup: Emma Smyth

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