Railway Union produced Ireland’s first win in the top tier of European women’s club hockey as they saw off Azerbaijan side Atasport 5-2 in their seventh place Club Champions Cup playoff in Den Bosch.
The Irish club raced into a 3-0 lead courtesy of a Sinead Dooley double and another effort from Kate Dillon before the Azeris bounced back, making it 3-2 with 14 minutes to go.Kate Lloyd, however, nabbed two quick goals in response to see Railway over the line in some style. It built further on their hugely encouraging draw with German side Berliner. That was the first time an Irish side had picked off a result in the new format of the competition and will go a long way to helping the country retain top tier status for the 2105.
How that pans out will depend on how Loreto perform in the second tier of the competition in June.
In the old Club Championships A division in 1980, Muckross beat the German Champions Grossflobekker HC 2-1 to win the bronze medal which is still the best finish by any Irish Club side in European Competition.
On that run, they also beat English Champions Chelmsford 2-1 with Muckross having seven internationals in their panel, three of whom are now in IHA Hall OF Fame.
Railway got off to a flyer against Atasport, a side that famously used to be home to a large number of Korean-born players but now are predominantly homegrown. They were behind on seven minutes as, after a bright opening, Orla Fox’s sweep was touched in by Dooley for 1-0 and there were plenty of chances coming.
Dillon had a drag taken off the line from one of four corners and put another close range effort over the bar but she was on the mark from a stunning break-out. Dooley instigated it, robbing the ball on her own 25, tore away from three players around the outside and found Dillon who finished off to double the lead in the 25th minute.
That pair created the third with Dillon laying on for Dooley to have Railway well clear a minute into the second half but, despite a couple more corners for the Dublin side, Atasport were back in the frame by the end of the third quarter.
Anastasiya Tsiganska broke out and rounding Rachel Barnett in a one-on-one chance as the Azeris took to launching lengthy overheads and it bore plenty of fruit.
Things got more nervy when Khatira Aliyeva fired home a drag-flick with 14 minutes to go to make it 3-2 but Railway finished strong with Kate Lloyd scoring with eight and six minutes left on the clock to put the tie beyond doubt.
The first came on her open side after a crash ball bounced her way with the latter a simple affair as Emma Smyth beat a couple of tackles before setting up the striker to land the victory.
Amsterdam went on to win the competition on penalties ahead of Dutch champions Den Bosch – who were going for a 14th win 15 seasons – after a thrilling 2-2 draw in normal time.
Railway duo Dillon and Emma Smyth next link up with the Irish senior women’s team in Glasgow where they will play in the Champions Challenge which starts next Sunday.
Railway Union: G O’Flanagan, I Joyce, K Dillon, H Jenkinson, J McDonnell, E Smyth, E Lucey, A Speers, S Hawkshaw, S Dooley, O Fox
Subs: K Lloyd, Z Delany, K McKenna, C Joyce, R Clifford, R Barnett, E Dolan
EuroHockey Club Champions Cup, seventh place playoff: Railway Union 5 (S Dooley 2, K Lloyd 2, K Dillon) Atasport 2 (A Tsiganska, K Aliyeva)
Fifth place playoff: Reading 4 Berliner 0
Third place playoff: Uhlenhorster Hamburg 1 Real Sociedad 1, UHC win 4-2 on penalties
Final: Amsterdam 2 Den Bosch 2, Amsterdam win 3-0 on penalties