Women’s Division One/Two playoff
North Kildare 1 (Kate Hurley) Muckross 1 (Jane Gilsenan), North Kildare win 4-2 on penalties
North Kildare live to battle it out for a third year in women’s Leinster division one as they survived a penalty shoot-out to defeat Muckross, denying them back-to-back promotions at Glenanne Park last Sunday.
Muckross came into the tie with the momentum having run up a 5-1 win against Old Alex II the week before while Kildare had gone five weeks since their last league game.
But they wasted little time to get ahead as Kate Hurley scored almost directly from tip off as she took a quick free outside the circle, dribbled the ball along the baseline before pulling back to Aideen Griffin. Griffin’s shot toward goal on her reverse and Hurley was on hand to deflect in.
Muckross replied almost immediately with Jane Gilsenan almost immediately to make it 1-1. Despite that flurry of early goals, that was how the tie would remain for the next 78 minutes with both sides having their heart stopping moments in front of goal.
Sweeper Jeananne Fennelly, in spite of a bad knock just before half-time, was the epicentre of Muckross’s good work as her side fired a number of good balls across the face of goal. Kildare, meanwhile, held more ball and had several penalty corners but were unable to convert despite strong performances from Lucy Small at left back, Neassa O’Malley in midfield and Griffen and Kim Baker up front.
With no further goals, it saw the game enter penalties during which Muckross shot two wide of the mark, allowing Kildare to keep their nerve to slot four and celebrate staying up for a third season in the big time.
It gives them a chance to develop following “a massive restructure” this year according to goalscorer Kate Hurley. Rowland Rixon-Fuller – a former Muckross coach – and Dean Maguire took on the coaching reins while their defensive line underwent a big change as three of their five backs took maternity leave.
With Sophie Wickens returning to New Zealand, most of the year was spent cementing a defensive structure with attacking play put on the back-burner.
Hurley, though, says that there are plenty of reasons for positivity after their tough year.
“We had periods of great play in several games. Holding UCD to 1-2 at half-time at home was a little high; holding Loreto to 0-3 after being beaten by double-digits last year was a small improvement; losing to Trinity in Wesley in the last seconds with a flick was heart-breaking.
“We’re playing much better hockey this year and we know it will take time for it to settle and for the team to click. Increasing our squad depth has been great this year with a number of schoolgirls regularly lining out now, the likes of Shauna Carty, Sophie Edgill and Kim Baker primarily.”
And she is hopeful that they can carry the momentum from this result and the encouragement of recent times to build in 2014/15.
“We’re absolutely delighted to be in division one for another year and really feel that we will compete against a growing number of teams next year. We’ll enjoy a few months off before getting stuck in again. We understand that there’s lots of work still to do but at least we’ll be building on last year’s structures and improving further.”
For Muckross, they had an impressive season on their return to women’s division two, finishing fourth in the table and leading the first teams in the division.