Two final quarter goals saw UCD fall out of touch with Surbiton, ultimately falling 4-1 to the English champions, meaning they finished sixth in the EuroHockey Club Champions Cup in Bilthoven last Monday.
Nonetheless, it proved the best Irish finish in the top club competition on the continent since Randalstown in 1995 and puts them in good shape for next weekend’s Irish Hockey League finals.
Jonathan Harte’s side trailed 1-0 at the break and 2-0 early in the second half but a sharp volley from Katie Mullan reduced the arears with 17 minutes to go.
Nikki Evans was proving a handful in the forward line while, defensively, Leah Ewart and Mullan were in strong form.
But the loss of Anna O’Flanagan to an ankle injury was keenly felt and the students ran out of steam in the closing phases with Julie King and Jo Hunter punishing them late on to swing the game out of their hands.
Reflecting on the match, captain Katie Mullan felt the side ran out of steam in the closing phases: “It was a very intense game and, maybe by the last quarter, Sunday’s match took its toll on us.
“Surbiton maybe had a bit of an easier game [on Sunday] which stood to them. We were 2-1 going into the last quarter so it is gutting that we could not hold on and then try and get another one.”
Looking back on the tournament as a whole, Mullan added that she was “really proud of the girls” and, with a bit of luck against Rot Weiss Koln, they could have earned a top four finish.
“The difference between coming third in this tournament and sixth is very fine. We definitely surprised oursleves. It’s just disappointing to finish with a 4-1 loss.
“It is a big step up from playing in Ireland to European level where they play at a much higher pace. It’s hard to prepare for that. Despite all the running we did, it got the better of us in the final quarter.
“But I am really proud of the girls. We came out and played probably the best we have all season, creating things against the top teams in Europe.”
Assistant coach Colm Blennerhassett, meanwhile, added: “If you look at it overall, we were ranked seventh coming into the tournament and have finished sixth. We’ve improved on our ranking so we are happy. This was a tough loss but we did lose to the better team.
“But we competed with them for three quarters of the game. In the fourth, their experience told a bit.”
Again he looks back to the 2-1 loss to Rot Weiss as the one that got away.
“Friday’s result is the one that rankles the most. It was a very good performance but we didn’t get the result we deserved.
“Overall, we are disappointed with the result on Friday, happy with the performance and result on Saturday and Monday, I’m not too disappointed against a better team.
“We stayed in it for a long time and, if one or two decisions had gone our way, we could have stayed in it evenn longer but it didn’t pan out that way.”
They now have a quick turnaround before facing Pegasus on Saturday morning in the Irish Hockey League semi-finals.