Belfast Harlequins retained their place in the women’s EY Hockey League as they got the best of under-strength Ulster rivals Lurgan 3-1 on Sunday morning in the promotion-relegation playoff.
Lurgan were without Sarah McClure and Charlene Hull who were on a hen weekend in Spain while coach Robbie McMinn was with the Ulster Under-17s for a series of matches abroad.
And their rejigged defence took a while to settle in and Harlequins took full advantage, netting inside four minutes. Lucy Geddes scored from close range after Claire Weir got free down the left, slipping the ball right in a tackle to set up the simplest of chances.
They remained the side in the ascendancy for the most part but Pippa Best did reel off an excellent first time backhand shot to test Jade Lamont.
Rachel Johnston made it 2-0 in the second half when she ramped Gemma Frazer’s ball into the roof of the net. Laura Johnston then made it three when she picked up the pieces after Geddes’ shot was half-stopped by Sarah Patterson.
Irish Under-18 international Kerrie Burns smashed in a goals for Lurgan and they had a couple of further chances but Harlequins stayed firm to see out the win.
Quins’ co-captain Weir said of the result to Belfast Telegraph’s John Flack: “We are delighted to be playing in the IHL again next season and I felt, over the course of the campaign, we fully deserved to stay up.
“Had it not been for a 10-1 defeat by Hermes in our opening game we wouldn’t have been in this position, but we had a good team bonding session in our hotel on Saturday night and we were relaxed going into the game.
“We have learned a lot from our first season in the IHL and we know how important it is to stick to the game-plan, work hard on our fitness and take on board what we see when preparing for matches by watching the opposition in video sessions.
“We will look to recruit new players earlier than we did last season because we realise it’s going to be another tough one ahead.
“We didn’t discuss the fact Lurgan were short a few players before the game and, apart from a few panicky moments when they brought it back to 3-1, I thought we played pretty well.”