The long wait is finally over for Queen’s University, who defeated the holders Lurgan 2-1 in a thrilling Denman Ulster Shield final at Stormont on St Stephen’s Day to lift the trophy for the first time since 1933, writes John Flack.
Irish international Jessica McMaster scored both goals for the students, who had another star in defender Erin Getty as Simon Bell’s team held off a spirited fightback late in both halves from Lurgan, who had pulled one back after going into the break 2-0 down.
Getty’s contribution prevented Lurgan, who had beaten Queen’s in last year’s final, from being their normal potent selves in front of goal.
She made some crucial tackles and interceptions, especially after the holders mounted a second-half riposte and her reading of the game was outstanding throughout.
“I’m especially happy for the girls who were playing in their third final and for those who will be leaving the club with something to show for their efforts.” Getty said
One of the latter category is Queen’s captain, Robyn McKee who was in emotional mood when she spoke at the trophy presentation.
“It’s really special for me to have won the Shield as this is my last season at the club.” she said. “It’s been a real privilege and honour to captain this team of brilliant girls but all credit to Lurgan, who, as we had expected, gave us a really tough match.”
McMaster’s predatory instincts, allied to Getty’s defensive prowess and creativity going forward, proved to be the difference between the teams
“I managed to get a touch to Erin’s shot for the first goal and then I suppose I was in the right place at the right time for the second after the ball fell kindly for me,” McMaster said.
McMaster broke the deadlock from the opening penalty-corner of the game in the 11th minute when she deflected the ball home from Getty’s initial strike which had been going wide.
Queen’s had a let-off in the 27th minute when a poor pass across the back created havoc but keeper Sarah McCabe, who also had a fine game, came to the rescue from Jo-Anne Wilson’s shot.
Two minutes later McMaster got her second, firing home a superb backhand shot low into the net as she pounced on a loose ball in the circle following a free.
McCabe then produced an excellent double-save from Wilson after great work by Lurgan captain Sarah McClure, who had to go off with a shoulder injury immediately afterwards only to return early in the second-half although clearly not fully fit.
Lurgan pulled one back in the 50th minute when Olivia Gibson struck home a rebound on her reverse after Chloe McCann’s shot had been saved.
The holders pressed hard for an equaliser as Queen’s wilted slightly in the final quarter.
Lurgan coach Robbie McMinn withdrew his goalkeeper Susie Taylor in the final three minutes to have an extra outfield player and the move almost paid dividends as his team finished the game on top.
“Losing McClure from the midfield after her injury affected us adversely as we had to move her up front but we had our chances, especially at 1-0 down, although all credit to Queen’s, for whom I also thought Emma Kernohan played extremely well,” McMinn said.
“I think if the game had gone on for even a few more seconds we might have scored again because they were really stretched at the end when we were totally on top.”
Lurgan: Susie Taylor; Abbie McCullough, Charlene Stewart, Phoebe Preston, Emma Lindsay, Sarah McClure, Carly Johnston, Jo-Anne Wilson, Chloe McCann, Lauren Wright, Hannah Magowan; subs: Olivia Gibson, Poppy Smith, Amy Edwards, Kate Hamill, Sarah Patterson, Lydia McNeill.
Queen’s: Sarah McCabe; Paige Brown, Erin Getty, Rachael Henderson, Megan McKenna, Robyn McKee, Emma Kernohan, Katy Aston, Tori Hastings, Jessica McMaster, Emily McStea; subs: Ellen Hood, Claire Whiteside, Rebecca Quinn, Jodie Kee, Beccy Anderson, Anna Hutchinson, Sarah McGucken.
Umpires: Lyn Morrow, Adare Brady.