Pegasus lifted the Denman Ulster Shield for a record-breaking 29th time on Wednesday when they defeated Belfast Harlequins 4-3 in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw following a dramatic final at Lisnagarvey, writes John Flack.Harlequins went into the game as underdogs but, after a nervous start, fought back from 2-0 down at half-time to force the penalty decider. Pegasus could have put the game to bed in the opening 35 minutes as the Quins goal led a charmed life.
But even without Ireland World Cup star Zoe Wilson due to injury, Davy Frazer’s side dominated most of the second half and could have nicked an unexpected victory had they not missed a good chance near the end. It was a game that could have gone either way in normal time.
In one of the best finals for many years, Pegasus had a goal disallowed with the last play of the game after Lucy McKee’s strike was wiped out for ‘feet’ in the build-up.
Even the shootout wasn’t short of drama, as Quins fought back from 3-1 down to force sudden death and after Gemma Frazer’s effort was saved by Pegasus keeper Megan Todd, it was left to Ruth Maguire to score the winner.
So Pegasus have been reunited with the famous trophy after a seven-year gap, while their local rivals wait goes on after six appearances in the final without a win.
Triumphant captain Michelle Harvey said: “We’re delighted to have won the Shield again although we made it difficult for ourselves.
“We could have had the game won by half-time and we should have been three or four goals ahead but we didn’t take our chances.
“We let them back into it in the second-half and gave them a few chances through giving away penalty corners but we got there in the end.
“Hopefully, this win will set us up for a good second half of the season and there is a lot more to come from this team, I think.”
Harlequins’ coach Frazer had mixed emotions after the game but was full of praise for his squad, after their gallant fight back.
He said: “We got off to a bad start for a variety of reasons – the unfamiliar pitch and nerves mainly but we fought back superbly in the second-half.
“I thought we were the better team after the break and we could easily have won the game had we taken that late chance, without it going to the wire and shootouts are always a lottery.“Obviously, I’m gutted at the result but, at the same time, extremely proud of the girls and we will now look forward to playing Pegasus again in the EY Irish League in the new year.”
Pegasus got off to a dream start when Alex Speers fired home from 10 metres out when the ball broke to her after the Quins keeper had saved the initial shot.
McKee, Taite Doherty and Speers all had chances to extend the lead but, after that slow start, Harlequins settled down and Todd made a point-blank save from Jenna Watt at a 25th minute penalty corner.
But it was Pegasus who went into the break in the driving seat after Speers got her second goal of the game in the 34th minute, hammering in a rebound after Shirley McCay’s set-piece had been saved by Marianne Fox.
Quins threw themselves a lifeline in the 45th minute when Watt finished clinically after Pegasus had carelessly coughed up possession.
After McKee and Speers had gone close at the other end, Abigail Edwards grabbed the equaliser five minutes later when she scrambled home a penalty corner from close range.
Watt missed a chance to win it with nine minutes left when she shot just wide at the far post from an Edwards cross and then came that last minute drama with McKee’s disallowed goal.
And so the game went to the shootout when Maguire became the hero of the hour with Todd also impressing after being a losing finalist with Queen’s three seasons ago.