Ards did Ulster and Irish hockey proud at the weekend when they finished a very creditable fifth at the EuroHockey Indoor Challenge tournament in Douai, France.
The Ulster champions saved their best to last in and their achievement means that next year’s Irish representatives, Railway Union, will also be competing in the third tier. At one stage Ards were in danger of relegation, but they staged a memorable comeback to beat Welsh side Whitchurch Saints 3-2 on Saturday.
That eased the pressure and they rounded off their campaign in style with an emphatic 5-2 win over Slovenian champions HK Moravske Toplice on Sunday. Ards were 4-0 up at the break after goals from Harriet Platt, Ellen Robinson, Amy Benson and Jodie Moore and Francesca Brown rounded off the scoring after Toplice had reduced the deficit to 4-2.
Saturday’s game was pivotal as Ards came back from 2-0 down at half-time to beat the Welsh side with goals from Brown, Becky Weir and Robinson.
Earlier in the competition, Ards lost their opening game 3-2 to Lisbon Casuals before drawing 3-3 with Turkey’s Bolu with a last second goal from Amy Benson.
They were dropped into the relegation pool before playing their final initial group game. They did end with another 3-3 draw, a slightly frustrating result given they had led on three occasions and were in front in the second last minute before the Slovakians tied it up.
It left the Ulster side under pressure, carrying just a draw into the relegation pool but they bounced back with two fine wins to top the group and finish in fifth place overall out of eight.
Women’s EuroHockey Indoor Challenge I
Pool C (relegation pool): Ards 3 (F Brown, B Weir, E Robinson) Whitchurch 2; Ards 5 (H Platt, E Robinson, B Weir, A Bendon, F Brown) Toplice 2
Final standings: 1. Ards 12pts (+4) 2. KPH Raca 9pts (+2) 3. Whitchurch 8pts (+3) 4. Toplice 1pt (-9)