Mighty Quins add to list of amazing comebacks to win second Irish Senior Cup

Women’s Irish Senior Cup final
Cork Harlequins 2 (M Barry, O Roycroft) Loreto 2 (S Evans, A Taaffe), Cork Harlequins win shoot-out 2-1.

Cork Harlequins won the women’s Irish Senior Cup for just the second time as they added to this week’s list of remarkable comebacks by coming from 2-0 down to defeat Loreto in a shoot-out.

Cork Harlequins celebrate. Picture: Adrian Boehm

It was their first since 2000, a remarkable feat in a week of famous comebacks, the Farmers’ Cross side looked dead and buried at half-time only to storm back from 2-0 down at half-time. It showed incredible belief for one of the youngest sides ever to grace this stage with only six players remaining in situ from the 2017 final appearance.

Harlequins coach Darren Collins – a Liverpool fan – had seen enough turnarounds during the week to know the side could be galvanised. And they bounced back brilliantly, Michelle Barry and Olivia Roycroft swooping to send the game to a shoot-out where Lorna Bateman saved four times to win the day.

“You can take losing if you perform but not playing well enough… I said to them at half-time ‘we can’t leave here with any regrets’,” Collins said of the momentum shift.

“I just felt we played hockey in the second half. We were nervous and tense in the first half and the girls just needed to relax.

“In fairness to Loreto, they pushed us hard before we got a bit of momentum. I felt the goals were coming and we just had to stay calm. The shuttles are a lottery and you feel for Loreto – I have lost two schools finals that way so I know what it’s like – but in fairness Lorna came us trumps for us.”

Quins always knew they would be without Irish international Yvonne O’Byrne who was in camp with the Green Army.

But Cliodhna Sargent’s ACL injury – sustained in the semi-final win over Pegasus – and Rebecca Barry’s unavailability meant they took the field with eight schoolgirls in their matchday squad.

And they made a timid start with Niamh Small fired a brilliant ball across from the right to Sarah Evans who swivelled out of a tackle and unleashed a low reverse-stick bullet into the bottom corner.

Small’s inclusion showed the difference in experience Loreto could call on to step in as she and fellow former international Caitriona O’Kelly came into the panel in place of the absent Sarah Torrans, Ali Meeke, Hannah Matthews and Nicci Daly.

And Quins looked shell-shocked when Caitlin Sherin provided the right wing cross for Aoife Taaffe to step in for 2-0 just 11 minutes in.

At this stage, the Cork side looked fearful while their rejigged defence were shipping plenty of pressure and loose turnovers. Coach Collins extracted a huge reaction from his troops as they suddenly found mountains of self-belief and a warrior spirit typified by Emma Barber.

Barry hoovered up a rebound created by Caoimhe Perdue’s shot seven minutes into the second half from the first corner of the game.

And they had their leveller in similar fashion when Barber struck at goal and Roycroft cashed in with 10 minutes to go. Loreto survive

In between, Barber showed real guts to clear off the line from a rare Loreto break-out while the Quins defence scrambled to clear a last second penalty corner.

It sent the tie to a shoot-out where Roycroft’s shot somehow dribbled over the line in the first round. Bateman saved three times in a row before Sherin equalised.

But Barry retook the lead in the last round with a stunning volley, laying the platform for Bateman’s last act. A week ago, Sara Twomey was denied in the EY Champions Trophy final by the width of a post in Loreto’s defeat to Pegasus.

This time her shot clipped the inner thigh of Batemen and spun mere centimetres past the post as the Beaufort side suffered a second painful final loss in a shoot-out for the second time in six days.

For Bateman, it saw her win one of the only trophies her father – and long-time goalkeeper coach – Ivan had not won during an illustrious career.

Bateman has shared the goalkeeping duties 50-50 with Becky Maye all season. In the final, the former took the first half and assumed that would be the end of her role for the day.

“I didn’t know I would be stepping in for the shoot-out until after full-time,” she said. “It’s usually the scenario that the one who finishes the game would do the shuttles. It’s kind of presumed so I had to switch on fairly quick! ‘Let’s go get warmed up again!’”

She was among a number with strong Quins family connections. Indeed, Saoirse Griffin can claim to have been on the pitch in a way in the 2000 success; her mother Sharon Hutchinson – founder of the sportswomen.ie website – was two months pregnant with her at the final.

Sargent fittingly lifted the cup on behalf of the team, emulating her husband John Hobbs who won the men’s competition in 2006 and 2012.

“To do it with eight schoolgirls is just fantastic,” Collins said of the win. “All year round, we have talked about the squad and given them a lot of time on the pitch. That came through for us in the end.

“Cliodhna was missing, Rebecca missing, Yvonne stuck up in Banbridge at a training session. Any side would miss them but the girls stepped up and produced the goods.”

Loreto: L Murphy, S Evans, H Mulcahy, M Jennings,, G McLoughlin, C Sherin, N Small, G Donald, C Hamill, S Clarke, C O’Kelly
Subs: K Crotty, S O’Brien, S Twomey, A Taaffe, O Brady, A Carragher

Cork Harlequins: L Bateman, E O’Donoghue, N Barry, S Murphy, E Barber, C Perdue, O Roycroft, J O’Halloran, M Barry, J Murphy, E O’Leary
Subs: Z Bowles, S Griffin, S Uniacke-Lowe, I Burns, N O’Leary, A O’Grady, B Maye

Umpires: L Clifford, C Metchette

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