Leinster Indoor League
Semi-finals: Railway Union 4 North Kildare 0; UCD 5 Muckross 5, Muckross win shoot-out 3-2
Final: Railway Union 2 (L Lloyd 2) Muckross 1 (C Flavin)
Lily Lloyd’s perfectly placed double saw Railway Union retain the Leinster women’s indoor league as they withstood Muckross’s late rush in the final at St Columba’s.
She opened the scoring when Orla Fox picked her out on the edge of the circle, spun and shot early. The two players were involved in the next goal, too, with Lloyd finding the overlapping Fox on the right boards.
Her shot was saved high but dropped perfectly to Lloyd who – while the Muckross defence delayed – breached a tackle and got off an early push that made it into the bottom corner.
Trailing 2-0 at half-time, Muckross had the upper hand after half-time but Sophie Barnwell saw her penalty stroke effort saved by Carolyn Crampton.
Railway skipper Holly Jenkinson had earlier saved off the line while Lloyd was denied a hat trick by the width of a post, leaving the tie in the balance.
Charlie Flavin did get them on the scoreboard when she picked up Sarah McAuley’s poke through, flicking beyond Crampton, but they could not find a further threat and Railway prevailed once more.
“Delighted to retain the Leinster cup,” Fox said following the victory. “It was very tight and Muckross are a very structured team because they are coached by Rob Abbott. He has been doing a lot of work with them and they really progressed as the tournament went on. It got very close at 2-1.”
The club are now looking forward to playing in the National Indoor Trophy in a fortnight’s time at the Kingfisher Hall in Galway. After that, they will go on to play in Europe – as 2019 national champs – in Portugal in the EuroHockey Indoor Club Challenge.
For Fox, though, her first port of call will be to captain the Irish women’s team at the EuroHockey Indoor Championship III in Bratislava in what will be the country’s first indoor Euros since 1990.
“It’s fantastic to have indoor reintroduced at international level,” she told The Hook. “We started trials all the way back in October. We had about 30 or 40 athletes who were interested in representing their country which is fantastic to see. From that, selections were made and a good bit of training over Christmas and January.
“I jumped at the chance. Why wouldn’t I want to experience it at another level and experience what it is like internationally? It is predominantly well known in Eastern Europe and so you get a chance to see something very different. It can also only add to your [outdoor] game.”
Ireland will play hosts Portugal on Friday morning at 10am in the first of six games. They will also play Spain, Finland, Denmark, Slovakia and Slovenia with the top two from the group earning promotion.
The appetite has been sated by the pre-Christmas tour to South Africa.
“It was fantastic to experience that environment; with the PSi tournament, they have thousands of kids involved from such an early age and it’s a much bigger sport. It has shown us what we can aspire to and can grow the game into being from the grass roots level.
“In the velodrome, there was up a couple of thousand kids cheering and shouting, the music blaring and all that. First time experience for me!”
As part of that tournament, Fox became the first player to come through the Botanic youth ranks to play a senior international tie, marking it as a special moment for the Glasnevin club.
She made the move in her late teens, first to Pembroke and then on to Railway where she was introduced to indoor for the first time. It was something she took to quickly.
“Because I am a defender, maybe I am used to being quite low to the ground. It can suit some players style of play more than others; some forwards are that bit more upright in comparison. There are different techniques and hopefully I have picked up a few bits and pieces!”
With the Sandymount club, she enjoyed her first European club experience in Bratislava, winning gold at the EuroHockey Indoor Club Challenge I.
At the same venue as 2011, Fox is keen for that to be an omen and give an idea of how to approach this week’s competition.
“It was one of our first experiences of European competition and some of the skills from players of nations you wouldn’t expect to be good outdoors; they played so much indoor that their skill level ability to read and play the game was something that took us a game or two to get used to.
“This week is very much an unknown but that could work in our favour. It is our first tournament back and teams won’t know anything about us. Really, really looking forward to what we can do because there are some really talented players in the team and hopefully we can push and do well.”