Shoot Out Triumph for Ballymena Ladies in Senior Cup Final.
Ballymena Ladies 1st XI (1) v (1) Raphoe Ladies 1st XI
Ballymena win 3-2 after penalty strokes
Saturday 2nd January 2016
Ulster Senior Cup
Supporters from Donegal and North Antrim gathered en masse on Saturday at Coleraine Hockey Club to cheer on Raphoe and Ballymena Ladies in the Ulster Senior Cup Final. With both teams well matched on League form and both taking their respective semi-finals to penalty strokes, expectation of a shoot-out was on the cards, when both sides lined up to meet UHU President David Larmour.
As the game got underway, initial exchanges saw the ball turned over by both sides, before Ballymena settled and dominated the early play. Raphoe with a high forward played the counter attack, but it was Rebekah Reynolds first to strike, drawing an excellent smothering save from the Raphoe keeper. Two penalty corners followed for Ballymena, but neither was convincing and went unconverted. This pattern of play continued with Raphoe sitting deep and drawing Ballymena in before using their pace to break forward on the break-down of play. Midway through a scrappy 10 minute period, Raphoe attacked the Ballymena goal and won a penalty stroke for an infringement on the goal line, but Ballymena’s keeper Davis rose to the occasion with a well-timed save off her right hand pad to prevent the opening goal!
Edging towards halftime, Ballymena won another penalty corner and this time switched the play from the right flank to the left and found Emma Gillespie who checked her sights and drilled a low drive into the corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead to Ballymena with 8 minutes to go to the break.
However, Ballymena struggling to hold possession of the ball on the restart gifted Raphoe their own penalty corner 2 minutes later and although Davis saved the initial shot, the rebound was lifted high into the goal to level the match at the break!
The second half began much like the first with Ballymena’s midfield strong on the ball. Gillespie and Taggart broke down Raphoe’s advances turning it in Ballymena’s favour to win another penalty corner, which was well defended, before Taggart again provided a cross circle ball that Ballymena’s forwards just couldn’t latch onto.
Passing the halfway mark Raphoe began to move the ball up-field, mainly down the left flank, but Morrison and McBurney were resolute in their tackles to deny a path through.
As full time beckoned, both teams had further chances and although Ballymena lost a player to temporary suspension with 3 minutes to go, they were able to hold on to move the game to a further 10 minutes of extra time.
In the first period Raphoe had the upper hand with both a penalty corner and long corner awarded that drew two magnificent tackles from Morrison to deny a winning goal.
The second period brought few chances for either side as both midfields worked hard to force the play wide of the defending circles and game played out forcing yet another penalty stroke shoot-out to decide the winner.
With their team mates looking on from the 23 line in hope, each player and keeper lined up against each other and with Raphoe going first, the first four strokes went in the player’s favour with McBurney and Emma Gillespie scoring and Davis edging both Raphoe attempts unluckily into the goal.
Clare Gillespie was the only player to score in the next round of four, with Davis saving twice off her pads to leave Ballymena 3-2 ahead going into the final round.
Defiantly, Davis again stopped the final Raphoe stroke on her pads to clinch the game for Ballymena and seal their second Senior Cup title in three years!
Lifting the trophy, a delighted Captain Clare Gillespie thanked their opponents Raphoe, Ulster Hockey and Ballymena Coach Mary Glass and backroom staff for all their hard work over the season thus far and enabling the Girls to return the trophy once again to Ballymena.
Squad: J. Davis(GK), C. Gillespie(C), G. McBurney, S. Morrison, C. McCracken, E. Gillespie,
R. Murphy, H. Taggart, J. Sutherland, J. Duncan, A. Logan, E. King, K. Young,
R. Reynolds, L. Hanna(GK), S. Storey, A. Crooks, M. Glass(Coach)