Lurgan extended their lead at the top of the women’s Ulster Premier League with a 3-1 win over Dungannon on Wednesday night.
Lurgan scored from their first real attack with a fine shot from Jo-Anne Reid but Dungannon fought back well and put Lurgan under pressure with swift counterattacks. They deservedly drew level with a good strike by Leanne Cassells at their first penalty corner in the 20th minute.
With Dungannon on the offensive they forced five more penalty corners but failed to convert any of them. They were made to rue these misses as Lurgan regained the lead just before half time when Jo-Anne Reid scored from close range after good build up play.
Lurgan got more control in the second half as they got their passing game together and settled down having started to shake off their rustiness from their long Christmas break. With 10 minutes to go captain Sarah McClure increased Lurgan’s lead with a fine strike from a penalty corner. Lurgan travel to Ballymena on Saturday, with Ballymoney entertaining Rainey and Dungannon at home to Lisnagarvey in the other top-flight games.
At international level, having forced her way back into the Ireland squad, Gemma Frazer has set her sights on staying in head coach Graham Shaw’s plans for the Olympic qualifying campaign.
The Belfast Harlequins midfielder is currently in Chile as one of eight Ulster players in the extended panel taking part in a warm weather training camp.
This week, the players have been concentrating on a number of intensive training sessions before playing four internationals in the space of five days against their hosts in the Chilean capital of Santiago, starting late on Saturday night.
Bethany Barr and her twin sister Serena, formerly of Lurgan and now playing for UCD and English club Beeston respectively, are among the players who are set to win their first caps on the trip. Frazer hasn’t played in a tournament since Ireland won the second-tier of the European Championship in Prague in the summer of 2015. She made a conscious decision to step down from the international arena the following year to concentrate on getting a teaching qualification.
The 24-year-old, who has seven senior international caps, might have thought her chances of a return to Shaw’s squad had gone but she’s delighted to be back as is Pegasus midfielder Ruth Maguire. Frazer made her long-awaited return to the set-up for the recent unofficial internationals against Spain in Valencia and is determined to make the most of her opportunity to impress in Chile and beyond.
Frazer said: “It is a great opportunity to be back in the set-up and the week in Valencia was invaluable in terms of getting to know the squad again and playing with the girls.”
“My aspiration now is to stay in the squad and push for a place in the group of players who will be involved in the Olympic qualification process.”
The Ireland squad, also including Ulster’s World Cup silver medallists Ayeisha McFerran, Zoe Wilson, Megan Frazer and team captain Katie Mullan arrived in South America on Friday and have already been busy.
Coach Shaw explained: “The facilities in Santiago are excellent and, over the weekend, we have had two good sessions with a few double sessions to come in the next few days.”
Meanwhile Ards will be bidding to make it eight Ulster indoor titles in a row at the Queen’s PE Centre on Sunday as they defend their title before heading to France for their European Championship campaign next month. However, while they will start favourites to extend their remarkable success run in the six-a-side version of the sport, they will miss Chloe Brown, who is now playing in England with East Grinstead.
Brown had been Ards leading scorer in most of the Ulster and Irish campaigns to date and has hit more than 30 goals in the club’s six European outings.
Her ability at the indoor game was a prime reason why she was head hunted by the English Premiership side and she scored one of the goals as East Grinstead qualified for the ‘Super Sixes’ national finals through the qualifying series at the weekend. Joining Ards at the Ulster tournament will be hosts Queen’s, Mossley, Lisnagarvey and North Down with the winners of the round-robin series going on to represent Ulster in the all Ireland finals at the Antrim Forum later in the month.
In the men’s Ulster Premier, Instonians have gone back to the summit after a William Robinson hat trick helped them to a 5-1 home win over North Down. Phil Templeton levelled on the half time whistle after Robinson’s opener and the Inst captain went on to complete his treble after the break, with Gavin Leckey and Stephen Kelso also on target.
Kilkeel had earlier moved two points clear at the top after coming from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at home to Mossley. Kilkeel went 1-0 up after two minutes from open play, following a Mark Stevenson strike after a baseline move and back post finish. Kilkeel had the better share of possession and pressure but Mossley were threatening on the break.
The Newtownabbey team levelled on the half hour through Jordan Robinson with a reverse stick effort from a narrow angle which beat the keeper high on the near post. In the second half,
Mossley went 2-1 up with a Robinson drag flick below the keeper. They made it three with another Robinson strike beating the keeper at the back post with 18 minutes to go for his hat-trick. Kilkeel replied twice from open play with 10 minutes left with Gary Niblock on the mark and seven minutes later through Richard Frazer.
On Saturday, the action switches to the Anderson Cup with a local derby between South Antrim and Lisnagarvey, Cookstown facing Portadown and Mossley entertaining Instonians with holders Kilkeel taking on EYHL side Annadale in another intriguing first leg tie.
Intermediate League: Portrush v Ballynahinch (8pm)
Anderson Cup 1st round 1st leg: Cookstown v Portadown (2.30pm); Kilkeel v Annadale (2.30pm); Mossley v Instonians (2.30pm); South Antrim v Lisnagarvey (2.45pm)
Intermediate League: Armagh v Down (1pm); CI v Parkview (2.30pm); Saintfield v PSNI (2.30pm)
Ulster Premier League: Ballymena v Lurgan (2.30pm); Ballymoney v Rainey (2.30pm); Dungannon v Lisnagarvey (2.30pm)
Senior One: Armagh v North Down (2.30pm); Castle v Coleraine (1pm); Club KV v Omagh (4pm); Priorians v CI (2.30pm); Raphoe v Portadown (1pm)
Ulster Indoor Championship (Queen’s PEC): 10am-5.30pm