Ards’ seven year run as Irish indoor champions was ended on Sunday when they were beaten 6-1 by Railway Union in the final at the Antrim Forum.
The Dublin side will now represent Ireland in Europe next season. Ards trailed 3-1 at the break, Isabel Joyce, Orla Fox and Anna-May Whelan on target before Becky Weir pulled one back. The Leinster side added further goals from Whelan, Joyce and her sister Cecilia after Ards had gambled unsuccessfully by taking off keeper Naomi McKnight to have an extra outfield player.
It was a doubly disappointing weekend for Ards, who had lost 3-1 to Railway in the outdoor Irish Senior Cup quarter finals on Saturday when the Union were joined by Pegasus, Cork Harlequins and Loreto in the last four. Alex Speers was the toast of Pegasus after scoring all of her team’s goals in an impressive 4-2 win over Pembroke Wanderers in Dublin.
In the other quarter-final ties, Cork Harlequins defeated Muckross 2-1 and UCD Loreto were 3-2 winners on penalties over holders UCD after a 1-1 draw. In the game at Serpentine Avenue, Pegasus went ahead in the 15th minute when Speers slotted home a rebound after Taite Doherty’s initial shot had been saved. Ireland’s World Cup silver medallist, Emily Beatty, went close to snatching an equaliser when her shot struck the post.
Pembroke eventually got their reward when Ashling Naughton swept in the equaliser 10 minutes before the interval. But Speers made it 2-1 on the stroke of half-time when she applied a clinical finish after good break down the left by Lucy McKee and Caitlin Harvey. Shirley McCay then set up Speers from a penalty corner as the former Ireland captain completed her treble from a deflection in the 50th minute. Pegasus made virtually sure of progressing to the semi-finals when Speers put three goals between the teams in the 55th minute before Alice Ward pulled one back for the Leinster side from a set-piece.
A short distance away at Park Avenue, Ards crashed out with that two-goal defeat to Railway Union. Kate Lloyd set up Cecilia Joyce to break the deadlock after 20 minutes when she scored at the back post. Orla Fox doubled the home team’s lead in the 45th minute when she scored from the penalty spot after Sarah Hawkshaw had been fouled in the circle. Lloyd made it 3-0 with a terrific shot into the roof of the net before Francesca Brown pulled one back for Ards.
Meanwhile, in the Ulster Premier League, it’s as you were at the top after leaders Lurgan and Ballymoney fought out a 1-1 draw. Olivia Mullan put Money ahead with a third minute penalty corner but the champions drew level through Natalie Barr three minutes after the restart as Lurgan stay a point clear.
Queen’s remain in third place after goals from Jessica McMaster, Tori Hastings, Emily McStea, and Alyssa Jebb sealed a 4-1 win over Dungannon at the Dub where Jessica Hood hit a late consolation.
In the men’s Irish indoor event, Cookstown couldn’t repeat the performance which saw them claim the Ulster title last weekend, as they came third. The Reds looked to be in control of their semi-final against Railway Union but had only a solitary Jack Haycock goal to show for their first half domination. Railway made them pay as they took control in the second period, booking their place in the final with a 3-1 win.
In the third-fourth playoff against Limerick, Cookstown were back to their best and fought their way into a 4-2 lead at half time with goals from Stu Smyth, Haycock, Mark Crooks and Michael Kerr. They then extended their lead to 8-3 at the finish thanks to a second half Smyth hat-trick and an excellent Scott McCabe finish.
“It was disappointing not to get to the final, but Railway were the better side in the second half and took their chances,” said Stu Smyth.
“It has been great to be involved in the indoor series over the past week. It’s a really fun form of the game. Hopefully this experience – along with the effort we’ve been putting in at practice and in the Anderson Cup – will set us up nicely for the resumption of the EYHL.”
Meanwhile, Instonians take a 5-2 lead into this week’s Anderson Cup quarter-final second leg game in Comber after a William Robinson brace helped them to a 5-2 win over North Down. In the Ulster Premier Division A, Bangor picked up a point from a 2-2 draw at Mossley while Newry’ were 2-1 winners at South Antrim.
Queen’s are tied with Portadown at the top of Division B after they beat Antrim 13-2 while Portadown lost 4-2 at at Belfast Harlequins.