Pegasus were crowned all Ireland champions twice over on Sunday when they defeated Loreto 4-2 in a dramatic penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in an exciting Champions Trophy final at Havelock Park.
The Belfast side had already lifted the regulation season title and by winning the playoffs qualify for the top flight of European competition next year with Loreto taking the second division spot. However, there was disappointment for the men of Lisnagarvey who went down 2-0 in their Champions Trophy final, the Dublin side scoring a goal in each half, despite having to soak up a lot of pressure.
It was the same for Pegasus, who were under the cosh for most of their game in which they scored a late goal through Alex Speers to force the shootout and steal a victory that had looked unlikely in the 70 minutes that went before.
Pegasus had looked destined to lose out to the Leinster side, whose near constant pressure was rewarded when they broke the deadlock with just three minutes remaining. But Pegasus got out of jail when they snatched that last gasp equaliser with just 71 seconds on the clock.
Megan Todd picked up the goalkeeper of the tournament award for her heroics both in the match itself, the shootout and the semi-final. After Shirley McCay had missed the first of the ice hockey style one-on-one run ins, Ruth Maguire, Michelle Harvey, Kate Gourley and Taite Doherty all scored to complete a memorable campaign for the Ulster side.
Pegasus have now become the first Ulster team to do the double, having won the regulation season title last month. It was a rearguard action for the most part in Sunday’s decider after another late show in the previous day’s 2-1 semi-final win over Cork Harlequins when Doherty struck the decisive goal with three minutes left with a fortuitous deflection off a defender’s stick.
Loreto dominated most of the proceedings but with Todd in inspired form, they were unable to capitalise until they went in front near the end.
Pegasus captain Harvey said: “We absorbed a lot of pressure but kept our concentration until the end and didn’t allow our heads to drop when we fell behind so late in the game.”
“We had practiced penalties during the week and, on the day, it was a matter of who felt confident enough to step up and take them and fortunately the girls kept a cool head. It’s been a fantastic season for us to have done the double and also lifted the Ulster Shield so all credit is due to the entire squad.”
Loreto made the better start and Ireland World Cup star Nicci Daly went closest to scoring when her backhand shot crashed off the far post on the hooter to end the first quarter. Another of the Dubliners’ internationals, Sarah Torrans, was denied by Todd and then a goal line clearance after the break as Loreto continued to dominate.
They deservedly went ahead in the 67th minute when Siofra O’Brien netted with a powerful backhand effort although video replays showed the goal shouldn’t have stood as she controlled the ball with the wrong side of her stick, a split second before firing home. But Pegasus staged a late revival and Speers deflected home McCay’s penalty corner high into the net, after they had a good shout for a penalty stroke waved away, to set up the shootout in which Todd stole the show with Doherty scoring the decisive goal.
There was heartache for Todd’s former club however as Queen’s lost 1-0 on penalties to Muckross following a 1-1 draw in the promotion-relegation play-off to decide the remaining place in next season’s IHL.
The students were on top for most of the match but had only Jessica McMaster’s goal to show for their efforts at half time as they squandered nine penalty corners due to an ineffective routine.
Emma Matthews equalised two minutes after the restart after a defensive mix-up and Muckross prevailed in the shootout, meaning they stay up, leaving Ulster with just Pegasus and Belfast Harlequins in the top flight next season.
In the men’s final, Three Rock’s winning streak just keeps on rolling as they landed their third successive EY Champions Trophy crown, making it 12 trophies since 2017 across outdoor and indoor competition
This was more robust than free-flowing as the Dublin side’s defensive rigidity – underpinned by a masterful Luke Madeley performance – quelled the Lisnagarvey threat. The player of the tournament will be a big loss next term, confirming he will join the pro ranks in Belgium along with Daragh Walsh.
After Garvey made the early inroads, with Matthew Nelson the go-to striker, Rovers settled and Madeley whipped them into the lead with a low drag-flick for a 28th minute lead. Again, Lisnagarvey looked to make the prettier patterns but found no way through the flat tackles of Ravin Nair and Harry MacMahon while Jamie Carr cleaned up everything behind them.
And the killer blow came 15 minutes from time when Ben Walker drilled in through the middle of the circle. He should have passed earlier to John Mullins but a ricochet in the tackle meant the ball did get to the forward – a nephew of Dublin gaelic football legend Brian – and he pummelled home for 2-0.
The closing minutes were in exercise in severe frustration for Garvey – who won the regular season title – as they could find no way through the packed defence as old hands Mitch Darling and Jody Hosking ran out the timer. It earns Rovers another European trip, most likely to Barcelona next October, while Garvey await their fate on that front, too.
The two sides meet again next Saturday at Grange Road in the Irish Senior Cup final when the Hillsborough side will be out for revenge.
EYHL Champions Trophy Semi-finals: Lisnagarvey 6 (M Nelson 2, D Nelson 2, T Chambers, A Williamson) Glenanne 0; Three Rock Rovers 4 (L Madeley, M Darling, M English, R Canning) Banbridge 2 (E Magee, J Wright)
EYHL Champions Trophy Final: Lisnagarvey 0 Three Rock Rovers 2 (L Madeley, J Mullins).
EYHL Champions Trophy Semi-finals: Pegasus 2 (L McKee, T Doherty) Cork Harlequins 1 (J O’Halloran); Loreto 2 UCD 1
EYHL Champions Trophy Final: Pegasus 1 (A Speers) Loreto 1 (S O’Brien); Pegasus won shootout 4-2
EYHL Promotion/Relegation Play-off: Queen’s 1 (J McMaster) Muckross 1 (E Matthews) Muckross won shootout 1-0.