Jessica McMaster was understandably disappointed when she was left out of the Ireland senior squad for the warm weather training camp currently taking place in Chile.
But she delivered the perfect response on Saturday with a superb four-goal haul as Queen’s defeated Ballymena 5-0 in the Ulster Premier League. The 20-year-old should have another chance to demonstrate her talent this week when the Ireland Under 21s travel to Alicante for a series of games against the Great Britain development squad.
McMaster will be expected to make the cut for Dave Passmore’s squad as she prepares for a return visit to Spain, having played in the recent three-match senior international series in Valencia. The third year student could be joined by club mates Emily McStea and Erin Getty on the trip to the Costa Blanca after the trio have been star performers for Queen’s this season.
Getty, who like McMaster, has also been capped at senior international level, is back to top form after spending seven months out with a bad hamstring injury while McStea was the students’ top scorer last season and weighed in with the other goal against Ballymena.
Queen’s coach Simon Bell was delighted with his team’s display as they showed no signs of ring rustiness despite having gone a month without a game. He declared: “I thought we played some good stuff and Jessica took her goals well in what was a good team performance.”
“I always think the first game after the Christmas break can be difficult, so we’re glad to have got through it with a win.”
McMaster broke the deadlock after 17 minutes when she scored with a first time shot from seven metres out after being set up by McStea. Four minutes from the break, McMaster doubled the lead when she drifted in from the left and fired a terrific backhand shot into the roof of the net. Queen’s had a let-off just before half-time when Sarah McCabe saved at point blank range from Aimee Logan but, apart from that scare, it was mainly the home team in the ascendancy.
McMaster was instrumental in goal number three in the 47th minute as she shot on her backhand from the left of the circle and McStea tapped the ball in at the far post. Seven minutes later, McMaster completed her hat-trick from a penalty corner variation, after receiving a pass from Tori Hastings, who also impressed. The best was still to come and McMaster completed a great day at the office when she hammered the ball low into the net in the 63rd minute to finish off a superb move which she had started herself.
The result has left Queen’s, who were runners up last season, five points behind leaders and defending champions Lurgan but Bell’s team have two matches in hand. Elsewhere in the top-flight, former Queen’s striker Stef McCullough hit a hat-trick and Paula Haugh got the other two goals as Banbridge scored an emphatic 5-1 win at Dungannon.
In the basement battle in Magherafelt, Randalstown secured their first win of the campaign, beating Rainey 1-0. Emma Clyde’s second half penalty corner conversion proved to be the difference between the teams as Rainey replaced Town at the bottom of the table.
In Senior One, Omagh have taken over at the top after Emma Shortt’s 40th minute goal clinched a 1-0 win at Armagh. Raphoe drop to second after being held 1-1 by Club KV, Lisa Smyth equalising for the Donegal side after Rachell Hewitt had put their hosts ahead from the penalty spot.
On the men’s scene, North Down’s Josh Gilmore hit a hat-trick in a 7-1 Ulster Premier win over Antrim to secure the Comber team a place in the top half split. Champions Kilkeel are back at the top of the league after some musical chairs following a 5-1 home win over Civil Service, in which David Finlay hit two of the goals.
Mark Stevenson, Ashton Graham and Gareth Russell were also on target as the Co Down side leapfrogged Instonians and Mossley who had been at the summit after midweek wins. Portadown’s 5-2 win over Raphoe at Edenvilla guaranteed them a place in the Anderson Cup against Cookstown over two legs starting on Saturday. The top eight in the Premier League at the half-way point are joined by the four local teams in the EYHL – Annadale, Banbridge, Cookstown and Lisnagarvey
Linden Cup winners Ballynahinch completed a successful week as a William Edgar treble helped them to a 6-0 Intermediate League win over Saintfield
Ulster Premier League:
Portadown 5 (M Winter 2, S Johnston 2, A Stevenson) Raphoe 2 (T Orr, G Patterson); North Down 7 (J Gilmore 3, G McKeown 2, J Clarke, P Templeton) Antrim 1 (R McClintock); Kilkeel 5 (D Finlay 2, M Stevenson, A Graham, G Russell) Civil Service 1; Instonians 2 (B Palmer, W Robinson) South Antrim 0
PSNI 3 CI 4; Ballynahinch 6 Saintfield 0; Down 1 Ballymena 3; Portrush 2 Armagh 0
Ulster Premier League:
Dungannon 1 (E Greenaway) Banbridge 5 (S McCullough 3, P Haugh 2); Queen’s 5 (J McMaster 4, E McStea) Ballymena 0; Rainey 0 Randalstown 1 (E Clyde)
Armagh 0 Omagh 1 (E Shortt); CI 1 (J Maghie) Castle 0; Club KV 1 (R Hewitt) Raphoe 1 (L Smyth); Coleraine 0 Portadown 0; North Down 1 (C Taylor) Priorians 2 (R McSparron, J Kennedy)