‘Belief’ was the one word that was most prevalent in the colourful Ards dressing room before yesterday’s Denman Ulster Shield final.
Ards manager Phil Mills delivered an emotional pre-match address in the changing room which had been bedecked in the club’s blue and white colours to make the players feel at home.
Mills is one member of the back room trio who look after the club both on and off the pitch and is joined by coaches Phil Rankin and Gareth Grundie.
“I stressed to the girls that one word - belief - and urged them to believe in themselves and each other and the tactics and the coaches,” Mills explained.
“It seemed to work alright and I think we deserved to win the game as I felt we were the better side on the day.”
The game against Pegasus was in the balance until late on when Sara Alexander cracked home a beauty to kill the game off in the dying embers of a superb contest.
“The last goal really clinched it for us but until then, with only one in it,it was never safe no matter much possession we might have had,” Mills added.
Chloe Brown and Tamara McLeod, senior internationals present and past, respectively, were probably the star performers in what was a superb all round team performance from the ‘oranges’ as they call themselves.
Ards captain Naomi Elliott was delighted that the millstone, and with it 50 years of pain, had been finally removed from her players’ necks.
“We are just so happy to have finally got that particular monkey off our backs and although there were some nerves before the game I though we settled into it pretty well,” she added.
“It was disappointing last season to have got so far in both the all Ireland competitions yet missed out on a trophy so let’s hope this is just the start of bigger and better things to come.”
Defender Lynsey Mallon was also a proud woman after the game as she joined in the champagne celebrations although she hadn’t planned for some of the bubbly to be thrown over her during a TV interview!
“Ards is where I learned my hockey as a 14 or 15 year-old and this is a really proud day for me and my family,” she enthused.
“I thought we played them off the park in the first 30 minutes and that we totally deserved to win the game.”
Pegs assistant coach Sammy Downes was in magnanimous afterwards.
“The best team won on the day and we just weren’t good enough,” he admitted.