Carrick Ladies 1st XI confounded the odds on Saturday afternoon when they defeated Belfast Harlequins 2nd XI 3-0 in the semi-finals of this season’s McConnell Shield competition.
While many would have again anticipated an all-Junior One final this year, Carrick’s Senior Two squad delivered a superbly controlled defensive performance to consistently deny Harlequins’ pacy forward line and make the most of their own attacking forays producing a thoroughly deserved victory.
“A 3-0 scoreline might suggest a fairly comfortable win,” said Carrick coach Neil McConnell, “but believe me we were under constant pressure for a large part of the game.
“The Harlequins forwards were extremely fast and the midfield delivery to them was equally fast.
“But our goalkeeper, Karen Nelson, and our back four, Lois Passmore, Julie Oliver, Emma Boal, and Sophie Mills, were absolutely outstanding.
“They, together with midfield support from Emma Nichols, Kerry McIlroy, and Christine Waide, absorbed an enormous amount of pressure,” he added.
“We were forced unto the back foot right from the opening whistle and for the first half of the opening period it always looked to be heading Harlequins way.
“As the half progressed, our goalkeeper Karen Nelson produced a sensational one-on-one block to keep the scoreline blank and I think from that point we began to regain our composure and get more into the game.”
Neil put his team’s success down to the fact they made the most of their chances and solid defending kept the much vaunted ‘Quins attack at bay.
“Basically we managed to take what few chances we had while at the same time successfully preventing Harlequins from converting theirs,” he added.
“Before the match, I had been particularly concerned about what damage Harlequins might do to us from short corners.
“And they had a lot of these throughout the match but in the event, they didn’t actually pose the threat I had anticipated from their set pieces and that, allied to a lot of solid defending, always kept us in with a shout.
“Our left wing Melissa Taylor opened the scoring for us late in the first half and I knew if we could avoid conceding before half-time, we could really make a game of it in the second half,” he said.
“Harlequins to their credit never really lost momentum and we still had to defend deeply while at the same time looking to release our forward line whenever we could.
“We gradually began to find space on the right and when Jill Leslie made one of her characteristic breaks to the bye-line, Christine Waide was on hand to slide the ball on to Chloe Mitchell to score our second.
“As a club, we’ve spent a lot of time this season working on fitness and team spirit and that shone through today throughout the entire 70 minutes.”
Carrick Ladies 1st squad: Emma Boal, Amy Cross, Kerry Erskine, Katie Houston, Jill Leslie, Sophie Mills, Chloe Mitchell, Stacey McGookin, Kerry McIlroy, Karen Nelson (goalkeeper) Emma Nichols, Julie Oliver, Lois Passmore (capt), Robyn Poots, Melissa Taylor, Christine Waide.