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Sarah Goodrich strikes gives Ballymena festive Cup cheer

Ballymena celebrate their Ulster Senior Cup success over Cookstown

Ballymena celebrate their Ulster Senior Cup success over Cookstown

It has been 21 years since Ballymena had something to celebrate on the hockey pitch but the town now has a club to be proud of after the Braidsiders lifted the Senior Cup for the first time with a 1-0 win over Cookstown in the final at Mossley.

It was back in 1992 in the somewhat warmer environment of Barcelona that Jackie McWilliams won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games when competing for Great Britain.

McWilliams spent the final part of her club career at Ballymena after helping Randalstown to all Ireland glory on several occasionsin the 90s.

And it was another ex-’Town player who steered the team to Senior Cup glory as McWilliams’ former team mate Mary Glass is the club coach.

Like her players, she was ecstatic at the final whistle as Ballymena’s first eleven celebrated winning their first ever trophy.

But it was a close run thing as Cookstown looked the better side in the early stages but their failure to convert their chances was to cost them dearly.

The result was rough justice on player-of-the-match Claire Brown, Cookstown’s leading scorer with 21 goals in 13 games going into the game.

She was a constant threat to the Ballymena defence with her surging runs and her ability to leave opposition defenders trailing in her wake.

Cookstown were first to settle and Rachel Stewart shot into the side netting in the second minute and then Grace McBurney took a Kirsten Young effort off the line shortly afterwards.

Brown was causing havoc in the the Ballymena every time she got the ball but she couldn’t break the deadlock.

In the 21st minute Jaqui Burns passed to Brown, who in turn found Rachel Miller but her shot narrowly missed the target.

Ballymena forced several penalty corners as they gradually found their rhythm but an ineffective routine let them down as the first half finished scoreless.

Eight minutes after the break Brown was denied by the Ballymena ‘keeper and then shot wide from the rebound.

In the 53rd minute Ballymena won their fifth set piece and Susanne Morrison’s shot was stopped on the line and Jessica Duncan’s effort from the rebound went just wide.

With 15 minutes on the clock Ballymena made the breakthrough when Sarah Goodrich swept the ball home from another penalty corner after finding space to accept a switch at the far post.

Team captain Clare Gillespie was denied by the ‘keeper three minutes later and then Aimee Logan shot wide from a set piece as Ballymena attempted to add to their tally and kill the game off.

The Braidsiders were reduced to 10 players for five minutes when defender Rebekah Reynold talked her way into a yellow card after initially being shown green.

But Cookstown were unable to capitalize on their numerical advantage while she was off the pitch.

The lively Brown had a chance to equalise in the 65th minute only to be denied by a great tackle from Reynolds who made up for her earlier indiscretion and Ballymena held on for an historic win.

 

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