Ards have designs on All-Ireland title

Ards' Naomi Elliott and goalkeeper Naomi McKnight
Ards' Naomi Elliott and goalkeeper Naomi McKnight

Ards want to be playing with their indoor hockey destiny in their own hands in Europe next season but to do that they first have to retain their All-Ireland title.

The Ulster Championship is a stepping stone to achieving a place in the national series but, going into tonight’s final round of games, Ards are by no means guaranteed a place in the play-offs.

The bottom line is that they will almost certainly have to beat Lurgan in the final match of the local competition tonight at the Queen’s PE Centre.

That certainly won’t be easy with Lucy McKee in such sparkling form in front of goal as the Lurgan striker hit the net 10 times in just four games over the weekend at the same venue.

Lurgan lost their opening game to the Ulster Elks who are almost certain to finish either first or second but then the Co Armagh side won three out of three on Sunday.

The top two finishers progress to the national trophy tournament in Dublin in 2013 but in the interim at least Ards have this season’s European adventure to look foward to.

That was their reward for winning the national crown earlier this year and a massive fundraising drove is in full swing with the trip to Portugal just a matter of weeks away.

It’s likely the players will still have to chip in but Ards are doing everything they can to keep the cost of the trip to a minimum although it hasn’t been easy in the current economic climate.

“It’s been a case of ‘so far so good at this stage and we recently completed an indoor cycling challenge in Ards Shopping Centre ‘Pedaling for Pennies’ from which we raised over £700,” Ards captain Naomi Elliott explained.

“We also have a number of events in the diary for the New Year including bag packing at a local supermarket, a cinema night and night at the races.

“But it is tough as you end up asking the same people to support you which becomes difficult, that is, family and friends.

“Although we are raising as much as possible the girls will still have to foot the majority of the bill themselves, this was something we all understood before we agreed to go to Lisbon.”