Lurgan see-off battling Elks to secure semi-final berth

Drama in the Elks goal as Vicky McMaw tries to prevent Sarah McClure from scoring
Drama in the Elks goal as Vicky McMaw tries to prevent Sarah McClure from scoring

Lurgan will be the only local side in this week’s Irish Senior Cup semi final draw after making it to the last four for the first time with a 1-0 win over the Ulster Elks in dreadful conditions at Jordanstown on Saturday.

A first half goal scored by team captain Charlene Hull proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Now Lurgan await their fate in the draw for the semi finals, which takes place sometime this week, while the date for the games is still to be determined.

As usual it will be a weekend in Dublin with the two semis taking place back-to-back on the Saturday and the decider the following day.

Whoever they have to face, Lurgan will go into the weekend series as outsiders as the three remaining teams are from Leinster which is the strongest women’s hockey province in the country.

But manager Darwin Murray says his team will enjoy the occasion whoever they are pitted against, be it Railway Union, Pembroke Wanderers or UCD.

Railway are the cup holders and like Leinster champions UCD are littered with Irish senior internationals.

Pembroke are probably the least strong of the surviving Dublin teams but due to the superior overall standard in the province would still be favourites against Lurgan should their paths cross so there will be no pressure on the Co Armagh side.

“We are over the moon at reaching the semi finals for the first time and it is great for the club.” he said.

“It will be eleven against eleven, of course, in the semi final and to be just 70 minutes away from the final is an achievement for all concerned.

“The players, our coach Lisa Costley and Ross McCandless who helps out with midweek sessions, deserve all the credit.

“It was a tight game but I thought our back four did extremely well and that was illustrated by the fact we didn’t concede a single penalty corner in the 70 minutes.

Murray paid tribute to both teams who were faced with conditions that were far from conducive to good hockey.

Elks coach Ricky Lee laid on hospitality for the opposition but it wasn’t the traditional variety as it was provided as a response to the arctic weather.

“We wrapped our subs up in fleece blankets during the game and provided the umpires and coaches hot tea and coffee to help keep them warm.” he explained.

“The waterlogged pitch made passing difficult and the driving wind and rain made it difficult for the team who were playing into it.

“I thought Lurgan only ever looked dangerous from penalty corners and they got four to our none while I felt we looked the more threatening from open play.

“It just wasn´t to be our day as we lost two of our Canadian ex-internationals before the game due to injury and then Jessica McMaster had to go off at half time after sustaining a knock.”

The home side went into the game looking to overturn the result of the corresponding Premier League game between the aides which the visitors won 3-0.

If anything they were slight favourites to do just that as their opponents are still in relegation trouble while the Elks are looking likely candidates for a top three or, at worst, top four berth in the league.

Kirstie Lammey missed a decent chance for the home side early on when unmarked but Lurgan keeper Naomi Costley was able to make a comfortable save.

With three minutes left before the break Hull scored what proved to be the only goal of the game with a well taken set piece effort.

Lammey, Stephanie Jameson and Paula Lee had chances to equalise in the second half but Lurgan succeeded in keeping the ball in the opposition half for most of the 35 minutes and went on to secure an historic victory.