McNeill delighted as Ulster retain inter-pro title in style

The delighted Ulster ladies squad after winning the under 21 Inter-provincial title
The delighted Ulster ladies squad after winning the under 21 Inter-provincial title

Ulster retained their Under-21 inter-provincial title in style yesterday when they defeated Leinster 2-0 to finish the campaign with a 100 per cent record.

In doing so they went through the three match programme without conceding a goal and scoring 16 in the process.

Coach Ali McNeill was naturally delighted at the outcome after steering the squad to the trophy 12 months ago.

“It was a great overall team display and it was very satisfying to score the goals we did and keep a clean sheet as well.” she said.

Now the attention will switch to national level as the players face an anxious wait to see if they make the Ireland U21 training panel.

It’s anticipated that an extended squad will be named over the course of the next few days as Ireland prepare for their EuroHockey Junior trophy campaign in Vienna in July.

But one would expect the bulk of the Ulster squad will get the nod in view of the commanding fashion of their inter-pro triumph.

Senior internationals Chloe Brown and Katie Mullan should be automatic choices provided they are released from their commitments at that level.

Ireland have the Champions Challenge tournament in Glasgow in late April and early May but after that there will be senior international training sessions and some challenge games.

But with a lack of competitive fixtures until the World League later in the year, the two players will be hoping to make the U21 national squad.

However up to a dozen Ulster players should be in the frame for the preliminary panel which will be named shortly.

Yesterday Ulster needed only a draw going into the final game with Leinster as they were ahead of their hosts on goal difference.

But they were in control for most of the game and defended well when they had to as Leinster battled to secure the win they needed.

Ulster keeper Jenna Holmes was called into action early on when she made a great save from Erika Hinkson after Leinster forced the first penalty corner of the match.

In the 17th minute Brown forced a set piece at the other end and Mullan’s shot went narrowly wide.

Hayley Mulcahy’s effort for Leinster then suffered a similar fate before Ulster broke the deadlock in the 26th minute.

This time it was Mullan who was the provider as she forced the award and Brown sent a drag flick high into the net for the opener.

In the 50th minute Hinkson set off on a skilful run but her shot missed the target as the visitors defence heaved a sigh of relief.

Ulster defended well in the face of some Leinster pressure before they killed the game off with five minutes left.

Mullan and Brown linked up superbly at a penalty corner and the Ards striker fired home the insurance goal to prompt the celebrations.

On Friday Lucy McKee hit a hat trick in the opening 8-0 win over Connacht while Mullan (2), Brown, Robyn Chambers, Serena Barr and McKee were on target in Saturday’s 6-0 victory over Munster.

Results: Friday: Connacht 0 Ulster 8; Leinster 3 Munster 1; Saturday: Ulster 6 Munster 0; Connacht 0 Leinster 7; Sunday: Munster 2 Connacht 1; Leinster 0 Ulster 2.

Final placings: 1. Ulster 9pts; 2, Leinster 6; 3. Munster 3; 4. Connacht 0.