Ards enjoy long overdue Ulster Shield hockey success

Ards win the Ulster Shield
Ards win the Ulster Shield


Ards celebrated their first Denman Ulster Shield triumph for 50 years when they defeated Pegasus 3-1 in an entertaining final.

So the Co Down outfit have finally cast off the ‘nearly women’ tag of Ulster women’s hockey after many years of trying.

They fully deserved their victory yesterday but it wasn’t until five minutes from the end that they made the game safe with a third goal.

Pegasus were dealt a blow before the start when it was confirmed that midfielder Ruth Maguire, who was in the squad, was ineligible as she was ‘cup-tied’ having played for the Ulster Elks in the competition earlier in the season.

Ards were able to field their usual experienced line up as they attempted to turn the clock back a half century and lift the famous trophy for the first time since 1963 when they beat Stranmillis 7-0 in the decider.

They would certainly have settled for yesterday’s closer result as the added the Shield to the Irish national indoor trophy they retained at the weekend.

Now they will turn their attention to their bid to deny Pegasus their 16th Premier League title in the last 17 years and complete a league-Shield double, just like their opponents have done so many times in the past.

The two teams will renew their rivalry in a few weeks time and Ards currently hold a four point lead at the top of the table although Pegasus have the benefit of a game in hand.

Pegasus, like their opponents, have still plenty to play for as both teams will be involved in the Irish Hockey League which kicks off in March.

Thursday’ outcome will come as a morale boost for Ards who had already lost to Pegasus in the group stages of the Shield.

Caroline Adams made Ards early pressure pay when she blasted in a penalty corner after 15 minutes.

But Pegasus looked dangerous on the break and after Suzanne Ferris had shot narrowly wide they equalised on 32 minutes.

Ferris turned provider setting up the chance for Stephanie Quinn to make it 1-1 and set up an interesting second period.

Shortly before the break Quinn could have made it 2-1 when her side were awarded a penalty stroke after Ferris had been brought down in the cirlce.

But her tame effort was easily saved by Naomi McKnight in the Ards goal who had commited the original infringement.

Ards made Pegasus pay for that miss after the restart but, to be fair, they continued to look the better side in any event.

Tamara McLeod made it 2-1 in the 50th minute when she played a great one-two with Chloe Brown and squeezed the ball home at the far post.

With five minutes remaining McLeod capped a marvellous display when she set up the goal of the match.

The former Ireland player drove into the circle and picked out Sara Alexander at the far side of the circle and she swept the ball high into the net and at that stage it was game over.

ARDS: Naomi McKnight (GK); Hannah Coey, Naomi Elliott (captain), Caroline Adams, Lynsey Mallon, Emily Matchett,Tamara McLeod, Janice Vaughan, Katy Bennett, Chloe Brown.Amy Benson, subs: Lynn Mills, Francesca Brown, Becky Weir, Heather McClurg..

PEGASUS: Sharon Moffett, ; Hannah Grieve, Nadine Graham, Grace Irwin, Kate McConnell (captain), Pamela Glass, Stephanie Quinn, Kerry Harvey, Robyn Chambers, Vanessa Surgeoner, Suzanne Ferris. subs: Jessica Perry (GK), Taite Doherty, Natalie Pinkerton, Rhianna Campbell, Leah Paul.

Umpires: Gail Taylor, Linda Coughlan.