Ards ladies started the pre-season they way they left off last term as they claimed the McCausland, Light and Rankin super-nines trophy after topping the points tally at Stormont yesterday.
After beating Harlequins 3-2 in the round-robin series, the Ulster champions defeated Randalstown 2-0 before being held to a 0-0 draw by Ballymoney.
However because of other results going their way, Ards had already made sure of the trophy, irrespective of the outcome of the game with the Co Antrim side.
Granted, defending champions Pegasus weren’t taking part in the second tournament of its kind while the Ulster Elks were on friendly duty in Dublin where they crushed Old Alex 8-0.
But Ards captain Caroline Adams was happy with her team’s performance as they now look to build on it going into the Irish Hockey League.
The nine-a-side version of the game, which originated in Australia, presents a different challenge for obvious reasons and it was one which Ards certainly rose to.
“With a full-sized pitch there’s obviously a lot more running to be done so the tournament was good for our fitness.” said the defender.
“We were also able to field a few of our younger players and give them valuable pitch time as we prepare for the new season.
“We were glad to be invited to take part but disappointed that we aren’t able to play in the other Ulster competitions.
“There are quite a few gaps in the IHL programme to fill but we are likely to play friendlies and a bit of indoor hockey as well when we’ve free dates.
“We have already played a few other Ulster sides in pre-season and it was nice to have got a trophy now so hopefully there will be plenty more to come.”
Ards won an Ulster Shield-Premier League double last season but obviously they won’t be in a position to defend either of those trophies.
That’s because the three women’s clubs who opted to enter the IHL are not permitted to take part in the domestic knock-out competitions.
They were always going to be excluded from the league as the IHL is now a full season, with 18 matches home and away in total.
But the decision of the Ulster authorities to exclude them from the Shield - endorsed by clubs by a majority at the AGM - was more contentious.
“Personally, I would have thought the clubs that are left in the Premier League would have liked to test themselves against the IHL teams but that’s obviusly not possible now.” added Adams.
“So, having had success in the Shield over the past two seasons, it’s a pity we are not allowed to be in a position to try and defend it.
“But our focus will now be to do well in the IHL and the Irish Cup as we haven’t always performed well in those competitions in the past.
“I think it’s three or four years now since we reached the semi-finals of both so doing well in the two national competitions now has to be our objective.”
In yesterday’s opener, Emma Reid, Rachel Barton and Scarlett Holdsworth got the goals in the 3-2 win over Quins who replied through Jenna Watt and Claire Weir.
Holdsworth and Reid were on the mark in the 2-0 win over Town which clinched them the trophy with a game to spare.
Results: Harlequins 2 Ards 3; Ards 2 Randalstown 0; Ballymoney 0 Randalstown 0; Ballymoney 0 Harlequins 2; Harlequins 1 Randalstown 1, Ards 0 ballymoney 0
Placings: 1. Ards 12pts; 2. Harlequins 8; 3. Randalstown 4; 4. Ballymoney 4.