Armagh coach Niall McCool determined to use Senior Cup win as launchpad to promotion

The victorious Armagh team with coach Niall McCool
The victorious Armagh team with coach Niall McCool

While it may not have produced quite the same level of excitement as the Ulster Shield final 24 hours earlier, Saturday’s Senior Cup decider was a credit to all the players, staff and spectators who were at Havelock Park.

Armagh lifted the trophy at the first time of asking when defeating Dungannon 2-0 in a hard fought contest played in appalling conditions.

The two teams braved the elements to produce an entertaining encounter.

Niall McCool’s side fully deserved their win which was their third over Dungannon this season following 1-0 and 2-1 league victories.

The Senior One leaders had the edge for most of the game but credit should also go to Dungannon, who, this time last season, were playing two divisions below their opponents.

The Tyrone girls are in their first season in the second tier of Ulster women’s hockey while, 12 months ago, Armagh were fighting an ultimately unsuccessful battle against relegation from the Premier League.

Dungannon’s players will have benefited from the experience. In skilful midfielder Lisa Millar they had one of the best players on view and Samantha Kelly’s pace up front posed problems for the Armagh defence.

“The girls can hold their heads high after that performance and it was an achievement in itself getting to the final,” said Dungannon coach Norman Purdy.

“The first 20 minutes or so were pretty cagey but it was always going to be difficult in the second half at 2-0 down and in those conditions.”

Armagh coach McCool wasn’t entirely happy with the performance but was delighted with the outcome.

“We took some time to settle down, started a bit nervously and had problems adjusting to the water based pitch but we got there in the end,” he said.

“I didn’t think we were in too much danger of losing the match once we went ahead although credit to Dungannon for making it tough for us.

“Now hopefully with our first target achieved, we can go on and win Senior One and get back into the Premier League which is our next objective.”

There wasn’t a lot between the sides early on and Dungannon threatened with a few half chances in the second half without putting the keeper under too much pressure.

The opening quarter was relatively uneventful but Dungannon forced the game’s first penalty corner in the 22nd minute.

Unfortunately they were unable to get a shot on goal and Armagh broke quickly to the other end of the pitch to launch a swift counter attack.

Lucy McKee worked her way into a shooting position on the right hand side of the circle and sent a strong shot into the corner of the net for the opening goal.

Four minutes from the break, McKee got her second when she pounced on a rebound and sent the ball high into the net with a backhand shot.

Dungannon had a chance to pull a goal back five minutes after the break when Karen Elliott’s reverse stick cross was met by Kelly but Rhiannon Murdy in the Armagh goal saved.

At the other end, Kathryn Glass hit the post following a penalty corner. Kelly was again denied by Murdy but after surviving those scares Armagh finished strongly forcing a couple of late set pieces but Dungannon keeper Victoria Kerr was equal to the task.