Randalstown bridged a nine-year gap when they lifted the Denman Ulster Shield on Boxing Day with a dramatic 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Queen’s University after a 2-2 draw in the final at Stormont.
The last time Town were successful in the tournament was back in 2006 when they defeated Armagh 1-0 in the showpiece.
And they did it the hard way this year after coming from a goal down on two occasions as a late equaliser from Zoe Wilson forced extra-time and the subsequent penalty decider.
“The girls showed a lot of resilience to come back twice and it means a lot to the club to have won the trophy again so, hopefully, we can build on this success.” said Town captain Shelley Black.
It had been 82 years since the students won the famous trophy and all of half-a-century since they even reached a final,
On that occasion, they lost to Victorians a replay, long before games were decided on the day, by extra-time and a penalty shoot-out if necessary as was the case on Saturday.
“I had a feeling it might have gone to the wire but we didn’t play enough hockey when we were 2-1 up and paid the penalty.” said Queen’s coach Simon Bell.
Randalstown made one late change to the squad they had initially named as they included Wilson, who plays her hockey at Syracuse University, having promoted her from assistant coach.
Her name didn’t appear on the match-day programme as a player but it wasn’t long before she came off the bench and she made a big impact on the game thereafter.
Queen’s stuck with the players who had seen them reach the final for the first time for 50 years and they took the lead from the first penalty corner of the game, Tori Hastings drilling the ball home in the seventh minute.
Katharine McDowell almost got the equaliser seven minutes later when she shoe into the side-net and then Wilson’s set-piece was well saved by student keeper Judith Scott.
Town’s pressure was rewarded with an equalising goal in the 32nd minute when McDowell slammed home a disputed penalty corner to square things up at the break.
Nine minutes after the restart Queen’s were ahead again and Hastings was on the mark again, this time firing home a great cross from Julie Allison.
But Randalstown were in no mood to lie down and they proceeded to take the game to Queen’s and in the 55th minute Wilson swept the ball high into the net for the equaliser after a great pass from Jayne McGrillen.
Town were buoyed by that goal and Queen’s keeper Scott saved well from CJ McDonald in the 67th minute.
Extra-time failed to produce a winner and so to the shoot-out in which Town scored all four of their efforts from the spot as the last in the series wasn’t taken after Queen’s had failed to score from two of their strokes.