Pegasus on revenge mission against defending champs Ards

Ulster Shield Final  L-R Stephanie Thompson, Captain of Pegasus; Ann Rosa, UHU President;  John Rainey: MD of Sponsors Denman ; Naomi Elliott, Captain of Ards
Ulster Shield Final L-R Stephanie Thompson, Captain of Pegasus; Ann Rosa, UHU President; John Rainey: MD of Sponsors Denman ; Naomi Elliott, Captain of Ards

The bridesmaids finally made it to the altar last season when Ards ended a 50 year drought by winning the Denman Ulster Shield final.

And now the challenge is to hold on to the famous trophy in a rematch of last year’s decider as Ards take on Pegasus on Boxing day at Comber Road (1.15pm).

Of the two teams Pegasus have marginally the better track record this season but their main achievements have come in the Irish Hockey League.

They are sitting pretty, joint top of their group, having recently beaten Railway Union and Ballymoney and drawn with Hermes.

That would perhaps suggest that they reserve their best form for big games and they don’t come much bigger than the battle of the heavyweights on Boxing Day.

At domestic level, Pegasus have dropped five points, two in a draw with Harlequins and three in last week’s 1-0 defeat by the Ulster Elks.

But in the latter game they were without influential captain Stephanie Thompson and star striker Vanessa Surgeoner so not a lot can be read into the result.

Many people would have expected Pegasus to have struggled in the last season and a half as they lost several key players due to retirement but that’s far from the case.

Top players like Arlene Boyles, Claire McMahon quit last season and Pamela Glass did so ahead of the current campaign.

But reaching the semi finals of the IHL and only losing in a penalty shoot out to Railway Union, winning the Ulster League and reaching the Shield final were major achievements in the circumstances.

Ards had a key role in two of those competitions as a 5-3 loss to Pegasus at the Co Down venue handed the league title to their opponents.

That signalled revenge for the Shield final defeat 12 months ago when Ards thoroughly deserved their victory and seemed more hungry for their success.

However don’t expect Pegasus to adopt a similar approach this time around although privately they would probably admit the Shield is not their priority.

But that defeat last year will have provided the motivation to put the record straight in the rematch which is a hard one to call.

Will Ards be as hungry for success as they were last year, now that they have got that monkey off their backs and finally got a trophy in the cabinet ?

Their domestic form has been top class, certainly in terms of results with only two points dropped, while their IHL campaign has been largely disappointing.

As always it’s a tough one to call and it should be another close contest between two of the best teams in the province who have yet to meet this season.

Ards squad: Naomi McKnight; Tamara Macleod; Naomi Elliott; Emily Matchett; Jancie Vaughan; Sara Alexander; Hannah Coey; Katy Bennett; Becky Weir; Emma Reid; Kerri McDonald; Lynsey Mallon; Chloe Brown; Caroline Adams; Amy Benson; Zara Malseed.

Pegasus squad: Ayeisha McFerran; Hannah Grieve; Nadine Graham; Ruth Maguire; Taite Doherty; Natalie Pinkerton; Robyn Chambers; Rhianna Campbell; Amy Jones; Suzanne Ferris; Kate McConnell; Kerry Harvey; Alex Speers; Grace Irwin; Stephanie Thompson; Vanessa Surgeoner.

Umpires: Caroline Reid and Lyn Morrow.