Pegasus upset the odds to win League final

Pegasus celebrate IHL success
Pegasus celebrate IHL success

Pegasus claimed what was probably their best-ever all-Ireland title yesterday when they defeated Loreto 4-2 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in the Irish Hockey League final in Dublin.

Few people outside of the famous Belfast club would have guessed that they were capable of reaching the final let alone winning it.

But they completed a marvellous weekend by doing just that after overcoming two sides that have a combined total of 11 current internationals.

Vanessa Surgeoner’s late winner on Saturday had clinched Pegasus a meeting with Loreto in yesterday’s decider.

And for the second day in a row, Pegasus goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran took the plaudits as she was the saviour in the penalty shoot-out after playing a starring role in the win over UCD.

Loreto had been on top for most of the game but the longer it went on there was always a chance that Pegasus could sneak an equaliser and that’s precisely what they did.

Veteran striker Suzanne Ferris scored the crucial goal with just eight minutes remaining and all of a sudden it was game on.

For only the second time in the last 19 years, Pegasus had surrendered their domestic title and they also played second fiddle to Ards in the Ulster Shield.

In contrast to both their weekend opponents, Pegasus have just one current international in McFerran and the team is in a self-confessed transitional mode having lost several key players in recent years.

But they clearly hadn’t read the script over the weekend as they matched UCD in every department for most of the 70 minutes and then did likewise in the final against Loreto.

The Dublin side might have sensed what was to come when they missed a glorious chance to go ahead in the 13th minute when they were awarded a penalty stroke for an offence in the circle.

But McFerran, somewhat ominously, made a terrific save from Hannah Matthews’ effort.

The opening quarter had been a somewhat cagey affair but Loreto came out with all guns blazing in the second period.

They found McFerran in unbeatable form as she pulled off several fine saves but the pressure eventually paid off shortly after the half time break.

Three minutes into the third quarter they forced a penalty corner and after a carefully planned move, Irish international Ali Meeke’s effort flew high into the net.

In the 68th minute remaining former international Alex Speers cleverly worked her way to the end line and crossed for Ferris to squeeze the ball into the net for the equaliser.

Extra time didn’t resolve the contest although Pegasus had to face two late set-pieces to stay in the game.

So it all came down to a penalty shoot-out and Pegasus managed to score their four efforts while McFerran brought off two great saves to make sure the trophy was going back across the border for the first time since 2011.

In Saturday’s 2-1 victory over UCD, Pegasus took the lead in the 29th minute when Ferris met a cross from Rhianna Campbell before shooting home.

UCD were level within two minutes when McFerran was adjudged to have fouled Emily Beatty in the circle and Katie Mullan converted the resulting penalty stroke.

The third quarter was a tenser affair with both sides unable to convert the chances that came their way and a draw and extra time looked increasingly likely.

But in the 62nd minute Surgeoner slammed home the winner with a direct shot at a penalty corner and Pegasus survived a late onslaught to progress to the final.