Sarah McClure hits treble as Lurgan defeat Dungannon in Denman Ulster Shield

Lurgan's Sarah McClure
Lurgan's Sarah McClure

Lurgan are already eyeing a place in the semi-finals of the Denman Ulster Shield after making it two wins out of two as a superb Sarah McClure hat-trick helped them to a 6-1 win over Dungannon at the Royal School on Saturday.

Now a win over Portadown on Wednesday night at Edenvilla will almost certainly be enough for them to achieve their aim.

On Saturday they made a blistering start as they stormed into a 2-0 lead after only 17 minutes - both goals coming from McClure - and they increased that margin to three at the break.

Newly-promoted Dungannon pulled a goal back but Lurgan recovered to add three more to emerge convincing winners.

It has been a good start for new coach Robbie McMinn who, by all accounts, has made a positive impact on the club since his arrival during the summer.

Defender Phoebe Preston, in her second season at the club since moving from Queen’s, speaks enthusiastically about the season that lies ahead.

“Robbie’s enthusiasm and organisation at training and on the pitch has instilled a lot of confidence into the squad,” she said.

“Now we are looking forward very much to Wednesday night’s derby game although it is always difficult playing them at Edenvilla.

“Our first target is to reach the semi-finals of the Shield and then on Saturday we are looking forward to starting the league when we travel to Ballymoney.

“We have lost two players - Laura Murray and Alex Hurst - but we have signed Emily McStea who, I think, is looking forward to getting more of the ball this season since coming to us from Portadown.

“She scored one and set up one on Saturday so that was good for her and will give her confidence going forward.”

Lurgan, of course, won’t have to worry about playing last season’s top three teams as champions Ards, Pegasus and the Ulster Elks are competing in the expanded Irish Hockey League.

Coach McMinn has already targeted a top three finish and, at this stage of the season, it already looks like an achievable objective.

But for now, it’s the proverbial one game at a time scenario for Lurgan, who were impressive winners on Saturday as they increased their goal tally to 11 in just two matches following the midweek 5-0 win over North Down.

“We made a good start with those two early goals and then getting the third but Dungannon came out strongly at the start of the second half,” Phoebe added.

“They scored to make it 3-1 but, having weathered a bit of a storm, we recovered well and got three more to kill the game off.”

McClure scored the opener after five minutes when she swung the ball home on her backhand after a quickly-taken free.

The same players made it 2-0 12 minutes later with another superb reverse-stick shot this time at a penalty corner as the home team were left with a huge task.

It became even bigger in the 27th minute when excellent approach play by Carly Johnston provided Chloe McCann with a simple task of scoring from close range.

Jayne Wilson pulled one back after Lurgan had lost possession inside their own circle but their joy was short-lived.

McCann got her second in the 54th minute when she deflected a McStea shot wide of the keeper to make it 4-1.

McStea then got her first goal for her new club after good link up play with Kathryn Edgar and McClure converted a penalty corner to complete her treble on the hour to seal an emphatic win for the visitors.