Ulster University had to settle for the runners up spot at this year’s Irish Inter-varsities championship after a 4-1 defeat by UCD in the final of the Chilean Cup in Cork earlier this week.
The result saw the Dublin students secure revenge for last year’s 8-3 loss in the decider at Upper Malone but UU coach Ricky Lee was satisfied at the level of competition that was provided over the course of the weekend and into Monday’s showpiece.
The Ulster Elks, playing under the guise of UU to reflect what was an all-student squad, had earlier beaten Queen’s 2-1 in the semi-final of the competition on Sunday.
“We were 2-0 down at half time and 3-0 early in the second half before we pulled one back through Megan Frazer and then they got a fourth two minutes later,” Lee explained.
“We won the penalty corner count 7-2 but careless mistakes cost us in the end so it was a disappointing end to a tough tournament.”
Gone are the days when the Irish Inter-varsities was regarded as a mainly social event and this year’s tournament UCC, UCD and the Elks, playing as UU, are now regarded as three of the top 10 teams in the country as all three compete in the EY Irish Hockey League.
The hockey club at Jordanstown was renamed from UUJ to the Ulster Elks at the start of the 2008/2009 season.
The club had been promoted two seasons previously and at the time of the rebrand sat in Senior League One, with one more promotion required to re-join the top flight teams in the Premier League.
The newly branded Ulster Elks topped Senior League One by 2009 and entered the Premier League the following season. On their way they won the Irish Hockey Trophy, were finalists in the Ulster Shield and semi-finalists in the Irish Senior Cup and then captured the Shield a season later.
Today the club is continuing to grow and fields five senior teams ensuring that the club caters for all students interested in hockey from beginners to elite players.
The firsts, though the UU scholarship scheme made a return to the IHL for the 2014/15 season and attracted Ireland captain Megan Frazer and Shirley McCay, back for a second spell at the club, to complement former Canadian Internationals Stephanie Jameson, Michelle Weber and Sarah MacAulay.
This year several new overseas players have come on board and, currently, the Elks sit proudly at the top of the IHL table.
In addition, the Ulster Elks Hockey Academy continues providing an outlet for hockey in the local community for girls aged 7-14 years old.
Encompassing schools such as Belfast High, Hazelwood, Downshire, Belfast Royal Academy, Glengormley High, The Girls’ Model, Ballyclare High and Ballyclare Secondary, the Academy is a fantastic advertisement for university sport and UU in general.
The club is among the most media-proactive in Ireland and, unlike the majority of their rivals in the province, recognise the value of publicity; helped by their largely self-generated PR profile, they attracted a substantial sponsorship package from Belfast solicitors, Murphy & O’Rawe last season.
The crowning glory came earlier this year when the Elks beat Hermes to claim the Irish Senior Cup for the first time and, on Saturday, they open their defence of the trophy when they travel to Dublin to face Old Alex.