women’s hockey

North Down captain Laura Clarke (right)
North Down captain Laura Clarke (right)

Portadown and North Down will be hoping to bounce back from midweek defeats as they continue their Denman Ulster Shield campaign by going head-to-head at Edenvilla tonight.

Both teams will regard the game as significant in more than one respect as they are likely to be fighting it out in the nether regions of the Premier League later in the season.

That will be a totally new experience for the Comber girls but one that the Ports have become accustomed to in recent seasons having had two promotions and one relegation.

It’s well over a decade since North Down featured in the top flight while Portadown were, at that stage, on a bit of a slide having been one of the ‘Big Two’ along with Pegasus in the 1980s and early 1990s.

So how tonight’s events transpire could well provide an indicator of how well both teams will fare when their league campaign kicks off later this month.

North Down and Dungannon secured promotion last time around through the back-door as, along with champions Armagh, they filled the gap left by the top three clubs who will be competing in the Irish Hockey League.

So there won’t be the fear factor normally associated with playing the likes of Ards, Pegasus and the Ulster Elks as they won’t be among either North Down or Portadown’s opponents in the top flight.

“We are under no illusions about the gulf between Premier League and Senior One, it has been obvious for many years,” said North Down captain Laura Clarke.

“Many teams have won Senior One at a canter then gone on and not won a game in the Premier League the following season.

“Therefore we know that it is going to be a really tough challenge but is one we are all very much looking forward to.”

North Down will be hoping to get at least a point on the board after falling to a 5-0 defeat in Lurgan in their opening Shield game during the week.

Jo-Ann Wilson hit two of the goals with Sarah McClure, Zoe Hawthorne and Alex Hurst also on target.

Portadown lost 5-1 to Randalstown at Mossley where Jayne McGrillen hit a quick fire hat-trick with Megan Quinn and SJ McDonald also on the mark while Lizzie McClay grabbed the visitors’ consolation goal.

Emma McIlwee’s late goal gave Ballymoney a 1-0 win over Belfast Harlequins at the Joey Dunlop Centre.

Elsewhere tonight, Armagh host Ballymoney while Dungannon take on Lurgan tomorrow in the only Shield game down for decision although there are four matches in the Senior Cup