Sunday, May 25, 2008

Women's Championships final: Hermes 1 Loreto 0 (after golden goal)

Aoife Harte’s golden-goal beauty saw Hermes reclaim the All-Ireland Club Championships, winning back the trophy they won two years ago.

It was a sublime effort, set up by 16 year-old Chloe Watkins whose slide-rule path found the onrushing midfielder at the top of the D.

Harte’s initial effort was blocked by Rachel Keegan’s foot but a good advantage from umpire Lyn Morrow allowed her to carry on, picking up the ball and robustly hammering into the bottom corner.

A beautiful goal to end a cagey end-to-end encounter.

But this final may well be remembered in the longer scheme of things as a day where prodigious youth got its head with six schoolgirls making their mark.

The changing of the guard was apparent in Saturday’s semi-final when Hermes deposed last year’s champions, Pegasus – a side complete with five retired internationals in their squad.

Coach Colin Stewart has protested numerous times this season that his side is in transition with former internationals Catriona Carey and Mary Logue retiring while Jenny Burke missed the end of the season due to pregnancy.

Add to that, captain Fiona Connery missed the final as she flew out to her wedding and you would be forgiven for agreeing with Stewart

But, at Belfield on Sunday, his side came of age with the help of a precocious trio of teenagers.

In Chloe Watkins, the Booterstown club has the most exciting talent to grace Irish hockey in recent years. With just a handful of senior club games under her belt, she delivered a first half master-class that left many of Loreto’s more senior talent bewildered.

From her left midfield position, she ghosted past players with ease creating chance after chance for fellow schoolgirls, Nicola Evans and Anna O’Flanagan.

Indeed, that pair were causing all sorts of problems in before the half-time break as Hermes dominated but could not take advantage. For Loreto, their main threat was coming through the right-wing flyer, Zara Delaney – one of another three schoolgirls from Loreto, Beaufort also taking the pitch.

Loreto should have made Hermes pay for their profligacy. Senior internationals Cathy McKean and Nikki Symmons became increasingly more involved and were instrumental in winning eight penalty corners in the second half.

Their array of switches, though, would not produce a goal as, Sinead McDonnell twice took the ball off the line first from Rachel Keegan’s deflection and then from Symmons’ drag-flick.

Symmons also drew a smart save from Emma Grey’s stick as they pounded the Hermes goal. It meant golden goal and just three minutes in, Harte scored the goal to reclaim the trophy and secure a golden future for her club.

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