ESB Women’s Irish Hockey League final
Railway Union 4 (Jean McDonnell 2, Nikki Evans, Kate Dillon ps) Cork Harlequins 0
Railway Union enjoyed their biggest day in their 106 year history as they claimed their first outdoor national title in consummate style, showing a difference in class to end Cork Harlequins’ dreams of taking the club champion’s crown.
Jean McDonnell’s first half double laid the groundwork before Nikki Evans’ unique deflection and Kate Dillon’s penalty stroke in the final quarter capped the performance.
Quins’ never truly got going, the exertions of yesterday’s epic win over Pegasus apparent as they drew only fleeting sights of Helen Stevenson’s goal.
Indeed, the omens weren’t good when Karen Bateman went down with what looked a nasty injury inside 15 seconds as Railway initially imposed themselves physically. Bateman returned to the fray but was unable to carry the threat as the Park Avenue club had control from the off.
After fronting up well initially, the spaces began to open up for their speedy brand of hockey, flying down the left flank through the triumvirate of Isobel Joyce, Emma Smyth and Jean McDonnell.
The latter created the only chance of the first quarter, burning down the right end-line for Kate Dillon – another key player on the day – to draw an excellent diving save from Amy O’Neill.
But, with the tempo upped in the second period, Jean McDonnell gave her side the clear advantage. Emer Dillon and Emma Smyth had both served green card suspensions but, back with the full complement, they took the lead their dominance deserved.
The move which led to the set-piece was pure Railway. Smyth sped forward past two tacklers, laid the ball down the left channel for McDonnell to collect, leading from inside to out, and her reverse stick cross picked up a foot
The goal itself was a repeat of last Sunday’s corner switch, first left and then right opening the space for McDonnell to get back on the horse and drill past O’Neill’s defences.
Jane Chapple deflected one corner effort just wide but, when another flowing move yielded the fourth penalty corner of the half, McDonnell banged home off O’Neill’s pads for 2-0 on the half-time hooter.
It was a killer blow from which Quins struggled to recover. Rachel McSharry was green-carded inside eight second half seconds before returning only to be shown a yellow – following McDonnell’s incredible turn and burn – during which time Railway moved further ahead.
If Nikki Evans meant her 46th minute effort, she is a genius, scoring a one-of-a-kind deflection which left O’Neill helpless. Isobel Joyce took on a long corner, chipped across at shin-height about a stick-length behind Evans but she flung out an arm, and her control dragged home at the near post, completely wrong-footing the Cork ’keeper.
At this stage, Railway were running riot and could have extended their advantage on numerous occasions but for the brilliance of Sinead McCarthy and cohort Cliodhna Sargent.
The one effort to find the net was Kate Dillon’s stroke, firing home to the same spot she found a day earlier in the 63rd minute after Smyth was checked while in her shooting stride.
Pushed into midfield, McCarthy was denied a consolation when her flick was blocked on the line by Isobel Joyce, preserving the clean sheet much to Mick McKinnon’s delight.
Railway Union: Helen Stevenson, Holly Jenkinson, Emer Lucey, Eimear Dolan, Isobel Joyce (capt), Sinead Walsh, Kate Dillon, Emma Smyth, Jean McDonnell, Nikki Evans, Cecelia Joyce Subs: Sarah McDonald, Kate McKenna, Emer Dillon, Ruth Hutchinson, Hannah de Burgh-Whyte, Patricia O’Dwyer, Sinead Dooley
* Adrian Boehm's photos from the ESB IHL final can be seen here while Tom Daly's photos from the final can be seen here. To see interviews with Railway coach Mick McKinnon and Cork Harlequins' Eddie Gash and Sinead McCarthy, see the videos below while an interview with Railway captain Isobel Joyce, click here.