Last Saturday North Down ladies fourths ended their highly successful season with the Junior Cup final at Stormont against local rivals Ards 3rds. Having won all their league matches and finishing top of the league, North Down looked to put the icing on the cake and lift the Junior Cup title. This however didn’t prove to be easy as their previous encounters with Ards had proven to be very tight matches.
In dull, wet conditions North Down were the quicker of the two sides to settle and in the opening minutes had the majority of the pressure. Lynsey Stevenson linked well with Jo Irwin and Pamela Johnston and created chances down the right and the recently returned to form Kathy Taylor, after a broken shoulder injury, pivoted well in the middle distributing play. North Down won a number of penalty corners but were unfortunate not to convert any of these. Ards however were very dangerous on the break especially down the middle with their quick pace but good defending by centre back Ann McBride, sweeper Maxine Taylor and backs Dunlop and Rogers denied Ards.
On 23 minutes from one of these attacks by Ards a quick clearance from the edge of the circle by Rebecca McBride found Julie Fisher who broke clear of the Ards midfield. Good use of the advantage rule by the umpire kept play running and Julie moved the ball on to Lynsey Stevenson who dodged an Ards defender at the top of the circle and pulled wide to the left. With veteran Ards keeper Pamela Chittick to beat, and running out of pitch from what seemed an impossible angle, she hit a reverse stick shot which smashed high into the corner of the net past Chittick. A definite contender for goal of the season! For the rest of the half, play continued end to end with the score 1-0 to North Down at the break.
The unrelenting pace of the game continued in the second half as Ards pushed forward for an equaliser but again good defending by North Down’s back line including the in form Lauren McCormack kept them at bay. Over officious umpiring saw skipper Fisher sin binned for 5 minutes but North Down held out and in turn had their share of attacking play winning a number of penalty corners. From one of these it looked as if they had extended their lead but the first time shot on goal from Jo Irwin was just above the backboard and therefore did not stand. Ards continued to press and won three short corners in quick succession but again these were well cleared by Ann McBride at the top of the circle and Ashleigh Gorman who pulled off some crucial saves in goals. The game continued to be played at a good pace with both teams utilising their full squads and, with Ards never giving up the search for an equaliser, North Down held their nerve until the final whistle.
This was a tight game with great pace and passing hockey reflected in the narrow scoreline. Tribute must go to the young Ards side who kept fighting to the end but the experience of the older North Down team on this occasion just clinched the result! A great squad performance from them and a perfect end to a 100% perfect season!
Watch the captain’s thoughts below.[quicktime]http://northdownhc.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/trim.E6309A8A-1622-4C92-BD3D-22441F7D2112.mov[/quicktime]