High School hit the big time with first Senior Premier title
Hockey Girls' Premier League Final
High School produced an ice-cool series of penalties to land their first Leinster Girls’ Senior League title, storming back from two goals down to deny St Gerard’s at Grange Road, played out in front of a bumper crowd of over a 1,000.
It came at the end of a pulsating final that saw the pendulum of momentum swing hugely between the teams as Gerard’s dominated early on before High School roared back into contention to carry the day.
It provided a suitably close-run culmination to one of the closest run editions of the competition, one in which two rounds of play-offs were required just to determine the semi-finalists.
During the group phase, St Gerard’s won a thrilling 4-3 battle in Rathgar en route to an unbeaten run that saw them many people’s clear favourites for the title.
And they looked the part in the first half. Defenders Lena Tice – an Irish cricket international – and Sadbhbh McCarthy had given Gerard’s a well-deserved 2-0 lead in the opening 18 minutes.
Tice whipped home a low drag-flick from the first penalty corner of the game while the second also came from a set-piece though was much more unorthodox in its conception.
The ball was worked to the right of the circle to Sarah O’Loughlin who returned the ball into the centre where McCarthy was on hand to turn home from close range amid a scrambled High School defence.
The Bray side were bossing things at this stage with Tice’s distribution from the back, allied to the jinking runs of Susie Cannon and O’Loughlin key features throughout.
For the most part, they kept High School at bay well outside their 22 with Tice, Deanna Kissane and McCarthy making some big tackles. Ruby Neville fired one across the face of goal, too, which went close to adding another.
But Camille Christle nicked a close-range goal for High School from a rare break-out to give them a lifeline before half-time, battling through a couple of soft tackles before poking home to reduce the gap to 2-1 at the break.
From there, though, the Rathgar side went on to control the second half. Player of the match Ailish Long, employed at centre forward, and Mia Jennings down the right, used their pace to terrorise the Gerard’s defence.
They ran up a massive penalty corner count but it looked like the result might escape them as 11 set pieces were spurned with Saoirse O’Donoghue whizzing a couple of shots inches wide while Lucy Ashmore produced a couple of excellent saves amid some serious scramble defence.
From the 12th corner, though, Emma Canning’s shot from the left of the circle took a wicked deflection from Long past Ashmore’s right arm to nab an equaliser with six minutes of normal time to go, a perfectly timed redirection which left the goalkeeper no chance.
They continued to push on for the remainder of the tie as well as the two periods of silver goal extra-time but nothing further accrued, leading to the one-on-one shoot-out.
High School did keep the momentum with O’Donoghue, Long and Jennings all nailing their efforts, while Gerard’s stumbled twice hitting the outside of the goal.
They duly fell 3-1 in the shoot-out, making High School the seventh different winner of the Premier League in the past 12 years and taking the laurels for the first time in their history, denying Gerard’s a maiden title at this level.
High School: C Harrison, H Carrim, M Jennings, L Barlow, R Delaney, A Long, A Byrne, E Conheady, R Keating, S O’Donoghue, E McCullough, E Canning, C Christle, E Ridgeway, S O’Brien, M O’Donovan.
St Gerard’s: L Ashmore, D Kissane, P O’Reilly, L Tice, E Keating, S McCarthy, O Flanagan, L Finnerty, S Cannon, M O’Neill, J Courtney, S O’Loughlin, E Collins, M Cullen, R Neville, L Warde, C McCabe, A Byrne