Going into last week’s match, Donaghadee LHC had not played a competitive game of hockey for 49 days thanks to several weeks’ worth of blanket postponements in December due to the inclement weather. Indeed the last time the Dee were in action was the last weekend of November when they made the short hop to Bangor to play in one of only two league fixtures to go ahead that weekend. Despite being several games behind now, this league fixture against Malone is the halfway point in the 2010/2011 season – when Donaghadee opened this season’s campaign, they ran out 4-1 winners against Malone back in September in monsoon-like conditions.
Entering 2011, Donaghadee were sitting levels on points (9) with both Newry and College Hill, with Malone on 7 points. Not a bad one to win then. There was some doubt as to whether the pitch would be playable on Saturday thanks to some heavy rain during the week, but after a Saturday morning pitch inspection by club captain Jen McVeigh, and a quick phonecall to Malone to make sure they were happy to play with the usual puddle at the car park end fully in attendence, both teams gathered in good time. Probably just as well, as the Malone umpire was less than happy with both aforementioned puddle and the pitch lines also having suffered from the rain, meaning the Dee had some swift pitch maintenance to do (can’t see the Premiership primadonnas marking Old Trafford or Anfield half an hour before a match, but it certainly serves as a useful warm up if nothing else!).
Despite the running repairs, the match started in good time and Donaghadee settled quickly. Although Jen is currently on the sidelines and not able to play for the next few weeks, new recruit Laura Boyle back fresh from university and raring to go stepped in to partner Nina Wells in defence, and what a good deputy she proved herself to be. Malone didn’t really have too many attacking opportunities, but when they did break, Laura and Nina dealt superbly with anything that came their way, with Teagan Greer playing her usual cool game in goals. Completing the defensive lineup were Lisa Higgins and Natasha Cameron, both of whom provided great support to not only their backs, but pushed up in attack and provided a nice high line of cover for their midfield. Rachel Johnston was welcomed back from work commitments and she made her first appearance of 2011 in the second half on the right side of defence. As has been the case a few times this season, things have been fairly tight in midfield, but both Ali Lawther and Katie Drummond proved equal to the task, breaking up play and distributing the ball about beautifully. It was also lovely to have Ashlee McCormack squeezing a game in before she headed back to university – first year uni certainly hasn’t dulled her skill with a hockey stick as she slotted in to the left side of midfield superbly.
Up front were the usual trio of Carolyn Scott, Kerrie Turtle and Jackie McKee, and these three were up and at the Malone defence right from the first whistle, with Kerrie getting the Dee off to a flying start with a lovely individual goal. Nina then made it 2-0 right on the stroke of half time with a well worked penalty corner. The shot, which came in from the edge of the circle and was parried by the Malone keeper, was pounced on by Nina at her near post. 2-0 at half time.
The chat from coach Brian McKee at half time was to keep things simple and use the space on the wings. It didn’t take long after the restart for Jackie, who had threatened with a couple of stinging shots before half time, to cut in off her left wing position to make it 3-0. Number 4 followed shortly after with Kerrie grabbing her second before turning provider for number 5, which came from a ball from midfield which Kerrie gathered and passed to Carolyn who was free in the circle. With her back to goal, the right winger managed to get a slight touch and direct the ball to the left hand post, where Carmen van der Schyff was brilliantly placed for the final tap in. The pressure was relentless from Donaghadee and, as at the end of the first period, the whistle blew for time just as the Dee had been awarded a penalty corner. Cue most of the team heading for the Malone 25. After a scramble in the circle as Malone did their utmost to clear the ball out of their defence to finish the game, debutant Laura Boyle popped up with a decisive sweep to round off not only a strong individual performance, but a great start to the new year for the club.
Brian was understandably delighted with the win: “I thought the girls did fantastically well today and it was a really good team performance. I asked them at half time to use the simple ball because the pitch was very sticky, and they all did that, but some of our passing and movement today was really good. I’m absolutely delighted that we scored six goals and kept a clean sheet at the other end. It’s just brilliant! I’m also very pleased with the number of players scoring and the variety of goals we’re scoring, with a mix of set pieces and open play”. The Dee have seen a fair few similar scorelines over the last few years, but it’s been a long time since the girls have been on the right side of such an emphatic win, and everybody who played on Saturday can be rightly pleased with what was a very, very good team performance.
Many thanks to Jill Dennison for umpiring the game, it’s very much appreciated. Donaghadee will be hoping to build on this morale boosting performance when Newcastle come to town on Saturday (22nd), pass back at 2.30pm. For more info on the club please visit www.donaghadeelhc.co.uk