Senior League 4: DLHC 1XI v Instonians L1-0
Having played Instonians only a matter of weeks ago in the second round of the Intermediate Plate, when Donaghadee 1st XI ran out 2-0 winners, it was back to Senior 4 league action for the two teams as they met at Bangor Grammar last Saturday. Traditionally Donaghadee and Instonians have had some great matches down the years, dating back to the days when both teams were fully ensconsed in their gravel pitch homes, with often the winners only victorious by the odd goal. Since then, Instonians have pressed hard for top spot in the league before suffering a couple of difficult seasons, inversely mirrored by Donaghadee’s recent history of propping up the bottom of the table followed by a very good season last year.
Instonians’ early league form was not good but their pick up in form coincided with the Dee’s visit to Shaw’s Bridge back in October and since then, they have been steadily making progress in the league, with only three points separating the two before this match on Saturday. With the match being played in the sort of weather that would have postponed one of those early gravel matches without a second thought, both teams fought to gain the ascendancy – often battling harder with the sideways rain than opponent. Following several penalty corners, Instonians took the lead through a scrappy goal which ricocheted off stick, keeper and stick again. Both teams were trying desperately to play fluid hockey but the conditions were doing their very best to thwart any enthusiasm, with sideways rain giving way to sideways hail at one point. Donaghadee were awarded a number of penalty corners in the second half but stout defence from Inst saw them cling on gratefully to their 1-0 lead and the 3 points. Many thanks to Bryan for umpiring. There is week’s break for the 1sts before both Donaghadee teams head north on the DLHC Annual Bus Trip for a double header against Coleraine 1sts and 2nds on Saturday 8th February.
Minor Plate Rd 1: Owls 2XI v DLHC 2XI L3-2 after penalty flicks
After going out of the Minor Cup, Donaghadee 2XI were drawn against Owl 2XI in the first round of the Minor Plate. The team were hoping to finally get a win after a run of undeserved defeats, but there wwere a few Dee nerves before passback as Owls currently play Senior 8, the league above Donaghadee.
The match got underway in driving wind and rain up at Mallusk. From the start the Dee made it difficult for Owls get out of their own half. Putting everything they have learnt from previous matches the team kept it tight and moved together as a unit. The full backs, Teegan Greer and Lisa Alexander made good use of the wide half backs Amy Long and Natasha Paxton and as a result the Dee were able to keep pressure on the Owls defence. Donaghadee’s first chance came as Amy drove the ball quickly up the right wing where Emily Morris was able to shake off her defender to take the ball onward into the circle but unfortunately her shot went just wide. Undeterred the Dee kept the pressure on and the next chance came from an unmarked Maura Hennessey and the top of the circle but she was denied by the Owls keeper. Owls did have their chances though but in her usual form keeper Tina Sterling was on-hand to clear, taking the pressure off the Donaghadee defence. Just before the half time break the Dee had yet again another chance; this time it came from a carefully worked ball from Alex McVeigh to midfielder Melissa Rollo who carried the ball calmly to the top of circle. Her strike just missed the tip of forward Karen Fegan’s stick and the Dee were denied again by the keeper. Jan Morrow was unmarked to accept the rebound but unfortunately the match remained scoreless.
Eager to get the result they deserved the Dee came out fighting after half time but so did Owls with the home side getting more of the ball and putting the Donaghadee defence under pressure. It was during this time that Amy sustained a nasty ankle injury and had to be taken off but thankfully Chloe Noble was on hand to replace her and, with a few changes in the back line, Donaghadee kept their composure and pressed the ball quickly and high up the field. The midfield of Melissa, Jan and Deborah Gilmour ensured the ball didn’t get through, quickly intercepting and pushing the ball to the forwards who were by this stage enjoying the fresh legs and accurate strikes of Hannah McAdam. Emily, Maura and Hannah kept the pressure on in the Owls circle but frustratingly they weren’t rewarded with a goal. With the second half quickly drawing to a close both teams were eager to get a goal so the match didn’t have to go to extra time and the dreaded penalty flicks. Each both teams playing to win made it extremely hard for either to break the death lock and the second half finished scoreless.
As it was a plate match the game then went into extra time. Donaghadee were playing the best hockey they have played all season and knew they deserved to walk away with a win. Again the Dee had their chances, as did Owls, but neither team was backing down and as a result the match went to penalty strokes, something the newly formed Donaghadee 2nds have never experienced or practised for. Bravely Hannah, Maura, Karen, Emily and Melissa stepped forward and, with Owls winning the toss, they chose to go first making Tina the first one to step into the goals. Owls opened scoring their first flick, but the Dee replied with Hannah’s accurate shot. Tina, having found her feet, saved the next two attempts from Owls and, with Maura scoring, the Dee went ahead. Unfortunately for Karen, Emily and Melissa though, the Owls keeper reclaimed her composure and denied them the opportunity to put their names on the score sheet. The final score was 3-2 to Owls. A disappointing final result but definitely not a disappointing performance as the team was outstanding. Hopefully they can carry on their good form as they return to league action next week away to Malone. Thanks to Mike Smyth for umpiring.
Donaghadee LHC will be holding their annual fundraiser on Saturday 8th March at 7.30pm in the Meadowbank Social Club in Donaghadee. All funds raised from the A Night at the Races evening will go towards club funds to help support the two teams; everyone is welcome and all support is gratefully received, with players already selling horses and a number of local businesses sponsoring races. Tickets for the night are available in advance – please see any player to secure yours.