Ards relish Hermes challenge in Irish Senior Cup semi-final
Ards will be hoping to translate their superb European indoor hockey form to the national stage on Saturday when they face Hermes in the semi-finals of the Irish Senior Cup in Dublin.
The Ulster and all-Ireland champions defied the odds to retain their second-tier status at the European Indoor Club Champions Trophy tournament in Dundee at the weekend.
They travelled to Scotland with only 10 players while all others had a full complement of 12 for a gruelling schedule that involved five matches in the space of just three days.
A number of regulars were unavailable for the Euros, so the likes of former international Emma Reid and current Ireland ace Kerri McDonald should be fresh for the challenge ahead.
Hermes wrapped up the EY Irish Hockey League title at the weekend in rapid-quick time and if Ards can beat them on Saturday it would open the door for a possible place in Europe next season as the Dubliners have already qualified on the back of their league triumph.
Ards, in contrast, have only a mathematical chance of making the IHL play-offs as they are at the wrong end of the table, but by winning the Cup they would secure a place in the end-of season shoot-out.
However, they are just concentrating on the semi-final at this stage and reckon they are in with a chance of causing an upset as they were just seconds away from claiming a draw in the corresponding IHL game only to lose 2-1.
Skipper Caroline Adams is hoping that her players will have recovered fully from their exertions in time for the trip to Dublin but she also believes that the indoor tournament will stand them in good stead.
"Obviously they are the newly crowned IHL champions so we are massive underdogs but we had a close-fought game with them a couple of weeks ago which gives us confidence going in to the fixture," said Adams.
Cup holders Ulster Elks, meanwhile, had a confidence-boosting 3-1 win over UCD in the IHL on Saturday and they will be hoping for a repeat performance when the teams renew their rivalry in the other semi at Jordanstown.
However, team captain Gemma Frazer is warning her players to expect a backlash from their student rivals.
She said: "It was brilliant to win on Saturday but each week can be different, so we have to prepare well and start afresh."