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Claire's starring role as mighty Belfast Harlequins stay in IHL

 

By John Flack

Belfast Harlequins have preserved their top flight status in Irish hockey after a comfortable 3-1 win over a seriously depleted Lurgan side in yesterday's EYHL promotion/relegation play-off in Dublin.

Claire Weir was the driving force behind the victory as she had a hand in all three goals as Quins stormed into a 3-0 lead midway through the second half.

To be fair, Lurgan, who were without half a dozen regulars, including team captain, Charlene Hull and star midfielder Sarah McClure for a variety of reasons, gave it their all and caused a few anxious moments after they had pulled a goal back.

But there was no denying Harlequins were worthy winners and now their challenge is to avoid a similar scenario next season.

Co-captain Weir said: "We are delighted to be playing in the IHL again next season and I felt, over the course of the campaign, we fully deserved to stay up."

"Had it not been for a 10-1 defeat by Hermes in our opening game we wouldn't have been in this position, but we had a good team bonding session in our hotel on Saturday night and we were relaxed going into the game.

"We have learned a lot from our first season in the IHL and we know how important it is to stick to the game-plan, work hard on our fitness and take on board what we see when preparing for matches by watching the opposition in video sessions.

"We will look to recruit new players earlier than we did last season because we realise it's going to be another tough one ahead.

"We didn't discuss the fact Lurgan were short a few players before the game and, apart from a few panicky moments when they brought it back to 3-1, I thought we played pretty well."

Weir set up Lucy Geddes, who scored from close-range after only five minutes to give Quins the perfect start.

After Pippa Best had a shot saved at the other end, Rachel Johnston made it 2-0 from a well-worked penalty corner 13 minutes after the break.

The impressive Laura Johnston added number three seven minutes later when she swept home a rebound off the keepers' stick with Weir again the provider before Kerri Burns scored a superb consolation goal seconds later.

EYHL promotion/relegation play-off: Belfast Harlequins 3 (Geddes, Johnston, Johnston) Lurgan 1 (Burns); Champions Trophy final: UCD 1 Hermes-Monkstown 1 (UCD won 3-0 on pens); semi-finals: UCD 0 Loreto 0 (UCD won 2-0 on pens); Hermes-Monkstown 6 Cork Harlequins 2; Ulster Plate finals: Minor: Mossley IV 4 (A McGookin 3, Mulholland) Queen's V 0; Junior: CI III 1 (L Coates) Rainey II 3 (Donald, Curry, Graham); Qualifying: Ards II 1 (J Moore) Lurgan II 3 ( Best 2, Campbell); Intermediate: Dromore III 0 Queen's III 4 (Brown, Humphries, Dunford, C McKee).

Belfast Telegraph

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