Defiant Emma stands tall as Town weather storm to clinch double joy
Randalstown claimed their second trophy of the season yesterday when goalkeeper Emma Leslie's brilliance helped them defeat Queen's University 2-1 in a thrilling President's Cup final at Stormont.
The Co Antrim side heaved a collective sigh of relief at the final whistle after surviving a second-half onslaught from the students as they repeated their Denman Ulster Shield success over the same opponents.
Queen's launched wave after wave of attack after trailing 2-0 at half-time but the Town keeper pulled off a string of superb saves while her defenders also came to the rescue with two goal-line clearances.
Randalstown somehow held on as Julie Allison, Tori Hastings, Robyn McKee and Rachael McMillan pulled the strings for Queen's.
The new competition, similar to the men's Anderson Cup, has proved to be a huge success and after the game Ulster President David Larmour handed over the trophy to a triumphant, but mightily relieved, Town captain Shelley Geddes.
She said: "I don't know how we managed to win in the face of such pressure but while some of us got the jitters, Emma had a fantastic game in goal and had it not been for her we wouldn't have achieved the result.
"We could have been two or three goals down before we scored our first and then we got a second shortly afterwards so it was a case of us taking our chances while they didn't take theirs. It's been a long, hard season and it's great to finish it with another trophy but we will always say we want to do even better next year."
Queen's coach Simon Bell was a bitterly disappointed man at the final whistle. He said: "I simply don't know how we lost after having so much possession and so many chances. Some of their goalkeeper's saves were unbelievable and one of them was world-class as she twisted in mid-air to keep the ball out."
Queen's were quicker out of the blocks and after Allison had a shot saved, Hastings and McMillan both missed the target.
Randalstown took the lead in the 15th minute from their first attack, Katharine McDowell firing home on the backhand with the aid of a deflection.
Four minutes later, Irish international star Zoe Wilson made it 2-0 from a penalty corner and then, at the other end, Alice Christie took a Hastings shot off the line. Queen's were even more dominant in the second-half and after making an outstanding save from McMillan, Leslie was beaten in the 43rd minute when Hastings converted a penalty stroke after 'feet' on the line.
The Town keeper then pulled off two miraculous stops from Hastings from point-blank range and, with four minutes remaining, Black prevented an equaliser with a brilliant goal-line clearance from Anna Hutchinson.
Meanwhile, Ulster had to settle for second place at the junior inter-pros in Connacht after beating South East 3-1 and drawing with Connacht 2-2 in Sligo.
Results: Sunday: President's Cup final: Randalstown 2 (K McDowell, Z Wilson) Queen's 1 (T Hastings); Senior Four final: Parkview 2 PSNI 1; Junior interprovincials: Ulster 3 (L White, L Edgar, J Flynn) South East 1; Ulster 2 (L McCowan, F Brown) Connacht 2; Saturday: Junior interprovincials: Ulster 1 (L McCracken) Munster 1; Ulster 2 (J Flynn, K Smylie) Leinster 2.
McConnell Shield final: Queen's II 3 Omagh 0; Intermediate Cup final: Ards III 1 Saintfield 0; Junior Cup final: Queen's III 3 Ballymoney III 1; Minor Cup final: Portadown III 3 Victorians III 5.