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Lurgan suffer triple blow ahead of crucial play-off

 

By John Flack

Lurgan have been hit by a triple whammy ahead of Sunday's EY IHL promotion/relegation play-off with Ulster rivals Belfast Harlequins at Grange Road in Dublin.

Team captain Charlene Hull is getting married soon and will be on her hen weekend, and star midfielder Sarah McClure will also be on the plane for the pre-nuptial ritual.

Not only will Lurgan be without arguably their two best players, but coach Robbie McMinn will be unable to supervise proceedings from the dug-out as he is in charge of the Ulster U17 girls who are on tour in England, to add to Lurgan's woes.

Losing their captain and play-maker - McClure scored a hat-trick in the promotion play-off series against eventual winners Trinity - is a massive blow for the Ulster champions.

Hull is also Lurgan's main penalty corner striker and has been an inspiration in recent seasons when her team won consecutive Premier League titles and the Ulster Shield for the first time.

Lurgan went through the promotion play-off series unbeaten, but two draws on Sunday against UCC and Old Alex left them as runners-up and facing the win-or bust tie with Quins, who finished second bottom of the IHL.

"It would have been a tough enough task even without the two girls but now it's going to be even more so," said McMinn.

"We were also short a couple of players at the weekend which didn't help but at least we'll have Emily McStea back from her birthday celebrations, although Amy Edwards is likely to be absent as she's got glandular fever.

"As far as my own position is concerned, I'm committed to the U17 trip as I'm the head coach but we'll bring someone in on a short-term basis to help out with Lurgan on Sunday."

Quins will be without Ruth Millar (work) but, in the circumstances, the odds are stacked against Lurgan beating their local rivals in the showdown to decide who holds down the final qualifying place for next season's national league.

However, Harlequins co-captain Claire Weir isn't taking anything for granted, pointing to a similar scenario that didn't adversely affect her depleted team earlier in the season.

"Claire Kilpatrick and I missed the Hermes match through injury, and the team pulled off a draw having lost 10-1 to them earlier, so anything can happen," she said. "The girls are focused and know what we need to do."

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