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Queen's land cup to give skipper Linzi fine farewell

 

By John Flack

Linzi Hamilton drew the curtain down on her Queen's University hockey career in triumphant style as she proudly lifted the President's Cup after inspiring her team to a 2-0 win over Randalstown in Saturday's final at Deramore Park.

The 24-year-old defender revealed after the match that she has decided to join EY Irish Hockey League side Ards next season to play in the top flight for the first time.

Hamilton had no option but to move on after six seasons at Queen's as her three years 'grace' period has expired after completing her studies at the university.

Queen's are a 'closed' club and to be eligible to represent them, players must either be students or recent graduates.

Saturday's win over Randalstown was Queen's first trophy success of the modern era since they were promoted into the Ulster Premier League seven years ago as they finally shook off the bridesmaids tag.

They had appeared in a total of three previous President's Cup and Denman Ulster Shield finals in the past two seasons but lost all of them until ending the drought on Saturday to give their captain a fitting farewell.

Two of their previous defeats were against Randalstown before they went down to Lurgan in a second successive Shield final defeat last Boxing Day.

However, it certainly wasn't a case of fourth time lucky on Saturday as Queen's avenged last year's 1-0 final defeat against the Co Antrim side.

The students were in almost total control until the final minute when Town had their first two shots on target, forcing Megan Todd into a superb double save.

But by that stage, they were chasing a lost cause after Queen's finally made their dominance pay with late goals from Stefanie McCullough and Jessica McMaster.

McCullough, who will now turn her attention to playing football for Kilkeel side Valley Rangers in the summer, broke the deadlock nine minutes from the end when she knocked home a right wing cross from Robyn McKee.

McMaster then sealed the deal when she ran 30 metres before unleashing a venomous backhand shot that flew low into the far corner of the net.

Hamilton was naturally delighted at the outcome after making a glorious swansong as she played in a trophy winning side for the first time since helping Royal School Armagh lift the Belfast Telegraph Senior Cup back in 2010.

She said: "It's been a long but very enjoyable six years at Queen's and a great way to finish my days playing university sport."

"Having experienced the pain of losing three previous finals, I think we have gradually got a bit better at coping with the challenge of playing in them.

"With having so many young girls on the team, those players have gained confidence and I think it was our turn to win a trophy at last."

She added: "We missed a lot of good chances in the first half though and I think we needed to be a bit more clinical in the final third of the pitch.

"But once we got the first goal that gave us a bit of a lift, it relaxed us and took the pressure off and when we scored the second so late on we knew it was going to be our day.

"Now I am looking forward to the challenge of playing with Ards in the IHL. It will be a step up, but I'm looking forward to it."

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