Rebecca Barry on a new high as Ulster Elks strike gold
Rebecca Barry stole the show with two of the goals as the Ulster Elks lifted the gold medals at the EuroHockey Champions Challenge tournament in Prague yesterday with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Lithuanian side Gintra.
The outcome means that Pegasus will be playing in the second tier event next season despite having finished in last place in the top-flight tournament in Utrecht after a 4-2 defeat to Russian team Krylatskoye yesterday.
Because qualification is based on the previous year's performance in the all-Ireland league play-offs, the Elks won't be in Europe next season.
But their finishing position in the third level competition in Prague has earned promotion for Pegasus, who will join Hermes on the continent in 12 months' time.
Barry insists that the Elks' achievement on their debut in Europe wasn't diminished by the fact that, despite retaining the Irish Senior Cup, they will have to wait for at least another two years to repeat the experience.
She said: "If someone had said to me when I joined that I would win an Irish Cup and gold in Europe in my first season, I'd have laughed at them.
"It's disappointing not to be back in Europe next year but we came to Prague to play for ourselves, not for any other team, and to win the tournament so we are delighted.
"Our success was a total team effort and not just down to the players and coaching staff; the university has been very supportive with financial help and the use of SINI facilities and we are also indebted to our sponsors and the supporters who came to Prague.
"We had six or seven supervised sessions in the heat chamber at the university to build up our fitness in order to cope with four games in four days and that was very important."
Barry hit the opener with a backhand shot after an assist from Ireland captain Megan Frazer after only five minutes and Hannah Irwin got a second 20 minutes later.
Emily O'Leary then set up Barry, who scored on the stroke of half-time with a superb reverse-stick effort to seal the deal and give Pegasus a lift after their defeat to the Russians earlier in the day.
Stephanie Quinn put them in front in the 14th minute but Krylatskoye equalised before the break and then hit three goals in the space of five minutes before Hannah Grieve's 59th-minute consolation.