Larkfield girls are aiming to net a delightful double
Premier League champions Larkfield are firm favourites to complete their second domestic double in three seasons when they take on Graduates in this afternoon's Senior Cup final at Lisburn Racquets (3.30pm).
Lisburn-based Larkfield retained their Premier League title last month having gone through the entire campaign with a 100 per cent record for the first time.
Although they went without a trophy for four years following their double in 2010, they have recently established dominance over the traditional Belfast Big Two in reeling off a hat-trick of title triumphs. Their all-international line-up recorded comprehensive victories in doing the double over both Belfast Ladies and Graduates this season.
Although matches between the top three have produced excitingly close contests this decade, Larkfield sent out a statement of intent in their opening league game last October.
Denise Prue's side slammed an under-strength Grads 88-27 with the eldest two of their three Bowman sisters, Lisa and Kyla, sharing all the goals between them.
Subsequently beating Belfast Ladies 100-51 was a record-breaking result and they kept up the momentum by blitzing Banbridge 103-16.
In the three Bowmans, including goalkeeper Jenna, and Deborah McCarthy, Larkfield have experienced, physically imposing pairings in both the defensive and attacking circles. World-class centre Caroline O'Hanlon, well known for her Armagh Gaelic exploits, is flanked by fellow All Star Neamh Woods from Tyrone and Down's Laura Mason.
The Cup favourites have established leaders on and off the court with Prue having been at the coaching helm for a quarter of a century and O'Hanlon in her ninth season as club captain.
Although Graduates have lost several leading lights from their double-winning team of 2012 they are still backboned by a reassuring nucleus of top players.
Goalkeeper Gemma Gibney and defender Niamh Cooper are Northern Ireland captain and vice-captain respectively while Oonagh McCullough's return from Australia is a big boost.
Graduates reached today's final by avenging last season's decider defeat at the hands of Belfast Ladies while Larkfield eased past Lisburn rivals Laganside.
The senior showpiece is the culmination of a whole day of finals at all levels including a clash between the second string sides from Larkfield and Grads.