Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Ulster Shield: Armagh 2 Ballymoney 1

Ulster Shield holders Ballymoney were sensationally dumped out of this season's competition as Armagh staged a smash-and-grab act to steal a victory they scarcely deserved in a dramatic semi-final at Stormont yesterday.

Christine Russell's penalty corner winner came with the last hit of the game after the teams had been deadlocked at 1-1 after 70 minutes.

The match therefore went into extra time and with the seconds ticking away at the end of the first period Armagh were awarded a set-piece and the hooter sounded.

The regulations permit the award to be completed and when Russell's shot hit the back board the game was over under the ‘golden goal' rule.

Armagh will now meet Pegasus in the final on December 28 at Lisnagarvey after the Belfast side easily beat Lurgan 6-0 helped by a hat-trick from Vanessa Surgeoner in the first installment of the Super Sunday double-header.

Ballymoney were understandably dejected as they trooped disconsolately off the pitch knowing that it was a game they could and really should have won.

“I need a hug” said inspirational 'Money captain Susie Martin as three young relatives ran on to the pitch to embrace her.

Her reaction was understandable in the circumstances but the penalty corner count of 6-2 in her team's favour told it's own story.

“It was all about corners — we didn't take our chances when they came our way and Armagh took both of theirs,” she said.

Even Orchard County coach Niall McCool seemed to admit that his team had stolen victory though Armagh had done their homework.

“We didn't play well at all but we watched some video footage of Ballymoney's defensive corners during the week,” he said.

“We knew we could exploit any weaknesses when we won corners and that's what we did I think.

“Two out of two was quite a good ratio I'd have to say although, to be serious, we'd like to have had more corners.

“It's nice to be back in the final once again because we haven't been there for quite a few years.

“It's always a challenge when you play Pegasus.”

Special mention should go to Armagh goalkeeper Rhiannon McNally, who had an outstanding game, pulling off a string of fine saves.

Martin had an outstanding game for 'Money and the former Ireland player, although playing at the back, produced a masterclass as she strode forward at every available occasion, setting up many attacks.

But 'Money will rue a series of missed chances especially one in the 17th minute when the impressive Nikki Parke shot agonisingly wide after being set up by Katie Mullan.

Then totally against the run of play, Armagh took the lead from their first penalty corner of the game in the 23rd minute when Russell blasted home an unstoppable shot.

Mullan threatened to equalise in the 33rd minute when she raced clear but Claire Warnock (pictured) averted the danger.

Five minutes into the second half McNally's heroics prevented a Ballymoney equaliser as she brought off a superb reflex save after Aine Kearney's pin point pass had put Mullan in the clear.

'Money twice had the ball in the net from corners but both ‘goals' were disallowed.

In the 46th minute Mullan won another corner but Martin's shot flashed wide of the post.

But four minutes later the sides were level after Emma Lynch's pass found Robyn Chambers who scored at the second attempt.

With 10 minutes remaining, Martin set up Parke but her reverse stick shot flew over.

That was 'Money's last chance of the 70 minutes as the game went into extra time which culminated in that dramatic ‘golden goal’ winner which prompted wild scenes of celebration in one camp and disbelief in the other.