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Ayeisha McFerran stars as Pegasus win title on penalties

By John Flack

Ayeisha McFerran's dream season continued yesterday when she was named goalkeeper-of-the tournament as Pegasus defied the odds to lift the Irish Hockey League title with a nail biting 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Loreto after a 1-1 draw in the final in Dublin.

The 19-year-old made two crucial saves in the ice hockey style one-on-one penalty decider after saving a conventional stroke in normal time.

On Saturday she had been in tremendous form as Pegasus knocked out holders UCD with a 2-1 victory.

Like that win, against a side that contained five current internationals, yesterday's came against the odds against a Loreto team that included a quartet of Ireland players, in Lizzie Colvin, Hannah Matthews, Ali Meeke and Nicci Daly.

Meeke put the Leinster side in front early in the second half before Suzanne Ferris hit a 62nd minute equaliser to force extra time.

McFerran again took centre stage after her penalty shoot-out heroics helped Ireland claim the World League 2 trophy three weeks earlier at the very same venue.

Afterwards, the teenage sensation labelled yesterday's win the highlight of her short career with Pegasus.

"It was the best moment I've had in hockey so far as it's the first trophy I've ever won with the club and it was a fantastic achievement by all the girls," she said.

"I was confident going into the shoot-out as I really enjoy the challenge of the one-on-ones and, fortunately, I was able to do enough to stop two of them."

Pegasus coach Arlene Boyles revealed that her side had practised penalties in the build up to the weekend series but with limited success.

"To have scored all four penalties was some achievement as they didn't go any where nearly as well as that in training," she said.

"But Ayeisha is going to be world class and she certainly displayed those sort of credentials over the course of the two games.

"It was a bit of a smash and grab act and Loreto will probably feel a bit aggrieved that they didn't win it in normal time.

"But you have to take your chances and they didn't do that and we managed to hang on until the last quarter and I knew then that we still had a chance of getting the goal we needed.

"There were nine players today who had never played in an all-Ireland final of any description and I'm immensely proud of every one of them."

Pegasus will now represent Ireland in the top flight of the European Club Championships next season as they return to continental action after a four year gap.

Loreto missed the first of their many chances in the 13th minute when McFerran saved superbly from Matthews' penalty stroke awarded after an infringement at a penalty corner.

Alex Speers and Leah Paul had opportunities to put Pegasus ahead later in the first half, but it was Loreto who took the lead in the 38th minute when Meeke found the roof of the net from a well worked set-piece.

Loreto threw everything they had at the Ulster outfit, but they could find no way past McFerran and Ferris equalised with eight minutes left when she poked home a Speers cross from the goal-line.

The 10 minutes of extra time failed to produce a goal and it was left for the Pegasus keeper to hog the limelight once again in the shoot-out.

IHL final: Loreto 1 (A. Meeke) Pegasus 1 (S. Ferris) (Pegasus won 4-2 on penalties); semi-finals: Pegasus 2 (S. Ferris, V. Surgeoner) UCD 1 (K. Mullan); Hermes 0 Loreto 1 (N. Small).

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