Dungannon Hockey Club's net loss as two goalies refuse to play in huge Sunday game due to faith
A hockey club is facing a goalkeeping crisis for a big match - because its two netminders do not play on a Sunday.
Officials at Dungannon are now desperately trying to sign a replacement after being refused a request to postpone the biggest game in their history.
Dungannon is due to play Lurgan in the semi-finals of the Ulster Shield on Sunday, but neither first-choice goalkeeper Vicky Kerr nor her deputy play on the Sabbath due to their Christian beliefs.
Because the last line of defence is such a specialised position in hockey, Dungannon made a request to have the game switched to another day.
However, the sport's governing body declined and Dungannon's game will be staged as part of a double-header with the other semi-final between Queen's University and Randalstown at Lisnagarvey's grounds in Hillsborough.
There is no question of Dungannon pulling out, but the club is disappointed at Ulster Hockey's refusal to budge, citing a slightly different precedent that was set last season.
The Kilkeel men's team were granted a postponement of their scheduled Anderson Cup final date with Belfast Harlequins which was originally set for Sunday, May 2 of this year.
However, Kilkeel's policy not to play Sunday hockey is a collective one, enshrined in the club's constitution.
The Anderson Cup final was eventually played in a midweek slot, and Dungannon felt they had a good case for seeking a postponement of Sunday's game.
"We are naturally disappointed that neither of our top keepers will be able to share in our achievement of reaching the Shield semi-final for the first time," said team captain Lynda Elliott.
"The goalkeeper situation is not ideal, and I suppose we felt that, as Ulster Hockey had accommodated a similar scenario in the men's game, it was worth asking for a postponement."
Dungannon chairman David Mulligan says that the club is now facing a race against the clock in a bid to sign a new goalkeeper.
"Our third-team keeper normally plays her hockey nine leagues below the First XI, so that would be a huge step-up," he said.
"We have yet to find a replacement for Vicky, who is going to miss out on the biggest day in Dungannon's history, admittedly from personal choice."
Ulster Hockey honorary president Liz Lamont says that while she can sympathise with Dungannon's predicament, the show will go ahead as planned on Sunday.
Her own club Ballymoney twice had to play Irish Cup finals on Sundays without key players due to their religious beliefs.
"We had no option back then but to play the games and, in fact, we lost them both, so I can certainly sympathise with Dungannon in this instance," said Ms Lamont.
"I wasn't involved in the scheduling for the Shield semi-finals or the request by Dungannon to be granted a postponement, but they have been held as a Sunday double-header for several years now.
"Bar the final itself on Boxing Day, it's the biggest day in the Ulster hockey calendar and by holding both games on a Sunday, we are able to maximise revenue and the profile of the sport.
"With most hockey being staged on Saturdays, more players from other clubs and spectators are able to attend which adds to the atmosphere and boosts the gate, which is important commercially."