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Hockey: Royal girls reign in Ulster again

Omagh Academy 0 Royal School Armagh 2

By Graham Hamilton

Royal School Armagh proved a six-hit at Lisnagarvey yesterday afternoon when they landed the Bank of Ireland/Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools’ Cup for the sixth time in nine years.

Goals from Jill Johnston and Joanne Orr sparked their comfortable 2-0 success over Omagh Academy and earned them a place at the Kate Russell All-Ireland finals in Galway in a fortnight’s time.

Coaches Judith McVicker and Jareth McCready have a habit of producing winning teams at Armagh, and it was clear from early on that they were heading to the winners’ enclosure yet again.

Armagh’s domination is underlined by the fact they won 14 penalty corners during the game whereas Omagh failed to win any.

And the scoreline might have been wider but for their inability to break down a stubborn Omagh defence from those set-pieces.

In fact it wasn’t until they took their 13th corner of the game five minutes from the end that Armagh finally converted a set-piece, with Joanne Orr’s strike taking a deflection past impressive Omagh goalkeeper Ruth Bleakley.

Bleakley clearly is a star in the making, but she was unable to prevent Armagh’s opening goal in the 24th minute when Jill Johnston went on a mazy run before her crisp shot found the bottom corner.

It was player of the match Joanne Orr who looked most dangerous in the first half.

She flashed a penalty corner inches wide early on and also saw another pushed round the post by Bleakley.

Emily Colvin, who also proved a handful for the Omagh defence, was another to test Bleakley before Johnston’s goal gave Armagh the breathing space they needed at the interval.

Rachel Bennett was having a fine game for Omagh but too often the Tyrone team’s attacks were cut off before the circle, allowing Armagh to come straight back upfield.

The pressure continued to mount in the last quarter and after a series of penalty corners, it was Joanne Orr who finally found the way past Bleakley again, this time her effort taking a deflection.

Now Armagh turn their attention to the all-Ireland series in Dangan, Galway, which runs from Thursday March 18 to Friday March 19.

They have been pooled with the Leinster champions St Andrew’s and the Connacht runners-up, Salerno.

The other pool consists of hosts and current trophy holders Colaiste Iognaid, and the Munster champions (either Crescent Comprehensive or Mount Mercy) and the South East champions (either Loreto Kilkenny or Kilkenny College).

The two pool winners will meet in the decider.

“It was great to win the Ulster final, and pay up for all the hard work we put in,” said Armagh captain Suzanne Hill after receiving the trophy from Ulster Hockey Union president Kenny Lee.

“We have confidence in our ability and hope to do well in Galway and bring the all-Ireland trophy back to Ulster.”

The Stevenson Shield for the runners-up was handed over to Omagh captain Julie Frazer by

Raymond Stevenson while Armagh’s Joanne Orr took the Eurosport Player of the Final award sponsored by Julian Stevenson.

Yes, it was a great day for Armagh, but spare a thought for reserve goalkeeper Sophie Taylor who was unable to take part in the game following an appendicitis operation just over a week ago.

“It’s two weeks to the all-Ireland series, so I’m hoping that I will be fit to take my place in the squad by then,” she said.

OMAGH ACADEMY: Ruth Bleakley, Rebecca Logan, Emma Shortt, Julie Frazer, Sarah McKinley, Rachel Beckett, Naomi Browne, Kirsty McMaster, Gemma Beattie, Alice Logan, Chelsea Sawyers. Subs: Alicia Clarke, Chloe Hilliard, Nicola Hawkes, Lynn Watson, Kathryn Graham

ROYAL SCHOOL ARMAGH: Zoe Troughton, Leah Ewart, Anna-Mae Morton, Beccy Anderson, Sarah McMahon, Joanne orr, Suzanne Hill, Jill Johnston, Kathryn Orr, Linzi Hamilton, Emily Colvin. Subs: Pippa Best, Lauren Moore, Linzi Dodds, Kate Burnett, Claire Hanna

Umpires: Kim Collins and Adair Brady. Reserve: Linda Coughlan

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