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Hockey: Tragedy inspires Lurgan girls to cup final glory

Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools’ Cup Final

Lurgan College 0 Wallace High 0: (Lurgan win 4-3 on penalties) Lurgan College captain Natalie Barr lifted the Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools’ Cup aloft at Lisnagarvey yesterday afternoon... and immediately dedicated the win to her sister.

Natalie broke down in tears after her team came through an agonising penalty shoot-out following a goalless draw against Wallace High, but it wasn’t just tears of joy.

“My sister Charlene passed away late last year as a result of Cystic Fibrosis, and with my twin sisters Bethany and Serena also in our team this year, it was Charlene’s wish that we go on to take the trophy,” she said.

“Winning was so important to me and my family, and I’m so glad that our players put so much into ensuring the success. It was touch and go when we trailed 3-1 in the penalty shoot-out but we clawed our way back to win.

“Mind you, we should have won it in normal time, but Wallace defended so well. Their goalkeeper Anna Jones was outstanding.”

There were tears all round at the end, in fact, as a devastated Wallace were left heartbroken after a gutsy display.

The Lisburn school had never won the trophy before but gave Lurgan a run for their money, and indeed were within a whisker of ending that famine during the penalty shoot-out.

They were leading 3-1 after three strokes each, but they were unable to force home their advantage, and it cost them in the end.

Opportunities were few and far between in normal time. Wallace coach Maggie Hunter had her Wallace players drilled well, and despite Lurgan’s dominance, they hardly troubled the defence.

Natalie Barr was Lurgan’s biggest threat, but despite all her skills, she often ran into trouble as the Wallace players, defending in packs, closed her down.

Natalie had one effort hit the sidenetting and Wallace keeper Anna Jones made a double save from a penalty corner just before the break.

Early in the second half Chloe McCann had several fine runs into the heart of the Wallace defence, but after setting up the openings, Lurgan found themsevles shut down quickly.

With just 75 seconds left, Lurgan’s best chance came to their captain from another penalty corner, but with the goal at her mercy she somehow swept the ball wide.

Extra time also failed to separate the teams, but the pattern of the game remained the same — Lurgan were dictating but Wallace comfortably in control at the back.

A series of late penalty corners should have given Lurgan outright victory but keeper Jones kept out two more Natalie Barr efforts.

And so to the dreaded penalty shoot-out, and it seemed certain the trophy was on its way to Wallace when Louise Macdonnell, Rachel Morrow and Laura Murray all converted whereas only Natalie Barr was successful, with Serena Barr and Kim Scott having their efforts saved.

But unfortunately for the Lisburn girls they failed to hit the target again, with Jo Leathem hitting the post and captain Tessa Stewart having her effort saved, while Jordan Davidson and Hannah Grieve both converted to make it 3-3.

With Louise Macdonnell and Natalie Barr both missing, and Rachel Morrow also missing, it was left to Lurgan’s Hannah Grieve to milk the glory.

Belfast Telegraph

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