Larmour set for final bow in underdogs role at Quins
Banbridge 2 Harlequins 3
Katie Larmour has been included in the Belfast Harlequins squad for the Boxing Day Denman Ulster Shield final clash with Pegasus at Stormont.
The former Ireland Under- 21 international is back home from her hockey scholarship commitments in New York and played in Saturday's 3-2 semi-final win over Banbridge at the Dub.
Larmour, who will be 22 tomorrow, will be hoping for a belated birthday present on Thursday as she prepares to take part in her first Shield final.
She missed last year's showpiece as she was ineligible, not having played for Quins during the season before the game with Pegasus, which her team lost on penalties after storming back from 2-0 down at half-time to send the game into a shootout.
It will be Larmour's first final, having been confined to a spectator's role last season when she shared her team-mates' disappointment at the outcome.
"It was gutting to watch us lose in that fashion, especially as we had made such a great comeback and had chances to win the game in the 70 minutes," she recalled.
Larmour admits Harlequins will have to up their game on Boxing Day if they are to defy the odds and lift the famous trophy for the first time.
On Saturday, Quins, who play in Irish hockey's top-flight, were given an almighty scare by a battling Banbridge side, who came back from 3-0 down early in the second-half to score twice.
It was a brave display by the Ulster Premier League side, based around the Banbridge Academy school teams past and present and one which will stand to them in the rest of the campaign.
Harlequins' cause wasn't helped by the absence of Ireland star Lizzie Colvin, who was ill but will return for Thursday's final. Larmour added: "Our game-management wasn't good when we allowed them back into the game and if we play like that again, we will struggle against Pegasus,"
"So we will have to bring our 'A' game on Thursday and if we can do that, then we will be in with a chance although they will start favourites regardless."
Bann were justifiably proud of their display despite losing a second Shield semi-final since their promotion to Ulster hockey's top tier four years ago.
Team captain Samantha Bann said: "We were disappointed with how we started the game and, in the first quarter, we gave them too much time on the ball and nerves definitely played a part."
"However, we did improve as the game went on and we could have scored more goals in the final quarter.
"Although we were disappointed with the result, hopefully we can take confidence from how we performed in the second-half into the rest of our league campaign and build on last season's mid-table finish."
Quins broke the deadlock in the seventh minute when a great piece of skill from Jenna Watt led to her smashing in the opener from mid-circle.
At the other end, Quins keeper Susie Taylor was twice called into action, saving at point-blank range from Paula Haugh and then blocking a Katie McDonald penalty corner.
But Harlequins made it 2-0 in the 24th minute when Lucy Geddes was on hand to deflect home Serena Barr's set-piece sweep. Four minutes after the break, Abigail Edwards added Quins' third when she fired in from close range from a rebound after the initial penalty corner move had broken down.
Bann threw themselves a lifeline in the 44th minute when Stef McCullough scrambled in a cross from the right.
Four minutes later, it was game on when McDonald rifled in a penalty corner.
But Quins regrouped and closed the game out, paying Bann the compliment of winding the clock down at every opportunity by keeping the ball in the corners of the pitch.