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Lurgan can qualify in my absence: McMinn

 

By John Flack

Lurgan coach Robbie McMinn will be unavailable for this weekend's Irish Hockey League qualifying tournament in Cork due to a prior commitment.

McMinn, who steered the club to a third successive Ulster title, will instead be in Rotterdam for a coaching course, along with nine others from the province.

However, he is confident that his team is in good shape as they aim for a place in next season's top flight having narrowly missed out last time around.

Lurgan finished second in the qualifier and then lost to Belfast Harlequins in a play-off to determine the final place in the current season's IHL.

They will be virtually at full strength and so the coach, and this season's captain Sarah McClure, are confident they can go one better and qualify, either as tournament winners or via another play-off.

McMinn said: "It's an unfortunate clash of dates meaning I won't be with the team.

"But the girls go into the tournament in great form having won 17 of their last 19 games and drawn the other two, so they are ready for the challenge.

"I think it will be a very close series with very little between the sides, with perhaps hosts UCC as slight favourites.

"They really impressed me last season but we know very little about Muckross.

"NUIG can't be taken lightly and Old Alex, who came through the first phase, will have the benefit of recent competitive hockey and will be more astute to playing the 50-minute matches we will encounter.

"I think it will be a good, tough test but one the girls are looking forward to and, after three domestic titles, they feel ready and keen to make the step up to the IHL."

Meanwhile, this season's IHL continues tonight with Pegasus taking on Belfast Harlequins at the Dub needing a win to have a chance of overtaking second-placed Cork Harlequins.

It's been a busy end to the regulation season for Pegasus, who are in the middle of a run of four games in eight days, with matches with Ards and Loreto to come in a weekend double-header.

The corresponding game on Saturday ended in a 1-1 draw but Harlequins will be missing several key players for the rematch - captain Claire Kirkpatrick, Rhiannon Coulter and Jenny McAuley are all injured.

Harlequins finish their campaign on Saturday when they host Pembroke Wanderers.

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