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McStea's back to boost Queen's quest

 

Emily McStea was Ulster's leading scorer last season and her return comes as a boost for Queen's (stock photo)
Emily McStea was Ulster's leading scorer last season and her return comes as a boost for Queen's (stock photo)

By John Flack

Emily McStea will return to the Queen's side for tonight's crucial Ulster Premier League clash with Banbridge at the Dub.

The Ireland under-21 striker is fit again after sustaining a nasty facial injury after being struck on the nose by the ball in a recent game with Rainey.

McStea was taken to hospital after receiving treatment on the pitch but an X-ray revealed there was no break although she lost a litre of blood in the aftermath.

The wound on the bridge of the nose required two stitches and medics advised her to take two weeks off as a precaution due to the risk of concussion.

McStea was Ulster's leading scorer last season and her return comes as a boost for Queen's, who will be guaranteed the runners up spot if they beat Bann tonight. And that could be very important, considering the format for next season's second-tier Irish Hockey League.

There is a possibility that only newly crowned champions Lurgan and the team that finishes second will qualify for next season's IHL 2.

If Ards are relegated back into the Ulster League from the IHL, then they would be granted an automatic berth in the national second division which runs concurrently with the domestic competition.

That's looking likely after a shock 2-1 win for Muckross over Dublin rivals UCD.

And if that happens, then only two from the Ulster Premier League will go into the IHL 2 instead of the normal three. Having now been leapfrogged by Muckross, Ards are in the automatic relegation spot and go to fifth-placed Cork Harlequins on Saturday week, needing a win to force a play-off to avoid the dreaded drop.

Banbridge are expected to be tough opposition for the students, having pushed Lurgan all the way last week before the latter got the win they needed to lift the title with a late goal.

A few days earlier, Bann scored an impressive 5-1 win over then title challengers Ballymoney.

However, if they don't get the job done tonight, Queen's will have another chance to get the two points they need on Wednesday week when they are at home to Mossley.

On Saturday, the students warmed up for tonight's showdown with a 2-0 home win over Randalstown.

Queen's got off to a dream start when ex-Town player Rebecca Quinn drove into the circle and slipped the ball to Claire Whiteside, who finished from close range. Irish international Jessica McMaster slammed in a brilliant backhand shot eight minutes later but Queen's were unable to add to their tally.

Elsewhere, Lurgan were held to a 1-1 draw away to Lisnagarvey, with Sarah McClure levelling after Rachel Houston had put the hosts ahead.

Paula Haugh, Orla Magee, Stef McCullough and Samantha Bann were on target for Banbridge in a 4-1 win over Ballymena.

In Dublin, Dromore lifted the Irish Hockey Challenge title for the second time after Chelsey Whan's 51st minute penalty corner sealed a 1-0 win over Clonmel in the final.

Whan applied a clinical finish after the initial move had broken down as she got on the end of a pass from Banbridge Academy's Belfast Telegraph Senior Cup winner Katie McDonald.

Ulster Premier League: Banbridge 4 (P Haugh, O Magee, S McCullough, S Bann) Ballymena 1 (C Gillespie); Lisnagarvey 1 (R Houston) Lurgan 1 (S McClure); Queen's 2 (C Whiteside, J McMaster) Randalstown 0

Irish Hockey Challenge final: Dromore 1 (C Whan) Clonmel 0

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