Priorians on the up after Cup win
Priorians are expecting a renewed upsurge of interest in hockey in the north west of the province after picking up their first piece of silverware with a 2-0 Ulster Senior Cup final win over previously unbeaten Armagh at Stormont on Saturday.
The Londonderry side, promoted to Senior One only three seasons ago, produced a masterclass of counter-attacking hockey to lift the trophy thanks to a couple of superbly-taken goals by ace striker Emma Allen.
Among the spectators was Ireland World Cup silver medallist Megan Frazer, who began her career with Priorians.
Priorians coach Kathryn Rough believes the national team's heroics in London last August and their subsequent qualification for the Tokyo Olympics has been the catalyst for a hike in the profile of women's hockey here, pointing to her own club's example.
"We have 160 kids at the club and we have a waiting list of about 30 that we can't take because of a lack of pitch space in the city," she explained.
"It would be great if we could get more astroturf surfaces in the north west but they are few and far between unfortunately.
"The World Cup put women's hockey on the map and all of those girls who play it see so much more coverage on TV and in the media and it lets them know there is a future for them to aspire to.
"We just want to grow the game of hockey in the north west and winning the Cup is a huge boost towards the pursuit of that goal.
"It was great to have Megan up supporting us, when girls of whatever age see a player like that who has played so many times for Ireland on the sidelines, it can only be a boost.
"Megan was superb for us and then she had to move on with playing for Ireland, but she is always in our hearts and I think it's mutual."
Rough was delighted with her team's performance on Saturday.
"We were well prepared, excited for the whole occasion and to have so many supporters down really helped us all in the mental battle that a final can be," she added.
"Both teams were really good but we had some superstars like Jill Kennedy in the midfield, Nicola Lowery in defence and Megan McClintock in goal who all played really well and kept us in the game.
"Emma is always the hunter and she took her goals well. We defended their corners very well and Armagh are usually very clinical but being down a goal early on maybe made it a bit more of a pressure situation."
Allen's opener in the 24th minute was classic smash and grab as she finished clinically after latching onto a long ball from Kennedy immediately after an Armagh set-piece had been cleared at the other end.
With seven minutes left, she added the insurance goal with a superb effort, cracking the ball into the corner of the net after a great run down the left flank.
Priorians captain Rachael McSparron added: "I am absolutely ecstatic with the win, especially as we were the underdogs and it was the first time we had even got out of the group stages of the Cup."
Armagh still have plenty to look forward to as they are sitting pretty at the top of the league table with promotion back to the Ulster Premier firmly in their sights.
Vice-captain Gemma Frazer said: "It just wasn't to be our day, we had a lot of corners and a lot of possession but just couldn't convert our chances and that's what it comes down to in finals.
"We will take this into training and try and get better and while we'd like to have won both, if it was to be the Cup or the league title, I'd prefer the league."
Armagh: Erin Mulholland; Gemma Frazer, Sarah McMahon, Anna Jennings, Rebekah Neville, Alex Doyle, Lucy Johnston, Erin Mackey, Claire Warnock (capt.), Rebecca Crooks, Sophie Anderson. Subs: Ellie Hawthorne, Linzi Dodds, Anna McKew, Kathryn Glass, Kathleen Johnston.
Priorians: Megan McClintock; Rhonda Curry, Alice O'Neill, Jill Kennedy, Nicola Lowrey, Emma Allen, Rachel McSparron (capt.), Sara O'Neill, Beth O'Neill, Sarah Black, Gemma McCollum. Subs: Maebh Phillips, Alex Nolan, Jamee McCauley.
Umpires: Adare Brady, George Redpath.