Spot-on Elks shatter Ards hearts to retain Irish crown
Ards 1 - Ulster Elks 1 (Elks won 6-5 on penalty strokes)
Ulster Elks retained the Irish Senior Cup in dramatic style after coming from a goal down to force a 1-1 draw with Ards and win the subsequent penalty shoot-out 6-5 in a tense final in Dublin yesterday.
Ireland captain Megan Frazer was potential villain turned heroine during the regulation 70 minutes as she saw her penalty stroke saved early in the second-half before netting the equaliser with four minutes left.
Ards had progressed from the last two rounds on penalties but it wasn't to be their day this time as they went in search of their first Irish Cup since 1964.
It was 4-4 after the first five strokes and after Anna Kozniuk, for the Elks, and Tamara Macleod, for Ards, had scored from the spot, Shirley McCay made it 6-5.
That meant her Ireland team-mate Chloe Brown had to score for Ards to stay in the game but her effort crashed off the post.
On the balance of play, a draw was the right outcome after 70 minutes but Ards will be disappointed that they couldn't hold onto the lead after Brown scored 10 minutes after the break.
McCay said afterwards: "It was a really tough game but the fact that the Ards goalkeeper, Ashley Orr, was named player of the match told its own story.
"We didn't make the most of our chances and when it comes to penalties anything can happen but we are just glad that we managed to win the shoot-out.
"Chloe is a fantastic player and she was a bit emotional after missing her stroke for us to win it but that's the nature of sport and I felt sorry for her."
The Elks' triumph was fashioned against the odds on two counts as they were without two key players and went into the game on the back of a 7-0 thumping by Hermes in the Irish Hockey League.
Kirstie Lammey deputised for team captain Gemma Frazer who was a bridesmaid at a wedding while Lyn Brown was unavailable due to a school ski trip.
Lammey said: "We missed so many chances I just didn't think it was going to be our day and then Megan popped up.
"Strokes are a horrible way to lose and not a nice way to win but we are just delighted.
"We didn't talk much about the Hermes defeat during the week as we thought it was just best to forget about it and I think that was the right thing to do.
"It was important for us to win because the cup represented our only realistic chance of getting into the IHL play-offs.
"Also being in the play-offs through the back door means we will have more matches as we prepare to play in Europe after winning the cup last season."
Player of the match Orr was understandably disappointed.
"We are absolutely gutted as we were confident going into the shoot-out having won two of them to reach the final," she sighed.
"To have been four minutes away from winning the cup for the first time in more than 50 years just makes it worse."
After a scoreless first-half, Ards went in front when Brown rattled in their first set-piece of the game in the 44th minute and three minutes later Orr saved Frazer's weak stroke awarded after 'feet' on the line.
But, after several great saves from Orr, Frazer made amends for her miss when she drove in the equaliser in the 66th minute to force the penalty decider.
Other results: Ulster Premier League: Dungannon 3 (D Robb, S Kelly 2) Portadown 1 (L Cassels); Lurgan 3 (K Burns, S McClure 2) Ballymoney 0. Senior One: Ballymena 4 Ballyclare 3; Rainey 1 Banbridge 1; Raphoe 4 Cookstown 0.