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Students out to bridge 82-year gap

By John Flack

Queen's University will be hoping to turn the clock back 82 years when they take on Randalstown in Boxing Day's Denman Ulster Shield final at Stormont.

It was back in 1933 that the students last lifted the famous trophy, beating Ards 2-1, and it's 50 years since they last competed in the showpiece.

They lost 2-1 to Victorians then in a replay after a 2-2 draw, long before games were decided by extra-time and a penalty shoot-out if necessary.

Queen's vice-captain Linzi Hamilton wouldn't be surprised if this year's final goes to the wire and statistics back her theory.

It's two wins apiece and one draw in the teams' last five Ulster Premier League meetings, so everything points to another close encounter on Saturday.

"Games between the sides are invariably hard to call and it finished 1-1 when we recently met in the league," says Linzi.

"Over the past two seasons all the games have ended 1-0 either way, so that gives an indication of how close the two teams are. I wouldn't be surprised if it went to strokes and we have actually been practicing them in the build-up to the game.

"It's a big day for the club and we are really looking forward to it, but let's hope it's not decided on penalties as it's not a nice way to win or lose a match.

"It would be tremendous if we were able to win the Shield after such a long wait.

"Some of the current Queen's squad actually met some of the ladies who played in the final 50 years ago when they attended the launch of our hockey academy."

Hamilton, who is an Ulster Under 21 squad member, set up the winning goal for Joanne Orr in the 2-1 semi-final victory over Lurgan.

The other semi produced an upset as Randalstown defeated Belfast Harlequins 4-2 only a couple of weeks after losing 4-0 in the corresponding Ulster Premier League game.

Town, whose last Shield final triumph came more recently as they beat Armagh 1-0 at Lisnagarvey in 2006, are hoping that a familiar pre-match routine will produce dividends.

"We met at Mossley Hockey Club a few hours before the semi-final for a light lunch and had a relaxed build-up and it seemed to work for us," says team captain Shelley Black.

"It was much better than a normal weekend game when the squad meets up shortly beforehand, so we'll be going back to Mossley to finalise preparations.

Denman Ulster Shield Final: Queen's v Randalstown, Boxing Day, Stormont, 1.30pm


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