Halloran has last word

Julia O’Halloran made the crucial Irish Hockey League final intervention for Railway Union for the second year running as they saw off Loreto on sudden death penalties on a topsy-turvy finals day at Grange Road.

Last year, O’Halloran broke Loreto hearts with the only goal of a tense finale. This time, the crucial penalty one-on-one fell to the Cork woman and she dummied Jessie Elliott in the Loreto goal before rolling the ball home.

That came after a 3-3 draw that had just about everything. Railway lost totem Emer Lucey to injury early on when she was hit by team-mate Kate Dillon’s drag-flick but Alex Speers volleyed in a broken down corner to put them in front.

Cathy McKean touched home Hannath Matthews’ slap to level it for Loreto before Nikki Symmons converted another intricate set-piece to move the Beaufort girls — who had beaten Ards 2-1 in the semi-finals on Saturday — in front. Railway, who had beat UCD in a shoot-out the day before, levelled again when Sinead Dooley got a scoring touch to a long corner before Kate Lloyd pulled out a cracker of a solo goal, finished on her backhand, to turn the tide Railway’s way again.

But Loreto’s set-piece brilliance came to the fore again as Symmons levelled it 12 minutes from time, and although her side had the better of silver goal extra-time, they couldn’t make a breakthrough.

The shoot-out was a tense affair with Railway given a penalty goal that was then overturned while Loreto were given one that stuck.

It finished 3-3 but McKean was successfully shepherded wide and missed for Loreto before O’Halloran finished the job for Railway.

As Railway also won the Irish Senior Cup, doing the double for the first time in their history, both sides will be bound for Europe next season.

The same applies on the men’s side which will be some consolation to Banbridge after they lost 4-3 to Monkstown in another titanic final tussle.

Having waited 99 years for an Irish Senior Cup success that came in March, the ‘Town also have the Irish Hockey League crown to their name now — the first team to claim both in the same season — as Graham Shaw’s influence since his move from Glenanne as player/coach came to bear.

They defeated Lisnagarvey 2-1 in Saturday’s semi-final while Bann surprisingly had things all their own way in a 6-1 rout of Ulster rivals Cookstown.

Irish Hockey League awards

Women’s Player of the Tournament: Emma Smyth (Railway Union); Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union); Top Scorer: Anna O’Flanagan (UCD).

Men’s Player of the Tournament: Peter Brown (Banbridge); Goalkeeper of the Tournament: David Fitzgerald (Monkstown); Top Scorer: Alan Sothern (Pembroke Wanderers)

Overall Player of the Tournament: Emma Smyth (Railway Union).

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