The Belfast side were probably the least fancied of the four semi-finalists, but defensive pillars Natalie Pinkerton and Hannah Grieve — plus some top-drawer performances from goalkeeper of the tournament Ayeisha McFerran — were instrumental in their success.
Vanessa Surgeoner’s corner strike helped them past favourites UCD in the last four, coming after Suzanne Ferris had put them ahead against the run of play before UCD’s Katie Mullan equalised. Loreto squeaked past Hermes thanks to Niamh Small’s strike but in the decider, they lost on a shoot-out having led in the third minute through Ali Meeke’s deflection before McFerran tipped a Hannah Matthews penalty stroke onto the post.
Ferris levelled with eight minutes of normal time remaining and Pegs kept out a handful of corners before prevailing in the shoot-out.
Meanwhile, a Richard Sykes drag-flick double helped Monkstown win the men’s IHL for the third year in succession, ruining Banbridge’s perfect season at the last hurdle with a 2-1 win.
Town had come close to elimination in the semis, coming back from a 4-2 deficit in the dying embers of their clash with Three Rock with two Gareth Watkins goals in 60 seconds to draw 4-4, before prevailing in a shootout.
Bann, whose “drive for five” saw them looking to add an IHL to the Irish Senior Cup, Ulster Premier League, Anderson Cup and Kirk Cup titles already annexed this season, saw off Pembroke 2-1 in their semi-final.
Meanwhile, Railway Union took the last spot in next year’s men’s IHL by winning the wildcard playoffs. Both they and UCC saw off Instonians, 1-0 and 3-0 respectively, but the Dubliners had too much in their locker for the Cork students, winning yesterday’s decider 7-3.