In a week of famous comebacks, Cork Harlequins are savouring one of their own as they won the Irish Senior Cup for just the second time at Grange Road on Saturday.
Shorn of their three most experienced stars, they looked dead and buried at half-time, trailing 2-0 to Loreto and seemingly going out with a whimper.
But Harlequins coach Darren Collins – a Liverpool fan – had seen enough turnarounds during the week to know the side could be galvanised.
And they bounced back brilliantly, Michelle Barry and Olivia Roycroft swooping to send the game to a shoot-out where Lorna Bateman saved four times to win the day.
“You can take losing if you perform but not playing well enough… I said to them at half-time ‘we can’t leave here with any regrets’,” Collins said of the momentum shift.
“I just felt we played hockey in the second half. We were nervous and tense in the first half and the girls just needed to relax.
"The second half we dominated, the goals came and maybe we missed one or two more.”
Quins always knew they would be without Irish international Yvonne O’Byrne who was in camp with the Green Army.
But Cliodhna Sargent’s ACL injury – sustained in the semi-final win over Pegasus – and Rebecca Barry’s unavailability meant they took the field with eight schoolgirls in their matchday squad.
And they made a timid start with Niamh Small fired a brilliant ball across from the right to Sarah Evans who swiveled out of a tackle and unleashed a low reverse-stick bullet into the bottom corner.
Small’s inclusion showed the difference in experience Loreto could call on to step in as she and fellow former international Caitriona O’Kelly came into the panel in place of the absent Sarah Torrans, Ali Meeke, Hannah Matthews and Nicci Daly.
Collins resisted the temptation to try and bring in some older heads and put trust in the young guns.
But they looked shell-shocked when Caitlin Sherin provided the right-wing cross for Aoife Taaffe to step in for 2-0 just 11 minutes in.
These were ominous times for Quins but they survived until half-time where Collins extracted a huge reaction from his troops as they suddenly found mountains of self-belief and a warrior spirit typified by Emma Barber.
Barry hoovered up a rebound created by Caoimhe Perdue’s shot seven minutes into the second half from the first corner of the game.
And they had their leveller in similar fashion when Barber struck and Olivia Roycroft cashed in with 10 minutes to go.
Then Bateman took over, halting all bar Sherin’s effort, crucially getting her inner thigh to Sara Twomey’s shot to deflect the ball inches by the post.
She has shared the goalkeeping duties with Becky Maye all season with Bateman – daughter of former international Ivan – getting the first half on Saturday.
As such, she never expected to be in a position to be the hero.
“I didn’t know I would be stepping in until after full-time,” she said.
“It’s usually the scenario that the one who finishes the game would do the shoot-out. I kind of presumed so I had to switch on fairly quick! ‘Let’s go get warmed up again!”
“It was a big call,” Collins added.
“But we have been doing them in training quite a bit. Becky is a fine keeper but we just felt Lorna had that edge for the shoot-out and she proved us right thankfully.”
Three Rock Rovers, meanwhile, retained the men's Irish Senior Cup with a 1-0 win over Lisnagarvey, Jody Hosking scoring the only goal in the 20th minute.
It was their sixth trophy of the season across indoor and outdoor competition.
L Murphy, S Evans, H Mulcahy, M Jennings, G McLoughlin, C Sherin, N Small, G Donald, C Hamill, S Clarke, C O’Kelly
K Crotty, S O’Brien, S Twomey, A Taaffe, O Brady, A Carragher
S Evans, A Taaffe
L Bateman, E O’Donoghue, N Barry, S Murphy, E Barber, C Perdue, O Roycroft, J O’Halloran, M Barry, J Murphy, E O’Leary
Z Bowles, S Griffin, S Uniacke-Lowe, I Burns, N O’Leary, A O’Grady, B Maye
M Barry, O Roycroft
L Clifford, C Metchette