Can Ursuline halt Crescent gallop?

The goal may be the same, but the motivation is very different for Crescent College Comprehensive and Ursuline Convent Thurles as they contest today’s Munster Senior Schoolgirls Cup final in Fermoy (2.45pm).

Crescent are attempting to complete a self-styled “drive for five” and claim a fifth successive Munster title. Since winning the 2011 decider the Dooradoyle school have contested every final, their only defeat coming on penalty strokes to Bandon Grammar in 2012.

For Thurles, the pain of final defeats to Crescent in 2013 and 2015 and the desire to emulate the All-Ireland-winning team of 1996 will be the backdrop to their efforts.

History certainly plays a part, but the majority of those involved are trying to create their own stories. Crescent’s experience in finals gives them a psychological edge, but Thurles’ team is made up of players who have won the last two Junior Cups so they know how to win too.

The sides’ league meeting saw Crescent win 3-1 while both were pushed hard en route to the final. The Limerick school edged early favourites Bandon Grammar 2-1 with a last-minute Niamh O’Keeffe goal, and the Munster U18 skipper went on to net a hat-trick in their 3-2 success against neighbours Villiers in the semi-finals.

Thurles - for whom last year’s Ireland U16 captain Caoimhe Perdue is one of the country’s best young prospects - saw off St Angela’s 4-1 in the quarter-finals before a two-game epic against Mount Mercy, where they prevailed on penalties after a pair of draws. A 6-1 league defeat to Bandon Grammar in the league on Monday should have given coach Sandra Rossiter pointers on where they will need to tighten up.

There is a possibility of a final replay for the first time if today’s encounter ends in a draw due to a schools hockey rule change for this season, while the eventual victor will represent Munster in the Kate Russell All-Ireland Schoolgirls Championship next month.

Meanwhile, the women’s EY Hockey League returns this weekend after a month off due to Ireland’s World League 2-winning exploits in Malaysia. Cork Harlequins, safely into the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals, will look to kick-start their campaign to make the end-of-season playoffs after a couple of pre-Christmas defeats saw them slip off the pace. They host Ulster Elks at Farmer’s Cross tomorrow (1pm).

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