Munster win U18 inter-provincial hockey title in dramatic shoot-out

Munster win U18 inter-provincial hockey title in dramatic shoot-out

The Munster team and management celebrate after winning the U18 Uniphar Inter-Provincial final at UCD.

Munster 1

Ulster 1

Munster win shoot-out 3-2

Delight for Munster as they won th e Uniphar U18 Girls Interprovincial title coming from behind to equalise with the final play of the game and then beat Ulster in a shootout.

The northern province looked to have done enough when Sophie Kidd gave them the lead with only eight minutes remaining but with time expired Sarah Fitzgerald's effort from a penalty corner found the back of the Ulster net.
Ruby Walsh and Anna Campbell scored for Munster in the shootout with Kidd and Eva Gaston replying for Ulster but the outstanding Beth Anne O'Farrell converted the final penalty shuttle giving Munster the win.

"To be honest we were very happy and positive with the way we were playing and we had a number of corners we didn't convert so to put the last one away, I think we felt we deserved at least one," said Munster coach Yvonne O'Bryne afterwards.

The former Irish international knows a thing or two about winning and losing shootouts. She was a member of the 2018 World Cup squad who reached the final after beating India and Spain on the way after penalty shuttles and she had a special mention for match winner O'Farrell.

"She actually missed one in midweek in the Schools Cup and St Angela's went out so she had a point to prove to herself and everyone else and I'd always put my house on her to score."

When the two sides met in November, Ulster had won 3-2 so the final was expected to be tight but the direct style of play from both teams led to an entertaining opening to the game.

The strong running of O'Farrell and Fitzgerald was causing Ulster's defence problems while Eva Gaston, a product of Dalriada, the same school as Ireland senior captain Katie Mullan, was controlling midfield and linking well for Ulster with forwards Kidd and Gabriella Scott.

Attacking endeavour, however, was countered by robust defending from both sides.

The best opportunity of the first half fell to Ulster. After winning the ball in midfield, Gaston's pass found Kidd and the Ards forward stepped into a reverse stick shot that caused Faye Luby to make a great save. From the resulting penalty corner, the Catholic Institute goalkeeper stuck out a right boot to deny Alex Byrne's goal-bound effort.

With the last play of the half, O'Farrell forced another penalty corner for Munster but Fitzgerald's reverse stick shot was wide of the mark.
Munster began to seize control of the game in the third quarter finding joy down both flanks but Ulster's defence was resilient.

Munster players celebrate after defeating Ulster to win the Uniphar Inter-Provincial finals at UCD.
Munster players celebrate after defeating Ulster to win the Uniphar Inter-Provincial finals at UCD.

Aine Power was becoming more of a factor with her stick-handling ability cutting in from the right wing and she set Cork Harlequins teammate O'Farrell up for a shooting chance that went wide.

Ulster began the final quarter strongly and turned their pressure into the opening goal with eight minutes left in the game.

Gaston found Scott and after her powerful run into the circle, she picked out Kidd and her effort looped up and over the sprawling Lucy Nixon, now in goal for Munster.

Nixon then stopped Kidd from doubling Ulster's advantage from a penalty corner and it proved crucial.

As time expired Munster won a penalty corner and with the final play of the game, they slipped the ball to Fitzgerald and her shot took a couple of deflections but found its way into the goal to equalise.

It was on to a shootout and two saves from Aoife Doyle and conversions for Gaston and Kidd had Ulster ahead 2-1 after three shuttles but Campbell scored for Munster and Nixon produced a vital stop setting the stage for O'Farrell to score. When Edwards missed it was Munster who celebrated a victory at the end of an entertaining game.

O'Byrne added, "I think it's fairly exciting for Irish hockey. The level of skill and technical ability at U18 level is so much higher than when I was coming through. The game is getting faster and being played at a higher level which is great to see."

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