Pegasus finished their maiden Euro Hockey League campaign on an upbeat note despite back-to-back defeats as Katie McKee scored a first Irish goal in the elite competition in the dying moments against England’s Surbiton.
They fell 2-1 in that one, ending up in a share of seventh place, the predicted outcome as the tournament’s lowest seeds but coach Craig McGrugan was left with plenty to take from the weekend in Amsterdam.
On Friday, they were put to the sword by Den Bosch, the greatest club side ever assembled with 16 European titles in the past 20 years with Frédérique Matla scoring four times in a 9-0 result.
A day later, Pegasus were well in the contest against English eight in-a-row champions Surbiton with the sides going in at 0-0 at half-time in their classification match.
Both Taite Doherty and Katie McKee went close off the back of some lovely stickwork from Lucy McKee and they were defensively sound with Shirley McCay and Megan Todd holding the fort.
The Londoners, though, took the initiative with two goals in a three minute period in the third quarter with Meg Dowthwaite poking home from close range and Sarah Evans scoring an innovative penalty corner.
Late on, Katie McKee scored an absolute peach of a goal to get one back and it gave a positive note for the tournament’s lowest ranked side who qualified all the way back in 2019.
Since then, with two Covid-abandoned seasons, the side has had a massive injection of young players with four teenagers running out in front of the big Wagener Stadium house.
“Very tough weekend,” said McGrugan reflecting on the games. “They don’t come any tougher than Den Bosch – that goes without saying. It was quite an experience for most of the girls; we had 11 or 12 in the group who hadn’t played European club hockey before so a great experience for them, the younger players and the future of our club. It was very difficult to stick with them.
“Today, I think Surbiton played better than they did against Gantoise [in the quarter-final] and stretched us a bit but we stuck at it and it was nice to finally to get a goal on the scoreboard. A tough weekend but a great experience.”
McGrugan will quickly get to see how much the games stand to his side. They are back in action in the EY Champions Trophy quarter-finals against UCD on Wednesday night. A win would qualify them for the semi-finals which will be next Saturday at Banbridge.
“It’s now important the girls recover. They have another big game on Wednesday night against UCD who we know very well, another good side who play nice hockey. It will be tough but this is what it is all about.”
Dromore became the first girls team to take part in EHL U14 competition and acquitted themselves impressively in their three encounters.
They started off against Spain’s Junior FC with Lara Wilson on the mark in a 3-1 defeat before putting it up to Belgium’s Waterloo Ducks (0-3) and closing out the campaign against Dutch giants Den Bosch (0-4).
The side was cheered on by a big travelling contingent having originally qualified for the event which was due to be played in 2020. It featured national champions from the top six nations of the EuroHockey ranking list.
On the men’s side, Three Rock Rovers finished in sixth place at the EHL Ranking Cup in Terrassa. They came unstuck against HC Rotterdam 6-0 in the first game but bounced back to beat Austria’s Post SV.
Ben Johnson got a hat trick in the 5-2 win, starting the scoring in the fourth minute while his side struck four more in the third quarter with Ross Canning, Johnson and Peter Blakeney all adding to the tally in quick succession.
For Blakeney, it was his first EHL goal since October 2008, the longest gap between goals by a player in the EHL’s history.
They fell a day later 7-1 to Hampstead & Westminster with Blakeney scoring his second of the weekend but they were never in the contest. It means a sixth place finish,
Elun Hack, Three Rock Rovers Head coach summed up the weekend: “We are disappointed with the performance today, I don’t think we gave a good account of ourselves, but it is a young side and we wanted to kind of manage ourselves ahead of the Irish playoffs next weekend.
“I think they did give a good account of themselves against Rotterdam, despite of the score. In phases we were good, but against good sides, you get punished for errors.”
On lessons for their important games next weekend he added: “We played here at a much higher intensity than we would on some weekends at home, so I’m hoping that we can bring that to next weekend. Of course, we are facing quality sides, so we will need to be at our best.”