Brilliant Pembroke land their first ever women’s EY Champions Trophy title

Women’s EY Champions Trophy final
Pembroke 4 (S Loughran, A Griffin, E Horan, M McCready) Catholic Institute 1 (N Carroll)

Pembroke produced a perfect all-round team performance to add a first EY Champions Trophy title to the regular season crown to the regular season league title won a month ago.

Again, the season’s other breakout club Catholic Institute were runners-up who have to console themselves with a place in Europe and a quick revenge-mission next Saturday in the Irish Senior Cup final.

It was a win built around an outstanding first 10 minutes in which Sinead Loughran and Ali Griffin both netted and while Naomi Carroll got one back with a late goal of the season contender, Eanna Horan made it 3-1 at half-time before Martha McCready sealed the deal.

“It feels pretty incredible. It is an amazing journey we have been on for the last couple of years,” said Pembroke captain Gillian Pinder. She became a unique figure in club history, winning national honours with three different clubs following success with Hermes and UCD.

She said it was quite the journey for Pembroke who were competing in their first national final of any description in eight years. With the EY Hockey League title last month their first since 1975, they now have two in the bag and a potential treble in the pipeline when they meet Institute against next Saturday in the Irish Senior Cup final at Belfield.

“To take ourselves from flirting with relegation to mid-table and now into the top couple of teams, to be trophy winners is unbelievable and a dream come true for a few years of hard work.

“We haven’t had that experience before. We did really well to win the league as a consistent side but this is do-or-die and, yesterday, Loreto find themselves in finals weekends year-in, year-out. We did incredibly well to stay composed and do the same thing again today against Catholic Institute. We are delighted with a double and have our sights on a triple next week.”

For Insta’s Róisín Upton – named afterward as the player of the season – she said: “Tough way to bow out in the final but Pembroke were super clinical, catching us on the break in that first quarter. We dug deep and fought back but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Naomi Carroll on the attack. Pic: Max Fulham

“When we reflect on the season, we are delighted. A final of the Champions Trophy and a final of the cup, it is a fantastic achievement for our little club in Limerick.”

The final itself was guaranteed to produce a first time winner with Pembroke’s 3-1 win over Loreto and Insta’s 3-2 success against UCD meaning both clubs reached the final in their first attempt at the playoffs.

Pembroke got off to a flyer in normal time with Loughran striking just four minutes in from a cracking counter-attack move and it was 2-0 with Ali Griffin netting again in the ninth minute.

Insta got back into the contest when Upton’s glorious overhead found her partner in crime Naomi Upton at the right post to bat in a head-high volley, cutting the gap to 2-1.

But no sooner had they halved the deficit than Pembroke bounced back. Emily Beatty made all the inroads before laying the ball off to Eanna Horan and she swiped home a reverse-stick shot by Pam Smithwick.

Smithwick’s brilliant save from Aisling Naughton in the second half kept Insta alive as the speedy forward caused all manor of havoc but the game was done and dusted when Rachel O’Brien got around the right baseline. She slipped a great pass to Martha McCready to push in her second goal of the season, a clincher with 12 minutes to go.

Pembroke: E Buckley, L McGuire, A-K Trevor, S Loughran, E Beatty, O Macken, E Curran, R O’Brien, A Naughton, I Delamer, G Pinder
Subs: E Horan, A Griffin, H O’Donnell, C Foley, M McCready

Catholic Institute: P Smithwick, C O’Shea, N Carroll, R Upton, L Clery, L Foley, C Moloney, H Kelly, E Ryan, M Barrett, A Horan
Subs: A Hickey, B Murphy, A Bourke, L Ryan, J Clein

Umpires: A Keogh, E Duffy