Insta crown remarkable season with first ever women’s Irish Senior Cup

Women’s Irish Senior Cup final
Catholic Institute 1 (A Hickey) Pembroke 0

Aoife Hickey wrote herself and Catholic Institute into Irish Senior Cup folklore as her 16th minute goal handed the Limerick club their first ever senior title as they denied Pembroke a perfect treble at a drenched Belfield.

She brilliantly volleyed in Naomi Carroll’s knee-high cross for the only goal and the Limerick club saw out the win in super style to crown a remarkable season.

At the start of the campaign, they openly admitted top six would represent success but, by the spring, they had marked themselves along with Pembroke as the two outstanding clubs on the scene.

Pembroke had landed the EY Hockey League and Champions Trophy, picking apart Insta just six days ago at Havelock Park 4-1.

But the patterns shifted drastically this week with Carroll an effervescent dynamo at the heart of this remarkable performance.

“We are ecstatic,” said Carroll, the game’s outstanding player. “We had a tough week, losing to Pembroke last week and were devastated after it but it just shows the quality in their side, scoring two goals in the first quarter and they really put us under the pump.

“We really had to turn things around and we had to believe in ourselves and couldn’t let that happen again. We knew if we could keep it close or score early, we’d give ourselves a chance and I am absolutely over the moon. It’s been a really long season and it is incredible to finish it off on this high.

“We watched a lot of video and saw we ourselves made a lot of mistakes which we knew we could rectify. We knew the pace they had in midfield and the quality in their defence in their flat-stick tackling. We had to change what we did and bring our strengths forward, not fall into their game plan. We focused on that and gave it everything! Empty the tanks was our motto!”

Pembroke had started brightly with Aisling Naughton’s backhand needing a diving Christine O’Shea block to smother it’s path with Rachel O’Brien had a couple of big digs at goal.

But Carroll’s influence soon came to bear and it was her surge that laid the base for Hickey to net just before the end of the first quarter, battling to nick the ball and then rounding the defence on the right flank.

She almost created a second for Lizza Ryan whose deflection was blocked by goalkeeper Emma Buckley who was far busier than a week before.

Pembroke came on strong in the second half with Ellen Curran and Gillian Pinder building up speed. They won five penalty corners but found no way through with the combination of Pam Smithwick and Michelle Barrett an adept duo to clear the lines.

Insta, though, always looked the more incisive on this occasion. Ryan and Hannah Kelly combined well to force another save from Buckley while a baseline cross was just beyond the stick of Kelly from another big chance.

Without the insurance goal, it always left Pembroke in the hunt, winning a series of set pieces in the final play.

But, fittingly, Carroll had the last touch of the game, charging down as the first defensive runner on the final hooter to confirm the victory.

Pembroke: E Buckley, L McGuire, A-K Trevor, S Loughran, E Beatty, O Macken, E Curran, R O’Brien, I Delamer, A Naughton, G Pinder
Subs: A Griffin, C Moroney, C Foley, S Campbell, T Wensley, M McCready, R Cowman

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

Umpires: G Garrett, F Davitt