Ards seeking morale-boosting victory as Denman Ulster Shield commences

Harlequins' Jenny McAuley.
Harlequins' Jenny McAuley.

Ards will be expected to secure a morale-boosting first win of the season on Saturday when they open their Denman Ulster Shield campaign when they host Randalstown at Londonderry Park.

It’s been a difficult season so far for the north Down club, who have just one point from six EYHL outings to date.

But they will be confident of a change in fortunes against a youthful Randalstown side after winning the Shield two years in a row before the Ulster IHL sides were not permitted to take part in the competition.

However, along with Pegasus and Belfast Harlequins, they have now been readmitted.

During the week, Harlequins moved up to third place in the EY League after two goals in the last six minutes earned them a hard-fought 3-1 win over Ards at Deramore.

World Cup star Lizzie Colvin set up Jenna Watt for the opener in the first quarter.

But Caroline Adams levelled matters early in the second-half when she hammered in a penalty-corner.

Quins coach Davy Frazer gambled by taking off his keeper Marianne Fox with eight minutes remaining.

The move produced an early dividend when, two minutes later, former international Jenny McAuley scored from close-range to make it 2-1.

Then in the 68th minute, Colvin converted a penalty corner to seal the win which leaves Quins in the play-off zone but leaves Ards in trouble.

But co-captain Naomi McKnight remains upbeat saying: “As a new squad it has taken time to settle and find a structure and shape that suits all the individual abilities of our team, but we believe we have found our stride and better results will be coming our way.

“We have had a tough start to the season playing the top three sides in the league, and I believe the score lines don’t reflect a lot of the positive play we have had.

“November sees us play more mid table sides and with our tough start we have blown the cobwebs off and are ready to start getting points on the board.”

Meanwhile, Lurgan made it five wins from five in the Ulster Premier League after coming from 2-0 and 3-2 down to beat Mossley 4-3 at the Glade.

Karen Dixon’s hat-trick was all in vain after she scored twice in the first-half and once in the second as Natalie Barr hit a treble for the champions, whose other goal came from Sarah McClure.

On Saturday, Pegasus are the only Ulster team in EYHL action as they make the long trip to Cork Harlequins, bidding to bounce back after Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Loreto.

On Friday night, it will be the same for Mossley after their midweek defeat when they take on Ballymena in the Ulster League.

On Saturday, the big game sees Lisnagarvey travel to unbeaten Queen’s while Ballymoney host Banbridge and Dungannon entertain Rainey.

Ulster Elks play Lurgan on Monday night with Ireland World Cup silver medallist Megan Frazer back on board while her German club, Manheimer are on their indoor break.

Megan spent 18 months out injured but is now approaching full fitness after knee and hamstring injuries.

She said: “I am making good progress after tearing the hamstring although I am not 100% just yet and am still doing re-hab exercises.

“However, I managed to play 10 out of 14 games with Mannheimer before the indoor break in Germany and I managed to score two goals from centre-back so that was pleasing.”

Frazer won two Irish Senior Cup medals before moving to Germany two seasons ago and is hoping the Jordanstown side can recapture the glory days once again.

She added: “The Elks have been doing well after losing our opening game and there is a great team spirit around the place so I am enjoying being back home before I return to Germany in March.”

On the men’s scene, Annadale and Cookstown are in EYHL action with the former travelling to last season’s regulation champions Glenanne and the latter hosting Pembroke after securing a useful point in Cork last weekend.

Domestically, the big Premier League game sees Mossley tackle Instonians at the Glade.

There were a number of Kirk Cup games during the week with Banbridge and Cookstown reaching the semis after wins over South Antrim and Queen’s respectively.

The two other EYHL teams, Lisnagarvey and Annadale are favourites to progress but will have to wait until next week before the final two places are determined.