RAPHOE HOCKEY CLUB’S Ladies are aiming to write a new chapter in the history books on Saturday when they take on Ballymena in the Ulster Senior Cup final at Coleraine (1pm).
It is the first time for Raphoe to contest this final and it comes during their first term playing Senior One hockey.
It’s the highest level the club’s ladies have competed at in almost 40 years of existence and they’ve been pretty comfortable in their surroundings thus far, with only two losses, one in the League and one in the group stage of the Cup.
“After promotion last year, I knew the team was good enough to kick on – and we’ve done that,” says Raphoe ladies coach Richard Tinney.
“We met in the summer and the general feeling was that we didn’t want to be fighting relegation.
“I said at the time that we could aim higher than that. My aim was to be pushing for the top four and we’re sitting fourth in the League now. If promotion is there for us again, we’ll go for it.”
Raphoe lost against Banbridge in the League the day before they met the same opponents in the semi-final.
The semi-final finished 3-3 after extra time with Leanne Patterson, Sabrina Barnett and Kimberley Porter on the mark. Raphoe prevailed 6-5 on penalty strokes with Denise McElhinney, their goalkeeper, saving four of the Banbridge attempts.
Last year, Patterson and Barnett netted the goals as Raphoe beat Randalstown 2-1 in the Plate final.
Their resurgence hasn’t come about by chance. Every Monday night, Tinney’s squad train under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coach Adam Speer.
“We started training in June, we went into Adam then from July and the girls are working really hard,” the Raphoe coach says.
“By going up in the League we also had to step up in the Cup. There’s been no magic thing this season. We still have the same volume of girls in the squad and our second XI is a very young team; the club has a lot of very promising players coming through.
“We’re the top team in the north-west at the moment so we’re enjoying it.”
Shannon Porter is a doubt for the final, but Tinney hopes she can play a part.
Raphoe overcame Rainey, Cookstown and Ballyclare in the group, but lost 4-0 to Saturday’s opponents, Ballymena.
It was the day after Tinney’s mother, Mabel, was buried. His daughter, Lyndsey, and niece Shannon Porter played that game.
A week later, they drew 1-1 with Ballymena in the League. They are level on points in the League heading into Saturday’s final.
Tinney says: “It would be an unbelievable achievement for the girls to win it. The dedication and hard work that they always put in deserves a reward.
“It would be a perfect way to round one year off and start off the next.”
Raphoe squad: Denise McElhinney, Arlyne Kilpatrick, Victoria Wray, Lyndsey Tinney, Sarah Boal, Rachel Buchanan (Captain), Wendy Patterson, Sarah Patterson, Esther Hume, Sabrina Barnett, Leanne Patterson, Kimberly Porter, Shannon Porter, Louise Moran, Katy Love.Tags: