It might have begun slowly, but by the end of Saturday’s EYHL clash between Dublin University Ladies Hockey Club (DULHC) and Monkstown, hackles were raised, sticks were pointed and shouts of frustration rent the air. For Brian Scully’s team, a 2-1 defeat to a side winless thus far in the season was not in the script. Third from bottom before tip-off, they went into the game knowing that a win was vital to their hopes of climbing the table and moving away from the dreaded trapdoor of relegation.
Played in sub-arctic conditions in Glenageary, the game started slowly, with both sides knowing the stakes and seeking to avoid any errors early doors. Monkstown’s high press made life difficult for the midfield of DULHC to hold onto the ball for more than a few seconds, as overhit passes abounded. The hosts began to get on top midway through the first quarter. Amber Barnwell made a driving run through the middle of the pitch, her poked-through ball just too long for Rachel Diggin to reach. Winger Erica Markey looked dangerous when Trinity did manage to play around the press and get the ball into opposition territory, showing great trickery on several occasions down the right flank.
Neither side, however, looked particularly likely to unlock the other’s defence at this juncture, and the first quarter finished with little by way of attacking hockey. It seemed that the most likely route to goal for both teams would come from a short corner, and so it proved ten minutes into a second quarter, during which Monkstown had begun to look increasingly dangerous. A foot in the D gave Monkstown the ideal platform, and although Trinity goalkeeper Carolyn Crampton made an excellent stop first time round, the hosts would not be denied on the second attempt. A simpler short corner routine paid dividends, as Christine Quinlan fired an unstoppable shot into the corner.
DULHC looked shell-shocked, but it had been coming. Monkstown were exploiting the space being left open on the right-hand side, and looked to immediately consolidate their lead. A superb cross-field pass from Barnwell found Rachel Diggin in acres of space, with the latter’s cross flashing wide via the stick of Sophie Moore. Soon after, Crampton made an excellent stop to keep the deficit at just one.
Strong words were exchanged at half-time in the Trinity dugout, and it showed immediately when the side re-emerged for the third quarter. Gone were the loose passes, with DULHC beginning to show some much-needed composure in possession. This rendered less effective the high-tempo gameplan of Monkstown. Most significantly, it allowed Trinity to engage, attacking players Rachel Burns and Niamh Sweeney, who began to show glimpses of quality.
However, they did not have it their own way, and still they trailed. Lily Lloyd slapped a snapshot wide for the hosts, a reminder to DULHC, as if it were needed, that they could ill-afford to concede again.
Slowly but surely, though, they began to wrest control back. The game began to open up, which suited down to the ground Aine Ryan in the Trinity midfield. Ryan began to find her range midway through the third quarter, looking creative with the ball and industrious without, and almost played in the increasingly influential Ailish Long.
It was from a short corner that DULHC finally got the equaliser they deserved. An intricate routine brought the Monkstown defence this way and that, before Jennifer Long swept firmly home to level the scores.
Now it was Trinity in the ascendancy, stifling attempts from Monkstown to play out from the back and creating several good chances. Cliona McCullough’s bustling run was put to an abrupt stop on the edge of the D, with DULHC unable to profit from the resulting free. Monkstown would have been relieved to escape to the bench and receive some tactical advice, after a suffocating quarter from DULHC.
However, there was always the sense that Trinity needed to score to tilt the scoreline in the same way they had wrested control of the match. This they failed to do, and when a rare Monkstown counter-attack was rewarded with a short corner ten minutes from the end, it was almost inevitable that it would end up in the back of the Trinity net. Catriona McGilp did the honours, burying it in the corner after a scrappy set play to put Monkstown ahead once again.
For the visitors, it was a sucker punch, against the run of play and at a time when they had looked especially threatening. With the clock against them, they began to throw what remnants of the kitchen sink remained at the opposition defence. Ailish Long came closest to rescuing a draw, cleverly sitting down Elizabeth Murphy in the Monkstown goal before lifting the ball over her. However, Christine Quinlan was on hand to clear off the goal line and consign Trinity to the most frustrating of defeats. Scully will have a tough job picking his charges up ahead of a potentially gruelling encounter with league leaders UCD next Sunday.