The Irish Senior Cup is the showcase tournament of the season and the Ulster Elks hosted Premier League rivals Lurgan at the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus on Saturday afternoon.
The conditions were pretty awful to say the least. The driving wind and torrential rain had already taken its toll on other games throughout the province.
However, despite the elements and the saturated playing surface, both teams took to their task remarkably well, and in business-like fashion.
It was the Elks who enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges with Gemma Frazer’s deflected effort flashing wide of the mark after 12 minutes before Kirstie Lammey was denied by the Lurgan goalkeeper in a one-on-one just moments later.
However, as has been the case in recent ventures, it was the opposition who drew first blood. Lurgan made the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time from a penalty-corner.
There was some confusion in the Lurgan routine at the top of the circle, and this inevitably led to the Elks defence stalling as they came out to defend the set-piece, leaving Charlene Hull to despatch a thunderous strike into the bottom corner of the Elks goal.
At the break the Elks lost Belfast High School pupil Jessica McMaster to injury. This blow added to the list of Michelle Weber and Sarah MacAulay who were already missing the game through injury.
The students were out of the blocks quickly in the second session, putting the visitors under pressure in in a bid to get that equaliser.
Steph Jameson had a shot blocked, while Lammey and Paula Lee both hand opportunites from tight angles.
As the game reached the final stages, Lurgan grew in confidence and for the last 10 minutes the Jordanstown girls simply could not get out of their own half as the visitors effectively killed the game off, keeping the home side under pressure.
So, the game was won by the margin of a solitary goal, as is often the case in big Cup matches, and Lurgan proceed as the only representatives from Ulster at the semi-final stages.
This Saturday the Elks are back in Premier League action when the travel to the Antrim Forum to play Randalstown.
Both outfits are chasing IHL qualification spots that come with a top-four league finish, so it promises to be a thoroughly entertaining game.