Alexandra roll back the years

 

SCHOOLGIRLS HOCKEY Leinster Senior Cup Final: Alexandra College 4; The High School 2: To most, probably all, of the current Alexandra College senior hockey team 1978 may as well be 1878, just another year from ancient history. But, before yesterday, 1978 was a landmark year for the players' school, the last time it won the Leinster Senior Schoolgirls' Cup.

Well, that barren spell in the competition ended, in some style, when the final whistle blew at Grange Road, Alexandra beating The High School 4-2 to bring the trophy back to Milltown after a 27-year absence. The team, then coached by Peter Johnston, will be Leinster's representatives in next week's All-Ireland Schools' finals.

A year ago Megan Tennant-Humphries was a substitute for Alexandra when they lost, 2-1, to a splendid St Andrew's team in the final, but this time around her contribution was both dazzling and decisive. Even if the sweeper hadn't scored twice from short corners she would have been a contender for player of the match, such was the quality of her defensive display.

Her team took the lead after 10 minutes when Nicola Evans, lively throughout in attack, broke in to the circle from the right and saw her shot deflected past Jessie Elliott in the High School goal. Two minutes later, however, High School levelled, their captain Julie McRann cracking home the first short corner of the game.

Alexandra responded swiftly, regaining their lead in the 17th minute when Holly Jones nudged Evans' effort past Elliott following a scramble in the circle, a lead they extended five minutes before the break with the first of Tennant-Humphries' goals. A beauty it was too, the player side-stepping an on-rushing defender before firing a sweetly struck shot in to the bottom right corner.

The second half began with High School piling on the pressure in an attempt to get back in to the game, but Tennant-Humphries, with a string of flawlessly timed tackles and interceptions, led her defence marvellously, ably assisted by Aisling O'Shea, Phillippa O'Donnell and Criona Levins (Alexandra's one change from the semi-final - she replaced the unfortunate Aoife Raftery who missed out through injury).

Holly Warren finally found a way through Alexandra's resistance 15 minutes from time, her short corner strike deflected past Brona McEntee, but Tennant-Humphries effectively ended High School's hopes of a dramatic fight-back when, with just seven minutes to go, she produced a carbon copy of her first goal, crisply converting another short corner from the left to make it 4-2.

The High School, who also lost in the 2000 final and are still seeking their first success in the competition, never gave up; Valerie Sexton coming close in the dying minutes, but Alexandra held out and, deservedly, prevailed.

Tennant-Humphries, McEntee, captain Martha Purcell, Catherine Ward, Holly Jones, Helen Taaffe and Julie Keane, the survivors from last year's final, made up, therefore, for that disappointment and, with this year's newcomers, combined to bridge the gap, for Alexandra College, to the dim and distant past of . . . 1978.

ALEXANDRA COLLEGE: B McEntee, C Levins, M Tennant-Humphries, A O'Shea, P O'Donnell, H Taaffe, M Purcell (capt), C Ward, N Evans, H Jones, J Keane. Subs: T McInerney, C Coakley, L Dockrell, E McInerney, O Lyons McKenna.

THE HIGH SCHOOL: J Elliott, C Alexander, G Nugent, H Warren, G McRann, C Boyle, J McRann (capt), N Daly, V Sexton, R Jones, M Kane. Subs: L Whitaker, K Smith, S Ladola, L Moore, T Meade.

Umpires: S A Fanagan and P Errity.