UCD overcome Alex to advance to semifinal

UCD 2Old Alexandria 0UCD Ladies hockey team took on Old Alexandria at the National Hockey Stadium in Belfield last Saturday in the quarter-finals of the Irish Senior Cup, looking to secure a berth in the next round.The home side opened the game with a positive attitude as they sought to intensively pressure their opponents high up the field.UCD’s Nikki Evans started the game lively and linked well with Anna O’Flanagan down the left wing as UCD controlled the game in the opening ten minutes while their opponents struggled to match the pace of the game set by the home side.As UCD dominated the game in the opening stages, their first goal actually came from an initial lapse in concentration that allowed Alex to jump to life as they found themselves in on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat. UCD’s keeper Tiffany Ellis managed to keep her cool and got down well to smother the shot and prevent Alex taking a surprise lead.From the clearance of this first threat on the UCD goal, the ball was worked well up the right wing as Evans picked out Anna O’Flannagan. As she closed down on goal, Mullan managed to poise herself to slot the ball past Pamela Smithwick. Her weak shot had just enough power in it to trickle under the on-rushing goalkeeper and go over the line to give UCD a deserved lead.After taking the lead, UCD sought to maintain this momentum they had built up at the start of the game, with Jeamie Deacon, Anna O’Flannagan and Deirdre Duke pressuring especially well high up the field to limit the opposition’s time on the ball to develop attacks and find holes in the UCD defence.As the game developed, Alex began to string some passes together, but UCD also continued to probe and used a combination of short and long passes on the right wing to try and unravel the Alex defence.UCD’s intensity in attack began to wane after 20 minutes and their discipline came into question when a repeated number of offences deep in the Old Alex half saw the referee reach for her pocket. Both O’Flanagan and Mullan received yellow and green cards during the first half respectively.Alex won their first corner after 11 minutes, but couldn’t convert the chance. While a few minutes later, the visitors had an attempt just glide wide of the UCD goal as no one could get the vital touch.Despite being pegged back in their own half of the field for a large portion of the first half, UCD still looked dangerous on the counter attack. Following a corner to Alex on 25 minutes, the hosts countered quickly and created an overlap on the right wing. The chance resulted in O’Flannagan getting a shot in on goal, but Smithwick got down low to save her attempt.As the game edged closer to half time, UCD were forced into some last ditch defending, with Sarah Greene staunch in defence as she blocked a shot from close range.The first half ended with a corner to UCD, but they couldn’t make the chance count and Alex cleared the ball as the referee called for the interval.After the break, the home side hit the ground running again and showed initiative to bring the game right back into their opponents’ half. They dominated the second half in much the same fashion as they did the first half, with Anna O’Flannagan again leading UCD’s pressuring of their opponents high up the field.O’Flannagan’s pressure nearly paid off as she won the ball back on the edge of the circle and laid the ball off to the on rushing Nikki Evans whose shot was blocked.Alex had to wait until the 50th minute until they got their next attempt on goal and a chance to level the game, but from that point on, matched UCD in attack and defence as tried to keep possession and create an opening.Katie Mullan continued to be one of the home team’s best attacking outlets on the wing as the UCD counter attack continued to put Alex on the back foot whenever they managed to regain possession.Now deep in the second half, Alex began to make very poor probing passes forward and they nearly fell further behind when O’Flannagan again pilfered the ball. An excellent exchange of passes between herself, Mullan and Pinder made a chance for the latter on the edge of the box, bit Pinder dragged her shot to the left of the upright.Another ever-present in UCD’s attack during the second half was Evans, who with a weaving run on the right wing created a chance for Deirdre Duke to have an attempt on goal, but Duke was closed down.As the game entered the final ten minutes, Evans was unlucky to not get her own name on the scoresheet. A great through pass from Mullan on the left wing directed towards Evans in the centre was inch perfect, allowing her to take the ball in her stride. Evans cut across goal on the move and laid off a pass to the right for a give and go with Elaine Carey. She received the ball back at the far left post to slot home, but her goal was disallowed.UCD firmly had Alex on the back foot as the game came to a finish and they bagged the all-important second goal to put the game out of reach of their opponents late on. A quickly taken free by Duke was spread to Evans who passed across goal to O’Flanagan who grabbed her second goal of the game and sealed victory for UCD. UCD18 Tiffany Ellis2 Sarah Greene10 Brenda Flannery14 Niamh Atcheler5 Caroline Hill23 Sarah Robinson3 Leah Ewart16 Jeamie Deacon17 Emily Beatty11 Kate Collins-Smith22 Elaine Carey12 Katie Mullan7 Nikki Evans15 Anna O’Flannagan28 Deirdre Duke27 Gill Pinder Alexandria Squad:1 Pamela Smithwick4 Sarah Canning10 Shirley McCoy13 Erika Hinkson5 Laura Gray6 Rachel Gray7 Liane Costello12 Danielle Costigan9 Siobhan Scott Nielsen15 Sally Campbell20 Abigail Russell11 Emma Duncan14 Ava Beatty8 Vanessa Winn16 Lauren Kingston3 Emma Russell