Six proved the operative number as Railway Union finished sixth out of six at the women’s EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy in Alanya, Turkey – but that only told half the story, writes Stephen Findlater.
In a bizarre run of misfortune, the Sandymount club only ended up with the bare minimum six eligible players who played every single minute of their five games – bar the odd one-minute green card suspension – picking up five points along the way.
Emma Buckley was ruled out with a foot injury in advance of the event but the past week also saw Holly Jenkinson out with a broken hand and Sarah Patton falling sick in midweek.
Michelle Carey had planned to join the side on Friday evening but a passport issue left her stranded in Hamburg. With the issues occurring after the EHF deadline to add players to their long-list, it left Railway unable to fill in the gaps at short notice.
While the situation could have proven disheartening, they rolled with the punches to be highly competitive in each game. Importantly, with two other clubs withdrawing, Ireland will keep their place in this second tier competition which otherwise would have been lost if Railway followed suit.
“Maybe there was a little sense of foreboding the day before the tournament when essentially everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” captain Orla Fox said after their final match on Sunday.
“But when the matches started, we just accepted the situation and didn’t feel under pressure for any of it because, sure, any result we got out of this was a bonus! I definitely think that helped everyone feel relaxed and free to play whatever way we wanted.
“We headed over with not the ideal setup but the team atmosphere has been incredible. We didn’t put pressure on ourselves, just play the process and trying to celebrate each small win in each game. When we got into it, we thought, hey, we can really compete here and try and play as much of our own game as possible!”
Day one showed they could cause problems, holding English champions Buckingham scoreless for the first 26 of 40 minutes with a “deep-house” defensive setup, designed to essentially park the bus and conserve energy.
They went on to lose that one 5-0 but the method worked a treat against eventual runners-up SK Slavia Praha, Lloyd sisters Kate and Lily using their prodigious skills to wreak havoc on the counter. Kate netted and a 28th Fox corner earned a 2-2 draw.
On Saturday, Austria’s SV Arminen edged out Railway 2-1 while the tournament hosts and winners Gaziantep were pushed closer than by any other side.
That one finished 3-2 to the Turks, outdoing Kate Lloyd and Orla Patton strikes as Railway went agonisingly close to an equaliser in the final quarter from a corner.
It proved a similar outcome against Scotland’s Clydesdale Western in a dramatic endgame on Sunday morning. It went tit-for-tat with Kate Lloyd making it 1-1, Lily Lloyd scoring for 2-2 and then Fox equalised in the final minute for 3-3.
The Scots, though, snagged a winner with 29 seconds to go to deny another famous result in the circumstances.
Nonetheless, Fox can reflect on a tournament that will live long in her and her team’s memory.
“The support has been phenomenal from those who travelled over to those back home, it has been a fantastic trip and we are really looking forward to next year and hopefully having a few more players along with us to compete even more
“All of our games were the closest ones in the tournament! I know it’s unofficial but, to be honest, I’d say we were the team of the tournament as all of our games were the most competitive! Definitely disappointed not to get the win against the Scottish team in the last game too but we’ll definitely get them next year!”
Standings: 1. Gaziantep (TUR) 25 pts (+10) 2. SK Slavia Praha (CZE) 17pts (+6) 3. Clydesdale Western (SCO) 16 pts (-2) 4. SV Arminen 12pts (-5) 5. Buckingham (ENG) 9pts (-1) 6. Railway Union 5pts (-8)
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