Women’s hockey heartbreak

Published

Harry Tattersall Smith

It is the consoling pundit, with arm draped around the losing finalist, who claims “it’s better than losing in the semis” yet that remained a hard fact to swallow judging by the despair etched on Glasgow faces after an agonising cup final loss at the hands of bitter rivals Edinburgh.

It was a scoreline that did injustice to the Glasgow outfit, on a day when the only difference between the sides was the ruthlessness demonstrated from Edinburgh at set pieces.

In a match where so much was at stake, it was perhaps inevitable that the opening exchanges were a tad nervy, with both sides struggling to generate any early rhythm.

However, it was Glasgow who gained the early initiative, and with Edinburgh dithering at the back, were unlucky not to take an early lead. Katherine Kelly, who tormented the home side all afternoon with a series of amazing runs, cleverly released Fiona Cairstairs with an incisive through ball. The fresher looked certain to break the deadlock but for some acrobatics from the Edinburgh goalkeeper. A smart shot was parried away before she was able to dive and scramble away the rebound with the predatory Cairstairs looking odds-on to slam home.

In an event indicative of Glasgow’s overall performance, intricate and clever passing combined with a failure to make the final killer pass. They were guilty on several occasions of attempting to walk the ball into the net. They exhibited what can be only be described as hockey’s answer to ‘Total Football’, yet the sizeable travelling support were to be left frustrated by Glasgow’s refusal to finish.

Sport is a cruel mistress, and after Glasgow’s early domination it seemed almost inevitable that Edinburgh would score on their first attack. It was harsh on Glasgow and the controversial nature of the goal can have done nothing to alleviate the away side’s sense of injustice. A debatable short corner was fired in and after a series of countless ricochets the bouncing ball was slotted home, although in and amongst the pinball Glasgow had sizeable shouts for feet waved away by the umpires.

It is a slightly over used cliché to refer to the power of a goal, yet in this instance it utterly transformed the game. It seemed to free Edinburgh from the nervous shackles and allowed them to play some pulsating counter-attacking hockey. The game could have been over by half-time but for the goalkeeping heroics of Camilla Persilli. The keeper, who could do nothing about the opener. kept Glasgow in the match with a string of several superb saves, as Edinburgh pushed to double their lead.

Glasgow ended the half with a spell of concerted pressure, and were unlucky not to go in level at the break. A series of short corners caused havoc in the Edinburgh defense yet they remained resolute on a day which looked increasingly like the gods were smiling on the east coast outfit.

Edinburgh came out with fierce levels of intensity and with Glasgow minds seemingly still in the changing rooms, Persilli was again called upon to make a sublime stop, saving down low after clever Edinburgh interplay.

It was the impetus Glasgow needed, and the match soon evolved into a lung-busting end-to-end affair with the two teams intent on attacking at every opportunity. Glasgow had chances to level, with Carstairs again denied by quick goalkeeping whilst Ruth Abernethy was unlucky to see a snap shot flash wide.

With Glasgow pushing so hard they were always going to be vulnerable in defence. For long stretches Edinburgh seemed happy to soak up pressure and exploit on the quick counter attack. There was to be more joy for the home side from short corners; a slick move wrong-footed the Glasgow back line and the ball was eventually bundled in as Edinburgh looked to tighten their grasp on the silverware.

Glasgow, to their immense credit, refused to buckle and continued to press and probe the Edinburgh side. With tiring Glasgow legs evident however, a slick Edinburgh move earned a short corner, and from the resulting set piece the ball was gleefully smashed past the stranded Persilli.

The final whistle sparked scenes of mass jubilation from the home side, and the end of Glasgow’s remarkable cup run. Coach Euan Miller spoke afterwards about his pride in the team, “It’s an incredible achievement making it to the final, and I’m so proud of the team. It was one of those days where we know if we’d got a bit more luck anything could have happened, but they are a young team and I know next year they’ll push on and will definitely be challenging for trophies again.”