Penalty shoot-out heartbreak for South in the Linden Cup semi final

South Antrim in recent action. US1448-591cd  Picture: Cliff Donaldson
South Antrim in recent action. US1448-591cd Picture: Cliff Donaldson

With the majority of hockey matches in Ulster on Saturday postponed due to frozen pitches, it was looking unlikely that Sunday’s Linden Cup semi-finals would take place.

And for South Antrim, they’d probably wished theirs hadn’t as they succumbed to a dramatic 10-9 penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of Raphoe.

Having been in explosive form in the league this campaign, winning seven from seven, many were anticipating another victory from the exuberant and youthful South side.

However, Raphoe - relegated from the Premier League in April - have also had a positive first half of the season and would prove to be formidable opposition for South over the course of the afternoon.

The Lisburn side dominated the early exchanges of the match with an abundance of possession but very few clear chances on goal.

Raphoe, rather disappointingly, were quite content to sit back on the edge of their own circle and rarely committed more than three players to their attack.

If truth be told, South found this difficult to break down and their best opportunities came via short corners.

A Patric Cochrane drag flick after 20 minutes forced the Raphoe ‘keeper into action, as did a similar effort five minutes later, but both of these were successfully scrambled away.

What the game lacked in goal-scoring opportunities, it didn’t lack in controversy and drama.

Young Cochrane found himself sin-binned for an alleged deliberate foot inside the 25; a decision which seemed to baffle the majority of players on the pitch.

With nine minutes of the first half remaining, Ward Phillips received a yellow card following a petulant foul on the half-way line.

And minutes later, South captain, Lee Marshall was also dismissed for a professional foul which thwarted the chance of a Raphoe breakaway in its infancy.

The Donegal side, however, were unable to capitalise on this two man advantage and the score remained goalless going into the break.

After half-time, South ramped up the pressure on Raphoe in order to try and force a breakthrough.

Simon Watt and Nathan Gamble both came close with efforts on goal, as did Paul Maguire whose effort narrowly went past the upright.

Chris Henry, along with spectators on the side-lines, thought he had given South the lead but his short corner effort was miraculously deflected off the line by the Raphoe ‘post-man’.

With neither side able to grab the elusive goal, the game entered extra time and despite another period of ten minutes the score remained 0-0 and penalty strokes was to provide the outcome of this semi-final.

A total of 24 strokes was required to finally separate the two sides, and it was ultimately Raphoe who came out on top winning 10-9 after the marathon shoot-out.

A disappointing afternoon for a below-par South but one from which they can learn a great deal for the remainder of the season ahead.

South now have a four week break over the festive season, with their next game scheduled for January 10.