Dromore girl Kerri McDonald is ‘excited’ at the prospect of winning one of the biggest prizes in Irish Hockey next weekend. And why wouldn’t she be?
She’s part of the Ards side who will take on Ulster Elks in the Irish Senior Cup final at the National Stadium on Sunday afternoon (pass-back 1pm).
Victory would be the latest milestone in a budding career and one that McDonald would cherish.
“It’s definitely been an ambition to win an all-Ireland trophy,” she told the LEADER, “so I’m incredibly proud and excited to represent Ards in the final.
“The last time Ards won the cup was in 1964, just like the last time they had won the Ulster Premier League before we won it again last year so I hope history will repeat itself.”
McDonald actually helped Ards to an Ulster double last season, adding the Ulster Shield to that league win. After that came an Ireland debut. And if she could tag the Irish Cup on to an ever-growing CV, it would match any of that.
It won’t come easy and Kerri knows that.
Her side are 13 points behind their opponents in the league table but then they wouldn’t fancy being the front runners anyway.
“We will be the underdogs again, like we were in the semi-final, but I think we thrive on that,” said the former Banbridge Academy student. “It’s always better to have less pressure and I think it will be a great game.
“We have won one and lost one against them this year and all the Ulster Irish internationals are spread between the two teams. It’s always a good battle.”
Coming up against a much-fancied side turned Kerri and her Ards side into dark horses in the semi-final. They dumped out runaway IHL winners Hermes, arguably the shock of the season in Irish hockey. Now they’re hoping for a repeat.
She said: “It was great to hand out what was their first defeat of the season.
“We went 2-0 down and it was difficult but we showed great character to go on to get back into the game and win on penalty strokes.”
For Kerri herself, it’s been a season of ‘improvement’ as she says being a member of the Ireland squad is helping her game, as well as the ‘competitiveness and quality’ of the new IHL.
To ensure she’ll be playing in that division again next season, she still has some work to do as Ards’ survival is yet to be secured.
“Unfortunately we haven’t been getting the results we hoped for this season,” conceded Kerri, “we are still two points clear of relegation with a game in hand. I think we’ll be OK.”
Should the unthinkable happen and Ards were to drop through the trap door, Kerri would find herself coming up against Banbridge in the Ulster Premier League.
And she was keen to congratulate the local club on their promotion.
“It’s really great to see local teams improving and gaining Premier League status,” she said. “I think it’ll help to both maintain and attract talent in the area. Young players who want to better their hockey won’t have to look to other clubs in order to do this. I wish them all the best for their first season in the Premier League.”
Now Kerri has to make sure her friends at the local club have something to congratulate her on after this weekend’s Irish Senior Cup decider.