A strike from Grove Menzieshill`s Nikki Kidd proved sufficient to give Scotland the Celtic Cup for the fifth consecutive time with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Ireland in the final game at Inverclyde yesterday.
The Scots only needed to avoid defeat to take the trophy, on Friday evening the Scots had beaten Wales 6-0 while on Saturday the Irish recorded a five goal win over the Welsh, so the home side had a slight advantage on goal difference.
This match was coach Gordon Shepherd`s last game before the Champions Challenge in Dublin later this month, and although Ireland are not in Scotland`s pool, the two sides could meet again in the later cross-over matches to decide final placings.
Before the start of hostilities, Grove Menzieshill`s Louise Baxter led the team on to the field to mark the occasion of her 100th outing in Scotland colours.
The Irish were perhaps the more lively outfit in the opening encounters, they were awarded the only penalty corner of the half in ten minutes but the shot was easily dealt with by Scotland keeper Abi Walker. Thereafter the contest descended into a bit of a stalemate between two sides that know each other so well. There were isolated flurries into both circles, but neither set of forwards were able to put a stick on the ball to create a scoring opportunity, and with defences in control, it is hardly surprising the teams turned round goalless at the interval.
The game became even scrappier in the second half, but in 55 minutes the Scots had a real piece of luck, an Irish penalty corner was well saved by a diving Walker and the rebound shot cannoned off a post to safety. Six minutes later the Scots finally broke the deadlock, at their first set piece Nikki Kidd found the target with a powerful low drag flick to the keeper`s left.
The goal suddenly opened the contest into an end to end affair, a move involving Ali Bell and Sam Judge passed the ball on to captain Linda Clement whose shot went narrowly wide, then Judge`s own shot at Scotland`s second set piece brought the best out of the Irish keeper. In the closing minutes the Irish desperately pressed for the equaliser and Walker in the Scotland goal was called upon to put up the shutters. Her final effort came when the Irish were awarded a penalty corner in overtime, but the Canterbury keeper saved comfortably to retain the Celtic Cup in front of the home crowd.
Source: Scottish Hockey