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Senior & Linden Cup Finals - Preview

Following the excitement of the Boxing Day Kirk Cup and Denman Ulster Shield showpieces, there is no respite from knock-out final action over the next few days with two more deciders down for decision. 

First up, it's the women's Senior Cup final between Lisnagarvey and Ballymena on Saturday at Mossley (2.30pm) and then it's the turn of Bangor and Raphoe to do battle for the LInden Cup on Monday at Deramore (2.30pm).

Lisnagarvey have never contested the final before as they have spent most of their recent time in the Ulster Premier League but Ballymena are no strangers to the event for teams who play their hockey in Senior One.

In fact they have won the trophy twice before, in 2013 when they defeated Cookstown 1-0 and two years later when they were 2-1 winners over Raphoe.

"As a squad we are determined to give our supporters a display not only of effort, courage and spirit but also discipline and purpose and that will give our ability a chance to win the game." said Ballymena coach Davy Allen.

Team captain Clare Gillespie added: "We have a proud history in this competition but it will be tested to the full against Lisnagarvey. They will be overwhelming favourites to win on Saturday but we relish the underdog title." 

"We have prepared well for a tough game and believe we are more than capable of pulling off a victory."

Scarlett Holdsworth has played club hockey at the highest level but now she is back where it all started and looking forward to captaining Lisnagarvey in the final against Ballymena. The 29-year-old midfielder played for Ards in the EYHL two seasons ago but found the commute to training unsustainable and, after a previous spell with Armagh, she is now hoping to lead the Hillsborough club to a league and cup double.

Garvey are hot favourites not only to bounce straight back into the Ulster Premier League after being relegated last season but also to prevent Ballymena from lifting the cup for the third time.

Scarlett said: "We’ve been focusing a lot on performance over results this season and we believe that if we carry out our processes well, results should take care of themselves."

"Winning the cup would be a bonus for us this season as the league is our main aim but we’re very much focussed on delivering, now that we’ve got to the final. We beat Ballymena 3-1 in the league but they're a very good team and anything can happen in a cup final."

Ballymena, having lifted the cup in 2013 and 2015 are hoping the two-year winning sequence continues.

On New Year's Day, Bangor will carry the burden of favouritism going into their Linden Cup clash with Raphoe, having beaten the Donegal side 3-0 in the Ulster Premier League only last weekend.

Bangor have been going great guns in the league and are sitting proudly at the top of the table, having dropped only five points from eight matches. Raphoe, in contrast, have yet to register a win this season and sit one place off the bottom of the table.

However, Bangor coach Scott Parker insists Monday's final at Deramore will be an entirely different ball-game from last week's contest.

"Although we may be favourites based on our league position, finals are never quite like that and we will be well aware of the danger Raphoe can pose." he said.

"On Saturday past we were three up at half time so failed to score past them in the second half so it certainly won't be an easy game. Our guys will be well drilled on what we need to do as will Raphoe so it'll be down to who performs better on the day." 

"It's a great day out for both clubs though and we are all very much looking forward to it. Regarding the season so far, we are nine games in with 10 to go - obviously I'm delighted with where we are sitting. But we are well aware that we haven't played Kilkeel or Instonians yet so the feet are firmly on the ground."

Neither Raphoe nor Bangor are in league action on Saturday and South Antrim can close the gap at the top to a single point if they can beat Mossley in Lisburn.

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