Ladies Cup Winner’s Cup – Ghent 2008
Penalty stroke sudden death defeat means girls miss out on Gold
European Cup Winners Cup, La Gantoise Hockey Club – March 2008, Ghent, Belgium.
After a lengthy and stressful build up which included 1 very successful Casino Night, 500 premium ham & cheese sandwiches flogged in the bar, and 4,000 plus raffle tickets forced on other unsuspecting members of the Club, 19 of the Ladies 1sts nervously boarded for Brussels International Airport on Wed 18th March to begin their 6 day European Adventure.
For most it was our first experience of top class competitive hockey and it was with good reason the nerves jangled as we arrived at the grounds of La Gantoise Hockey Club just outside the scenic Belgian city of Ghent, 50 miles west of Brussels.
First up were the Welsh – armed with exile Rachel Brophy – the unknown quantity. As predicted Brophy was thrown into midfield no doubt to do ‘a job’ on Natalie, as hoped we got off to the perfect start, putting away 5 goals in reponse to a sole Welsh effort. 3 points in the bag and with the Czechs and the Russians drawing in the other game we found ourselves sitting pretty on top of Pool A. A great start for our noisy travelling support who had decked themselves, the stand and the surrounding pitch out in Pembroke pom-poms, flags and tricolours.
Day 2 brought even more supporters and with them the hail and the snow, which was to make several appearances over the course of a very cold weekend. Match 2 against the Russians and was always going to be the toughest encounter of the Pool matches. An unorthodox and physical team, the Russians still had the skill level to do damage and a 2-1 victory was a fantastic achievement in very testing conditions. Goals came from Siobhan Kane and Stephanie Hall.
Match 3 on Easter Sunday and we knew a draw would be good enough to go through to the final. It was also a critical day for Sarah Williams who managed to complete the Novotel Easter Egg Hunt after only 3 hours and 45 mins of frantic searching and 13 give-away clues. It was to prove to be a disappointing day for the former lady captain who lost her Scrabble Queen crown to Alison Pigot later that evening in the hotel bar. Incidentally Milla and Alex (aged 1) recorded times of 12 mins and 10.5 mins in their respective Easter Egg hunts.
On the pitch where it mattered most another brutally physical game ensued, however expertly taken goals from x and x ensured we would go into the finals as Pool Winners. The win sent a growing contingent of Supporters away to the Bar in merry form, where singing and joking continued long into the night.
With Easter Monday and Finals Day came more snow and hail. A start time of 4PM was eventually fixed on – the weather wreaking havoc with the match schedule. A young and pacey Italien team were to be the opposition. By the time the team eventually lined out in their first European Final, hearts were pounding as Friends and Family belted out a stirring rendition of Pembroke’s Call. A proud moment for all the girls who wanted nothing more than to bring home the silver-ware their supporters deserved.
It was a tough game and it was no surprise it went down to the wire with 3 games in as many days beginning to take it’s toll on the team. Despite having the majority of the possession Pembroke were unable to breach the Italien defence. A couple of chances went by the way side, and it was completely against the run of play when the Italiens scored off a deflected long corner with only 5 mins play remaining. From somewhere the girls managed to dig deep, Emily Mac Nicholas got the better of the tricky Italien she had marked so well in the game and found Lorna Hil who smashed home with only minutes remaining. Undiluted joy for players and supporters alike.
And so to penalties. Not before another hail storm and pitch clearance which allowed the Pembroke chorus to find it’s voice again, Jingle Bells and Rudolf proving to be particular crowd pleasers in the bitter conditions. The players finally emerged and strokes were taken. The girls lost narrowly in sudden death which was a bitter, bitter pill to swallow following a fine tournament. It was no surprise when our supporters were deemed the best in the tournament..it has yet to be decided what position of pride the two hand towels accepted as Prizes will hold in the Bar.
So 3rd place had to be settled for, but despite this it was a most enjoyable and fantastically beneficial trip to the whole squad. The Ladies Squad and Management would like to pay particular thanks to the supporters who journeyed out to Ghent and never stopped encouraging the girls throughout the entire weekend. It was such a proud moment to line out in the Final with you all singing and cheering for us. Thank You all.
Particular thanks to Bernie and Barbara from us all for your fundraising support throughout the season. Europe may be over now but our attentions turn to the remainder of the season where we look forward to challenging for more honours with your continued fantastic support.