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Sport / ‘Lifting the cup was so important to us’: joy for hockey team after long-awaited intercounty triumph

Photo: BBC Radio Shetland

IT IS fair to say Shetland’s senior intercounty hockey win against Orkney at the weekend was a long time coming – around 20 years.

It was back in 2003 when the blues last lifted the Lady Hamilton Cup, but on Saturday Shetland racked up an impressive 6-0 win on the Brae astroturf to end the intercounty drought.

It kept the good feeling going following an impressive victory in the Scottish district cup earlier this year.

Coach Derek Leask said the emotion come full-time was ecstasy mixed with relief and joy.

“You also feel it’s a reward for all work that the girls have put in this past few years,” he told Shetland News.

“They’ve been getting better and better all the time. I think a result like this was waiting to come for them.”

The scorers on Saturday were Rhea Nicolson (two), Kristan Robertson (two) and Emma Michael (two).

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Leask said even when it was 5-0, “we were still thinking that they [Orkney] could come back into it”.

“Once we were five nil up it was just a case of hold the lead and get the result, and get the cup for the first time in 18 years,” he added.

Whilst Shetland last won the hockey intercounty in 2003, there were no matches played during the Covid pandemic.

The team, meanwhile, is now unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions, and Leask – who coaches alongside Brenda Leask – said Shetland is reaping the rewards of hard work in training.

“We’ve tried to introduce a few more things at our training and coaching, trying to change their style a wee bit, making them more offensive,” he said.

“The link up play and combination play is much better now. They’ve been working on that, and that’s what kind of culminated in the recent run of good results.”

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The team do not have much of a rest, however, with the district cup schedule starting again in a few weeks against Glasgow Academicals.

Captain Rhiannon Inkster. Photo: BBC Radio Shetland

Captain Rhiannon Inkster said she felt there was “something different about this year, like it had all clicked”.

“This was my 12th county cap but it didn’t feel the same as the rest – the squad and the preparation were unmatched from anything in the past,” she said.

“Lifting the cup was so important to us. Off the back of our district cup win we still had a point to prove and we definitely did that on Saturday.

“Derek, Brenda and the team have put a huge amount of effort in behind the scenes over the months and years to get us to a point where we are competing with teams from across Scotland.

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“We all want to harness this feeling and use it as fuel for moving forward, into our next district cup campaign and next year’s intercounty match too.”

It has been a year to remember for Inkster – not only captaining the hockey side to success but tying the knot too.

She said 2023 has been “one huge big celebration with an amazing bunch of friends and teammates”.

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