Having secured a win in the local derby against Priorians last Wednesday night, the Raphoe 1st XI Ladies have guaranteed themselves, at the very least, a promotion play-off spot to get back up to the Premier League again at the end of this season. With having that challenge completed, they made the journey to Armagh on Saturday, with the hope of making it 8 wins in-a-row and to continue their hunt for the Ulster Senior 1 Title and automatic promotion.
The opening ten minutes of the match was an even affair, with both teams creating goal chances from open play.
Armagh, who are currently in relegation territory, showed no signs of fear towards the league leaders and were unlucky not to take the lead at the start of the game. They managed to break down the right flank and were unfortunate not to see their forward convert a super pass that was played across the Raphoe circle.
The Donegal side also had chances at the other end, with Wendy Patterson putting a shot narrowly wide at the right post and Jasmine Tinney creating a wonderful opportunity for her forwards with a ball across the goal mouth, only for the vital touch not to arrive.
Raphoe were made to work hard for their opening goal, and it eventually came through a heavily crowded Armagh "D". The ball was sent in from the right and after several players having attempts on goal, it was Lisa Smyth who got that important touch to send it over the line.
Raphoe had now found their feet and they started to be play more relaxed hockey.
Weather conditions began to deteriorate, however the sleet and heavy hail showers did not phase the ladies from the north-west. They continued to rotate the ball from side to side, and drove forward when openings arose. It was the speedy Leanne Patterson, who took advantage of one of these openings and got on the score sheet for Raphoe's second goal. She picked up the ball on the right, following a pass from Lyndsey Tinney, spied the gap and knew exactly where she wanted and needed to go. Patterson entered the circle, and timed her shot with precision to slot it through the legs of the Armagh keeper, giving the Raphoe side a 2-0 lead at half time.
With the temperatures dipping, it was a sharp team-talk and turnaround at half time, with both teams keen to get the game underway again.
The second half started with Raphoe dominating play. The team attacked in numbers, with many of these attacks starting from the defensive line. Victoria Wray and Arlyne Kilpatrick were key players in Raphoe's third goal. Their quick thinking at the back, created an excellent attacking opportunity for Zara Tinney. Tinney picked up the ball, and using her skill and youthful speed, she linked up with L Patterson and Katy Love down the right. The ball was then played square to Wendy Patterson just outside the Armagh "D". W Patterson entered the D and with a fine reverse stick shot, she sent the ball low and hard in to the goal.
Just minutes later, W Patterson was on hand again for Raphoe's fourth goal, when she converted a finely tuned short corner routine.
After the fourth goal, Raphoe seemed to take their foot off the pedal and Armagh began to look more dangerous again. They won a number of short corners, but were unable to get the better of the versatile Lisa Patterson, who was quick off the mark to close down any shots that were imminent.
Raphoe managed to ride the wave in the final quarter, keeping a clean-sheet to give them a 4-0 victory and another 3 points in their quest for the title.
This result now leaves Raphoe 7 points clear at the top of Senior 1 with three games to go, but this team knows that there is still work to be done if they are to claim the 4 points that they require to lift any silverware. The team have a free week this weekend, but will be back in action again on the 23rd of March when they travel to play CI.
RAPHOE: Heather Humphrey, Arlyne Kilpatrick, Victoria Wray, Sabrina Barnett (Captain), Janice Nelson, Zara Tinney, Lyndsey Tinney, Wendy Patterson, Lisa Patterson, Leanne Patterson, Katy Love, Lisa Smyth, Jasmine Tinney, Rebecca Wauchope, Amy Wauchope and Alison Stewart.