A LITTLE history was made in Donabate on Saturday as the Portranes senior men’s team played their very first EYHL game.
Adrian Henchys’ side secured their place in Division 2 of the National League thanks to their magnificent Irish Hockey Trophy victory over the Belfast Harlequins just over a year ago and they were determined to show that ‘They belonged to this level when they launched their campaign on Saturday.
The men in purple didn’t get the result they wanted, losing 3-1 to Cork Bandon, but it was a very encouraging start at this level for Portrane who will benefit a lot from the performance.
It took Portrane a few minutes to reach the pace of the game, with a speed of play noticeably faster than they were used to in the Leinster League.
Bandon quickly got out of the traps and tested goalie Dan Graham a few times as they looked to take an early advantage.
They closed again just after the five-minute mark, but the visitors were denied a goal thanks to a fine last-minute tackle from Cameron Shoebridge.
Portrane approached his first attack of the game as Imran Khan set up Sean Graham who pierced a shot from just off the post halfway through the first quarter.
The home side were visibly gaining confidence now after that rough start, but they received a heavy blow just before the end of the first quarter when Ali Smith snuck to the far post to slap home a teasing cross to put the visitors 1-0 at the top.
Derek Ledwidge came close at the start of the second quarter for the visitors before Ross Hetem and Imran Khan combined well to force a small corner for the hosts which was pulled from narrowly wide.
Imran was starting to really enjoy himself now and Bandon was having a hard time containing him as he was about to pull his level aside twice in a row.
The equalizer aptly came just before half-time, with Imran again instrumental in beating two men before sending a cross that was knocked home by Davy Graham.
Bandon began to regain control of the game in the third quarter and created a number of opportunities with only brilliant Portrane goalkeeper Dan Graham ensuring the scores remained level.
Portrane looked dangerous on the counterattack, but overall Bandon was pushing hard in search of that crucial third goal.
The third quarter produced no goals, but the fast pace of the game was starting to show in Portranes’ legs and Bandon felt him enter the final period.
Despite tired legs, Portrane managed to create a number of chances early in the fourth quarter, but good defense from the visitors kept the scores level.
Dan Graham was getting busier with both goalies as the final quarter progressed and he kept his team in the game with a slew of brilliant saves as he continued to frustrate the visitors.
Bandon finally put the game to bed with back-to-back goals thanks to Fionn OLeary and Ethan Hamilton-Foott, and although Portrane tried to rally late they had nothing more to give with Bandon running out of deserved winners.
Overall it was a great first performance for Portrane at this level and they will have learned a lot to take them into their remaining games in this league.
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