A LITTLE bit of history was made in Donabate on Saturday as Portrane’s men’s senior team played their very first match in the EYHL.
Adrian Henchy’s side earned their spot in Division 2 of the national league courtesy of their magnificent Irish Hockey Trophy victory over Belfast Harlequins just over a year ago and they were determined to show they belonged at this level as they kicked off their campaign on Saturday.
The men in purple didn’t get the result they wanted, losing 3-1 to Cork outfit Bandon, but this was a very encouraging debut at this level for Portrane who will take plenty from the performance.
It took Portrane a few minutes to get to the pace of the game, with the speed of play noticeably quicker than what they have been used to in the Leinster League.
Bandon were quickly out of the traps and tested goalkeeper Dan Graham on a couple of occasions as they looked to gain an early advantage.
They went close again just past the five-minute mark, but the visitors were denied a goal thanks to a fine last-ditch tackle from Cameron Shoebridge.
Portrane went close with their first attack of the game as Imran Khan set up Sean Graham who drilled a shot narrowly wide of the post mid-way through the opening quarter.
The home side were visibly growing in confidence now after that shaky start, but they were dealt a blow just before the end of the first quarter when Ali Smith sneaked in at the back post to tap home a teasing cross to put the visitors 1-0 up.
Derek Ledwidge went close at the start of the second quarter for the visitors before Ross Hetem and Imran Khan combined well to force a short corner for the hosts which was fired narrowly wide.
Imran was starting to really enjoy himself now and Bandon were struggling to contain him as he went close to drawing his side level twice in quick succession.
The equaliser deservedly arrived just before half-time, with Imran again instrumental as he beat two men before sending in a cross which was stroked home by Davy Graham.
Bandon began to wrestle back control of the match in the third quarter and created a number of opportunities, with only the brilliance of Portrane keeper Dan Graham ensuring the scores remained level.
Portrane were looking dangerous on the counter-attack, but in the main it was Bandon pushing hard looking for that crucial third goal.
The third quarter didn’t produce any goals, but the fast pace of the game was beginning to show in Portrane’s legs and Bandon sensed it going into the final period.
Despite tired legs Portrane were able to create a number of chances early in the fourth quarter, but some good defending from the visitors ensured the scores stayed level.
Dan Graham was becoming much the busier of the two goalkeepers as the final quarter progressed and he kept his side in the contest with a host of brilliant saves as he continued to frustrate the visitors.
Bandon eventually put the game to bed with two goals in quick succession through Fionn O’Leary and Ethan Hamilton-Foott, and although Portrane tried to rally late on they had nothing more to give, with Bandon running out deserved winners.
All in all this was a fine debut performance from Portrane at this level and they will have learned plenty to take them into their remaining matches in this league.