Women’s IHL Pool A:
Loreto 2 (Cathy McKean, Ali Meeke) Pegasus 3 (Suzanne Beaney 2, Vanessa Surgeoner)
A cracker at Beaufort, Loreto came within a whisker of snatching a draw from a tie in which everything seemed to go against them, losing both Nicci Daly and captain Nikki Keegan to facial injuries which required stitches before the 15th minute was up.
By that stage, they were 2-0 down as Pegs won all the early 50-50s, creating Loreto defensive errors, from which Vanessa Surgeoner and Suzanne Beaney roofing brilliant strikes. Surgeoner laid on the third for Beaney in the 20th minute when she intercepted and battle through a couple of tackles and the former international applied a simple finish.
Claire McMahon and Beaney were in red-hot form at this point while Pamela Glass was superb at the back, mopping up plenty of ball at the back.
But the hosts grabbed a lifeline before the big break when Niamh Small caught a break and smashed the ball from the 25 to the left post where Cathy McKean got a great touch for 1-3 after three corners had gone a begging.
They applied plenty of pressure in the second half, a super move between McKean and Meeke saw Small crash the outside of the goal while Nikki Symmons’ tracer-bullet was well saved.
But Pegasus could have moved back into bonus point territory when Stephanie Quinn’s sweeped shot hit Symmons’ foot on the line. Michelle Harvey, though, flicked the ensuing stroke well wide to keep the tie alive.
With Claire McMahon in the bin, Loreto got one back with eight minutes to go when Symmons powerful cross, following a self-pass long corner, took an innovative McKean touch into Meeke’s path to set up a grandstand finish. Plenty of late drama followed, Niamh Small denied at the last after a breath-taking run while Pegasus almost denied the losing bonus point from a final minute corner.
Catholic Institute 1 (Rosie Pratt) Hermes 2 (Audrey O’Flynn, Anna O’Flanagan)
Hermes three points clear of the pack overnight but they left it late to overcome Munster league leaders Catholic Institute, Anna O’Flanagan getting a final hooter goal to snatch three winning points.
The pressure that 11 corners bring eventually told at Rosbrien, breaking the Insta hearts with the last of them as O’Flanagan deflected home, ending a pulsating tie.
Early on, Ciara Ronan kept out three corners in style before Eimear Cregan – to the fore in everything the Limerick hosts did – was a central figure in a great team move which saw Roise Pratt open the scoring.
Hermes, driven by Sinead Mc Carthy and the Connery sisters, came flying out of the blocks in the second half and Irish international Audrey O’Flynn scored a drag flick from a short corner in the 44th minute to level.
And, as the game ebbed and flowed, the Booterstown club eventually took advantage of a player advantage in the last phases, using the space to grab a late corner which O’Flanagan netted to move her side up to seven points from two outings.
UCC 4 (Ali O’Regan 3, Miriam Crowley) Belfast Harlequins 1 (Ruth Miller)
A third quarter blitz proved the game-breaking period as UCC captain Ali O’Regan netted a hat-trick on her side’s return to the IHL at the Mardyke, leaving Belfast Harlequins’ semi-final hopes on the brink already.
The lead was stretched out soon after the break as two of her efforts sandwiched a strike from Irish international Miriam Crowley with three goals coming in quick succession.
Ruth Miller grabbed one in response while Jenny McAuley was a regular threat for the Ulster side but the defensive work of Eibhlin O’Donoghue, Kate Murphy and Ali O’Connor meant UCC were always in control.
Pool A standings: 1. Hermes 7pts (+4) 2. Pegasus 7pts (+4) 3. UCC 4pts (0) 4. Loreto 4pts (0) 5. Belfast Harlequins 1pt (-3) 6. Catholic Institute 1pt (-5)
Railway Union 1 (Jean McDonnell) UCD 1 (Rachel Burke)
Rachel Burke stole a share of the spoils at a chilly, rain-swept Park Avenue with a brilliant deflection to Laura Wilson’s sweep two minutes from time, keeping both sides very much in contention.
Railway, though, will be kicking themselves after a dominant first half saw them spurn seven corners and have a Kate Dillon goal disallowed with little coming in return.
Defensively, though, UCD put in an excellent shift with Megan Tennant-Humphreys, Leah Lenehan, Wilson and Niamh Atcheler holding a star-studded Railway front six at bay – five of whom are full internationals.
They earned plenty of corners but seemed to over-complicate at the top with few clean shots coming off. Dillon’s effort was ruled out after Julia O’Halloran did well to draw Stella Davis and flick high.
Her effort was going slightly wide but Dillon guided home but the raised ball was deemed dangerous and was whistled early.
UCD did go close early in the second half as they showed increased attacking intent, Caroline Hill reversing into the side-netting.
Dillon shot narrowly wide before Railway took the lead a minute into the fourth quarter when Alex Speers did well down the right, cleaning up a loose ball and evading the out of position Davis.
She passed the ball from the baseline behind the back of the goalkeeper to find Jean McDonnell on the back post and she showed little mercy to welly home from five yards.
But they found a late sting in the tail when they conceded their only corner and Burke got a super touch to zip the ball into the roof of the net.
Ballymoney 1 (Nikki Parke) Armagh 1 (Christine Russell)
Armagh stay in the semi-final spots despite missing out on the win due to Nikki Parke’s final quarter goal to leave the side’s both going home with two points. Christine Russell neatly finished off a 52nd corner for the Ulster league leads for the lead but Ballymoney came back strong, one effort chalked off, before Parke got the winner.
Earlier, Armagh saw a couple of efforts denied by teenager Jenna Holmes while a corner went just wide. The second quarter was battled out between the 25s before the visitors to the Joey Dunlop centre stepped up their game in the third period.
Ards 3 (Becky Weir, Heather McClurg, Tamara McLeod) Cork Harlequins 0
Ards got right back into the semi-final mix in Pool B with a bonus point win at Stormont over last year’s semi-finalists Cork Harlequins whose hopes look are but done already.
Becky Weir timed her run and lob to perfection after Tamara McLeod’s dummy opened the space to score in the second quarter. It was 2-0 soon after when Heather McClurg hit home the first penalty corner of the game.
Orlagh Cotter went closest for Quins when she hit the Ards’ post in the third period but the evergreen, former international McLeod slotted home a cheeky goal from a narrow angle for a comfortable win.
Pool B standings: 1. Railway 6pts (+5) 2. Armagh 6pts (+3) 3. UCD 5pts (+1) 4. Ards 4pts (0) 5. Ballymoney 3pts (-1) 6. Cork Harlequins 0pts (-8)