Leinster quartet all still alive in women’s IHL

Women’s IHL Pool A:
Sunday: Loreto 4 (Nikki Symmons 2, Nicci Keegan, Caitriona Tipping) UCC 1 (Ali O’Regan)

Loreto gave their IHL hopes a major shot in the arm as a bonus-point victory, forged in the final quarter, over UCC at Beaufort vitally moved them above Hermes in the pool ahead of a potential all-or-nothing play-off in round five.

The first half proved a frustrating one for the hosts as six penalty corners went incomplete while Ali O’Regan’s threat was neutralised by Sarah O’Meara.

By contrast, Loreto cut loose in the second period after Zoe Cremin initially snuffed out Cathy McKean and Niamh Small chances. From their seventh corner, Nikki Symmons switched the ball right to Ali Meeke who switched back into Symmons’ path to score.

UCC responded quickly, a series of rebounded shots led to a goal from O’Regan, 1-1 at three quarter time.

Both sides continued to create chances, Nicci Daly’s reverse well-blocked by Cremins while UCC’s Miriam Crowley caused plenty of trouble. The turning point came for the hosts, though, when Sinead McGirr picked up possession deep in UCC territory and laid up Cathy McKean and the ball then fell into Caitriona Tipping’s path for the former international to hammer home.

It broke the student resistence. Symmmons added a drag-flick and a minute later it was 4-1 when Nikki Keegan picked up the scraps to confirm a big bonus point win.

Pegasus 3 (Surgeoner, McMahon, Beaney) Hermes 1 (McComish)
Pegasus completed the Dublin double as they added the scalp of Hermes to the one achieved at Loreto before Christmas to look set fair for top spot in the pool.

Indeed, it might have been even better for the Belfast side had they held on for a bonus point but Kerry McComish scored in the final quarter to prevent that outcome. Suzanne Beaney was lively throughout, going close twice in the first quarter of an end-to-end tussle.

Vanessa Surgeoner was the one to get the only goal of the half when she finished off a slip-pass which came her way.

That lead was doubled a few minutes into the second period when Claire McMahon shot home from the right of the circle. Lisa Jacob was sent to the sin-bin soon after but it was during this period that Hermes were handed a lifeline when a shot found Kerry Harvey’s foot on the line.

Sharon Moffett, however, saved the ball onto the right post to stay two goals clear and Suzanne Beaney grabbed the third goal during the time to put the side in bonus point territory.

Hermes laid siege in the closing quarter, winning a string of penalty corners and got one back from McComish’s drag. Chances came and went from set pieces which might have yielded a losing bonus but Moffett was in top form to deny that outcome.

Saturday: Belfast Harlequins 0 Catholic Institute 3 (Elaine Brommell, Eimear Cregan)
Catholic Institute kept their outside hopes of a maiden IHL semi-final berth alive as they took a bonus point from their trip to Deramore Park with former Bray and Pembroke woman Elaine Brommell hitting a double.

Recently retired Irish captain Eimear Cregan struck the only goal of the first half, finding room on the right of the circle and smacking home a low, hard shot.

Amy Geddes was denied a leveller by Insta keeper Ciara Ronan from the host’s best chance while Cregan and Naomi Carroll also went close.

But Institute captain Brommell made sure of all four points with two strong shots at penalty corners in the last quarter, the latter on the final hooter.

Standings: 1. Pegasus 10pts (+6) 2. Loreto 8pts (+3) 3. Hermes 7pts (+2) 4. Catholic Inst 5pts (-1) 5. UCC 4pts (-3) 6. Belfast Harlequins 1pt (-7)

** Deryck Vincent’s photos from UCD vs Ards

Pool B:
Ballymoney 1 (Katie Mullan) Railway Union 1 (Nikki Evans)

Railway came back from a goal down to pick up a draw at Ballymoney which keeps them in the playoff places but, because of UCD’s win over Ards, drops them a place in the standings.

It makes their match on March 12 in Armagh a vital tie in the race for the semi-final places. Money kept out a couple of early Railway corners while Alex Speers’ shot was blocked by Angie Huey in the first quarter.

Huey looked dangerous at the far end, too; a long diagonal ball to Susie Martin who in turn played to Jessica Lynche whose first time strike found a Railway foot on the line. A good advantage, though, allowed underage international Mullan to nip in and open the scoring.

Railway came out at full steam in the third quarter, hemming Ballymoney into their own 25 for much of the early stages with Jenna Holmes clearing in the first few seconds. Nikki Evans got the leveller in the fourth minute of the second half, gobbling up a loose ball in the circle.

Julie Nelson won Ballymoney’s only corner of the game while Railway had five more before the quarter was up while a lively closing quarter produced no further goals to leave the sides equal on the final score.

UCD 3 (Rachel Burke 2, Laura Wilson) Ards 0
UCD moved top of Pool B with a bonus-point success at Belfield which leaves a titanic tussle in store with Armagh and Railway Union for the two playoff places.

Laura Wilson got the students off to the perfect start, scoring from their first corner, before Rachel Burke added the second goal in the 24th minute. She latched onto Caroline Hill’s through-ball and rounded the Ards’ goalkeeper to slot home for a solid 2-0 half-time lead.

UCD retained the majority of possession for most of the half and continued in that vain into the second period and, while they struggled for an abundance of chances, they go the vital third goal on the counter when Hill again linked with Burke who swooped to score.

Ards’ efforts to get something from the game were hampered further by Tamara McLeod’s yellow card and they now look virtually out of the competition.

Cork Harlequins 2 (Cliodhna Sargent 2) Armagh 2 (Emma Stewart, Scarlett Holdsworth)
Cliodhna Sargent’s double put a big dent in Armagh’s semi-final prospects as Cork Harlequins picked up their first points of the campaign.

Quins started well, Acacia Taylor twice testing Rhiannon McNally while Leanne Mullins hit the post. But the Ulster visitors fought back to score the game’s first goal, Amy Stewart playing in sister Emma. Sargent’s corner strike made it 1-1 and she made it 2-1 two minutes after the break when she ran on to a pass from Cliodhna Mullins before smashing into the bottom corner.

Again, though, a response was quick in coming with Scarlett Holdsworth on target from a corner within five minutes for a share of the laurels.

Standings: 1. UCD 9pts (+4) 2. Railway Union 8pts (+5) 3. Armagh 8pts (+3) 4. Ballymoney 5pts (-1) 5. Ards 4pts (-3) 6. Cork Harlequins 2pts (-8)

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