Women’s IHL round-up, Pool A:
Pegasus and UCD became the first two sides to confirm their places on IHL final’s weekend as they notched bonus point victories this weekend to head up their respective groups.
In Pool A, it means a three-way battle for the second available place with Hermes in pole-position ahead of next week’s tie with Loreto, their position considerably weakened by their 2-1 loss to Munster champions-elect Catholic Institute.
The Beaufort side found Ciara Ronan a goalkeeper in form in Limerick as they found the Insta defence tough to break down and their sharpness in the opposite circle got them a 2-0 advantage.
Eimear Cregan got the first guiding home Niki Steritt’s strike for 1-0 at half-time. Former Pembroke and Bray woman Elaine Brommell and Christine O’Shea stood tall in the heart of the host’s backline in the face of a concerted Loreto fightback, keeping out five corners.
And that rearguard action put them in a position to grab a crucial second, Clare Sullivan scoring from a corner switch with eight minutes to go.
Throwing everything forward, Nikki Symmons clinically dispatched a corner to set up a grandstand finish but two excellent saves from Ronan in the final phases earned the win.
Their chances of progression remain alive, though very slim, needing Loreto to beat Hermes next week by exactly two goals while picking up a bonus point win themselves against UCC.
Loreto’s equation is simpler – only a win against Hermes will do. This is because Hermes swept past Ulster strugglers Belfast Harlequins.
Jenny Burke set them on their way inside three minutes and Audrey O’Flynn – from her side’s third corner – dragged home via Jenny McAuley’s stick.
Jodie Kee pulled one back during the Belfast side’s best period but Burke smashed home a corner soon after to quell any impending storm.
O’Flynn’s second put Hermes in bonus point territory and Aine Connery netted the goal of the game for 5-1 in the 49th minute following great work by Sinead McCarthy.
A double strike by Anna O’Flanagan in the 61st and 65th minute closed the game out. As a result of the bonus point win Hermes go second and hold the aces going into next week’s showdown with Loreto.
Pegasus, meanwhile, made it into their third consecutive semi-final with a comfortable 5-0 win at the Mardyke against UCC.
Kate McConnell and Grace Irwin’s corner strike made it 2-0 on quarter time. UCC had their moments with Miriam Crowley and Olivia Roycroft drawing saves in the middle periods but three goals in the final 12 minutes emphatically settled the matter with Suzanne Beaney on target twice while Michelle Harvey got the fifth.
Pool A results: Catholic Institute 2 (Eimear Cregan, Clare Sullivan) Loreto 1 (Nikki Symmons); UCC 0 Pegasus 5 (Suzanne Beaney 2, Kate McConnell, Grace Irwin, Michelle Harvey); Hermes 7 (Jenny Burke 2, Anna O’Flanagan 2, Audrey O’Flynn 2, Aine Connery) Belfast Harlequins 1 (Jodie Kee)
Women’s Pool A standings: 1. Pegasus 14pts (+11) 2. Hermes 11pts (+8) 3. Loreto 9pts (+2) 4. Catholic Institute 8pts (0) 5. UCC 2pts (-8)* 6. Belfast Harlequins 1pt (-12)
* UCC docked two points for fielding an ineligible player
Pool B round-up
UCD have a first IHL semi-final to look forward to, complementing their Irish Senior final four date with either Pegasus or Lurgan on April 16 as they picked up a 3-0 away day victory over Cork Harlequins.
They will most likely be joined by Railway Union who won impressively in Armagh, probably being able to go through with a losing bonus point against already eliminated Ards in the final series of games.
For the students, they took control of their tie in Cork in the second quarter when Caroline Hill finished off a strong move down the left wing in the 24th minute. Chloe Watkins made it two within three minutes when she rounded the goalkeeper as the hosts struggled to deal with Niamh Atcheler’s lengthy overheads.
With Quins pushing forward, Hill exploited the space to make it 3-0 in the third quarter, netting a bonus point and rendering next week’s trip to Armagh as academic for their own purposes. The Ulster women, though, will be fighting hard as only a bonus point win will do.
On Saturday, snow ruled out any hockey at Ardmore, necessitating the switch for the Railway tie to a late start at Lisnagarvey.
The water-based pitch suited the Dublin side the better and they settled the quickest with Alex Speers flashing wide after two minutes.
They continued to have the best of the playing the opening quarter as they forced two penalty corners but Armagh keeper Rhiannon McNally kept it scoreless at the first small break.
The Orchard women did break the deadlock early in the second quarter. Emma Stewart’s quick free put Scarlett Holdsworth through; she tapped the ball past her player and slipped the ball past the advancing keeper. Railway responded immediately with Sinead Dooley denied a shot by McNally who was quickly off her line.
But Armagh were dealt a double blow when Jeamie Deacon struck twice in two minutes to put Railway ahead at half time. Her first, a drag flick came from Railway’s third corner and she grabbed her brace from the penalty flick spot.
The Dubliners went further ahead five minutes into the third quarter from open play, Cecelia Joyce having the simple task of putting the ball in the net after Dooley did well to draw McNally.
And that strike proved clinical in the final reckoning as Emer Lucey defended a corner well while chances were scarce in the closing 20 minutes.
Ballymoney, meanwhile, kept their faint semi-final hopes alive with a 1-0 win in a tough midfield battle with Ards in Stormont.
Soccer international Julie Nelson was the match-winner 12 minutes from time, forcing her way into a short-handed Ards’ circle and scoring.
Pool B results: Cork Harlequins 0 UCD 3 (Caroline Hill 2, Chloe Watkins); Ards 0 Ballymoney 1 (Julie Nelson); Armagh 1 (Scarlett Holdsworth) Railway Union 3 (Jeamie Deacon 2, Cecelia Joyce)
Pool B standings (after round four): 1. UCD 13pts (+7) 2. Railway Union 11pts (+7) 3. Armagh 8pts (+1) 4. Ballymoney 5pts (0) 5. Ards 5pts (-4) 6. Cork Harlequins 0pts (-11)