Hermes ready for Leinster coronation

Barring any last minute miracles, Hermes will be the side to end Railway Union’s two-year reign as Leinster champions on Saturday.

They can do so even with a heavy defeat at the hands of UCD at Belfield as the weight of goal difference is massively in their favour on Loreto – +43 in comparison to the Beaufort side’s +32 – which will be the decider should they end up level on points.

Such a likelihood is unlikely in the extreme, even against an in-form UCD side – guaranteed fourth by virtue of games won due to Alex’s draw on Monday night – who have a pair of national semi-finals to look forward to.

Monday night’s victory over Railway Union proved the season’s defining night as Hermes played a smart game, countering brilliantly on two occasions to grab the spoils.

With Chloe Watkins and Niamh Atcheler moving on in preseason to UCD, the Booterstown club has rallied impressively to build a squad capable of taking the Leinster title. Audrey O’Flynn, Sinead McCarthy and Lisa Jacob more than evened out that international deficit.

Kerry McComish and Eimear Horan’s arrival from Ulster and the addition of Sinead Connery from Cork C of I have added an additional dimension to their outlook.

The conveyor-belt of young players into the first team has been aided by the regular, enforced breaks of their international contingent – now at six – with Emma Russell’s goal on Monday indicative.

She adds to the schoolgirl quotient of underage internationals of Deirdre Duke and Gillian Pinder while Laura Pinder has also grown into the team.

There will be the caveat that four points exist between Railway and Hermes going into the final games of the season, the exact punishment meted out to the Park Avenue club for their opening day registration indiscretion.

That 8-1 win over Bray was chalked off and replaced by a 1-0 defeat and a one-point deduction. It means the Park Avenue side are bystanders as they relinquish their crown in their final game against Loreto.

With a direct clash between their first team’s game and their seconds Irish Junior Cup final date at Belfield, it is likely that those eligible for second team duty will skip the division one tie.

There is still plenty to play for from their perspective, though, as they need to win to ensure three home ties in 2011/12’s IHL, perhaps crucial in what will be a group of death with Pegasus likely opponents.

The seconds face a Lisnagarvey side going in search of a one-of-a-kind double. Clubs who contest both the Junior Cup and the Irish Hockey Trophy are usually weeded out in the early stages of the former but Garvey arrive in Dublin unbeaten since January and bouyed by their first team counterpart’s victory in the IHT last week.

Railway are hoping to make it a third win and first since 1977 in the competition following near missed in 1978, 2008 and 2009.

Loreto will want to make Hermes earn their title and also deny Railway those three home ties with a draw their minimum requirement on the latter count.

Unlike the other three sides in action this weekend, it is the Beaufort side’s swansong for domestic hockey this year, leaving them a huge 62 days to prepare for their European trip to Lille.

In division two, Genesis could yet escape the drop in remarkable fashion. The Galloping Green club has gone six games unbeaten in recent weeks to double their points tally to a point where they need a draw to lift them out of the bottom two for the first time this season. Hermes II were beaten in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night 3-2 to set up a three-way tie with Loreto II.

Our Lady’s fell 2-1 to Old Alex II on Thursday night in their final game to be the vulnerable side, Loreto saved by virtue of games won. It leaves the Templeogue side anxious viewers at Grange Road where they need a favour from Three Rock Ladies in Niall Denham’s last league game in charge.

TRL have the carrot of a division one/two promotion/relegation decider – which will take place against Corinthian on April 16 in Serpentine Avenue – to play for, though, and a win will see them the top-ranked first team ahead of North Kildare.

Three Leinster finals, meanwhile, take place at Grange Road on Sunday with Clontarf II (picture courtesy of Wal McConnell), powered by the goals of Susan Murphy and Ciara Byrne and the goalkeeping of Michelle Ryan, taking on Loreto IV in the division 5/6 final.

Monkstown ladies go in search of a double when they face Railway Union IV in the 7/8 Cup final while the seconds of Navan and YMCA ladies contest the 11/12 decider.

Women’s Leinster Division One, Saturday: Loreto vs Railway Union, 1.30pm, Beaufort; UCD vs Hermes, 11.15am, Belfield
Division Two, Saturday: Three Rock Ladies vs Genesis, 1.15pm, Grange Road; Muckross vs Hermes II, 11.30am, Booterstown
Sunday: Loreto II vs Railway Union II, 11.30am, Beaufort
Thursday: North Kildare vs Railway Union II, 8pm, The Maws

Irish Junior Cup final, Saturday: Lisnagarvey vs Railway Union, 1.15pm, Belfield

Division 5/6 Cup final, Sunday: Clontarf II vs Loreto IV, 4pm, Grange Road
Division 7/8 Cup final, Sunday: Monkstown vs Railway Union IV, 1.30pm, Grange Road
Division 11/12 Cup final, Sunday: Navan II vs YMCA II, 3.30pm, Grange Road

Women's Leinster Senior Div 1