Belfield’s bright lights tonight are the stage for the big game in the Leinster women’s weekend as UCD aim to fire another huge body blow to Hermes’ title defence in a fixture brought forward from December 17.
It allows the array of international talent to be available for such an important tie as the students aim to keep their unbeaten run across IHL, Senior Cup, league and intervarsities going with just one draw – a late concession against Railway – blotting their copybook. A loss for Hermes would see them drop six points off the pace with an extra game played than the students and in fifth place going into the weekend.
They go into the tie with doubts over Sinead McCarthy and Audrey O’Flynn who missed their Senior Cup loss to Old Alex which took away a wealth of international experience from the side as well as a corner option. Coping with former young stars Chloe Watkins, Anna O’Flanagan, Sarah Greene, Deirdre Duke and Niamh Atcheler will be at the heart of the concerns for the Booterstown club.
Gillian Pinder spent preseason in a similar boat and could have joined them but for a late exam result upgrade and she has been a key member of the Hermes’ midfield since, flanked by the combative Sinead Connery. The inter-locked nature of the two panels goes further still as Lisa Jacob, Rachel Burke, Caitriona McGilp and Kerry McComish all have College time under their belt to add to the derby feel.
The Belfielders will go top with victory as Railway do not play domestically, travelling to Prague to take part in an indoor competition. Both Hermes and the students will expect an easier ride on Saturday as UCD go to Corinthian while Hermes go to Grange Road to play a Three Rock Ladies who have proven tough to break down but are still searching for their first goal of the season.
Old Alex and Loreto wait in the wings for any slips that might occur in the wake of Thursday’s game. Alex’s exceptional defensive form welcomes Pembroke to Milltown as they look to extend their run of three clean sheets in Leinster as Sarah Canning and Laura Gray have formed a sterling partnership, protected by Shirley McCay’s dynamism in front.
Loreto face a Glenanne side smarting from their Senior Cup exit in Armagh but buoyed by the return of Ciara Nugent with Kate O’Connor also installed back in sweeper while Kerrie Maunsell has recently been added to the panel.
Taming former Glens’ striker Nicci Daly is a key task from play while Sarah Clarke is their joint top-scorer since her summer move with a half-dozen bullets from corners while Niamh Small, Cathy McKean and Nikki Keegan have all notched a number of efforts.
** For those posting twitter updates from tonight and Saturday’s matches from all divisions, please use the #leinsterhockey hashtag
Women’s Leinster Division One
Thursday: UCD v Hermes, 8pm, Belfield
Saturday: Corinthian v University College Dublin, 2pm, Whitechurch Park; Glenanne v Loreto, 3.15pm, Glenanne Park; Old Alexandra v Pembroke Wanderers, 2.45pm, Alexandra College; Three Rock Ladies v Hermes, 5pm, Grange Road
Division Two (all Saturday): Genesis v Loreto II, 2.30pm, Belfield; Pembroke Wanderers II v Hermes II, 5pm, Serpentine Avenue; North Kildare v Railway Union II, 4pm, The Maws; Old Alexandra II v Newbridge, 1.15pm, Milltown; University College Dublin II v Corinthian II, 1pm, Belfield