Women’s weekend preview
Unbeaten in the Leinster league and intervarsities retained, UCD can well and truly announce themselves on the national stage on Saturday evening on the Malone Road as they travel to Belfast to play national champs Pegasus.
Postponing last week’s tie with Hermes has ratcheted up the ante in Pool A with four clubs now separated by just two points, meaning any win over near rivals will prove seismic.
UCD won the student event on Tuesday with ten freshers in their number, overhauling a panel which got to the semi-finals of the IHL last term. They fell at that stage to Pegasus – as they did in the Senior Cup – to a Suzanne Beaney inspired Pegs and controlling the striker and forward partner Vanessa Surgeoner will be central.
Stephanie Quinn has found a goal-scoring touch, too, to add to the over-lapping threat of Kate McConnell, making it probably the biggest test of the students’ term to date.
As Munster’s sole side with a win, Catholic Institute will be looking to progress their playoff claims from the same pool against winless Old Alex. Ger O’Carroll’s side moved into a three-way share of second spot in Pool A of the competition last Saturday with Jane Bourke snagging a last-gasp win at Armagh.
With leaders Pegasus facing unbeaten UCD on the same, opportunity knocks for Insta to make further upward headway but they will need to be wary of an Alex side that will have Shirley McCay in harness from the start.
The Irish centurion missed the first half against Pegasus as she attended her masters’ graduation last weekend. Her side had fallen 2-0 down in that time before rallying in the second period with McCay at the base of midfield.
With Roisin Flinn, who comes with plenty of Limerick-family links, Alex have quality around midfield to threaten while six underage interprovincial players aim to use their pace up front to test Elaine Brommell’s back-line at Rosbrien.
Hermes get back into the competition with a home tie against Armagh, looking to add to their bonus point win in the only game they have played to date in the IHL.
Another big victory would leave them in good shape, a contrast to their domestic league form. Undoubtedly packed with quality players, the absence of Jenny Burke and Jenny Kinch at times has left them with a slight shortness in rotation players, notably turning out at Glenanne with a bare 12.
In Pool B, Loreto could take another large step to reaching the semi-finals at the Mardyke if they can grab a third win. They face UCC who have a seven-point margin to make up in Pool B if they are to have higher ambitions, making this a do-or-die encounter from their perspective.
Following a disappointing intervarsity campaign, ending in the plate semi-finals with a 1-0 loss to Trinity, they must now marshal an all-star attacking line-up of Irish internationals Nicci Daly, Niamh Small and Cathy McKean. Cork Harlequins are a point better off but have played a game more. They travel to meet Lurgan for the first time in their history.
The big game in the group, though, is the battle between Railway Union and Ballymoney, any loss leaving the Park Avenue hosts liable to play serious catch-up.
Both sides are unbeaten in all competitions so far, making for a top tie. Emer Lucey is now free to focus solely on hockey having helped Ballyboden St Enda’s to the Leinster club camogie championship final while Julia O’Halloran played a key part in last week’s win over Hermes and could be key again. Keeping a lid on free-scoring Katie Mullan and getting around Bridget Cleland are the big tasks, respectively.
In division one, the mini-league in the bottom half of the Leinster table sees a couple of big ties. Three Rock Ladies and Corinthian fight to get off the bottom ranking in the Marlay derby.
Breaking down the Grange Road hosts will be a major task for the likes of Georgina Fagan as Three Rock have the second best defensive record in the division despite having already faced Old Alex and Loreto. The reds have been more threatening on the counter, using a good press to yield decent chances, making this an interesting clash.
Glenanne will aim to turn the tables on Trinity whom they lost to twice last season which ultimately separated the two teams.
Meanwhile, Carol Metchette has been selected for umpiring duty at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The former Alexandra captain, pictured with Wendy Stewart, was one of the umpires in last weekend’s Pan American Games final in Mexico where the United States produced a shock 4-2 win over world champions Argentina.
Weekend fixtures (all Saturday)
Women’s Irish Hockey League, Pool A: Pegasus v UCD, 6pm, Queens Uni; Catholic Institute v Old Alex, 3pm, Rosbrien; Hermes v Armagh, 3pm, St Andrews
Pool B: Lurgan v Cork Harlequins, 1pm, Lurgan; UCC v Loreto, 2pm, Mardyke; Railway Union v Ballymoney, 4pm, Park Avenue
Leinster Division One: Trinity vs Glenanne, 4pm, Milltown; Three Rock Ladies vs Corinthian, 10.45am, Grange Road
Division Two: North Kildare vs Genesis, 10am, The Maws; Loreto vs Old Alexandra, 4pm, Beaufort
Irish Hockey Trophy, round one: Ballymena vs Limerick, 1pm, Ballymena Showgrounds; NUIG vs Muckross, 1pm, Dangan; Ashton vs Rathgar, 2.30pm, Ashton school; Avoca vs Bandon, 2pm, Newpark
Irish Hockey Challenge, round one: Monkstown vs Gorey, 3pm, Rathdown; Cork Wanderers vs Clonmel, 12pm, Harlequin Park; Botanic vs Wexford II, 1pm, Glasnevin; Tipperary vs Enniscorthy, 2.30pm, Canon Hayes Sports Centre