UCD make major statement as Hermes, Loreto and Railway notch important wins

Women’s Irish Hockey League
Pool A: Hermes 3 (Gillian Pinder, Lisa Jacob, Sinead Connery) Armagh 0

Hermes made it two bonus point wins from two to head up Pool A with a game extra to play against second place UCD later this month. They got off to a flying start, scoring after three minutes in a swift counter-attack, dispossessing Armagh deep in their own half. Lisa Jacob broke into the circle and rode a stick tackle before eliminating the advancing keeper Rhiannon McNally with an inside ball to the unmarked centre-mid Gillian Pinder who swept into the empty Armagh goal from the penalty spot.

They stretched their lead midway through the quarter as Aine Connery won a short corner. Audrey Flynn dragged to the left, McNally saved but Jacob first timed the ricochet for a decisive second. The second quarter was more even with Armagh absorbing pressure well and outletting effectively against the Hermes press but Hermes continued to hold sway with Pinder, Sinead Connery and Caitriona McGilp strong in midfield.

McNally was busy, repeatedly saving as Hermes won four corners and, from the third, Sinead Connery took an upright stop and cracked home a great strike from the top. While Armagh had some possession in the last 5 minutes Hermes closed the game out without keeper Gray ever being tested.

Catholic Institute 1 (Katie Campbell) Old Alex 0
Katie Campbell’s solo strike put Catholic Institute in major contention for a semi-final place as part of a group of four teams pushing for a playoff place. Old Alex had plenty of scoring opportunities, in particular coming from Roisin Flinn while Shirley Mc Cay held the ball up excellently in midfield while Aisling Naughton went close early on. But Catholic Institute improved steadily as the game went on as Elaine Bromell and Christine O’Shea were both outstanding.

Although Jane Bourke was carded two minutes into the second quarter, they did breakthrough with a well-worked goal was scored in the 29th minute, which began from a picture perfect pass out of defense from O’Shea, who found Eimear Cregan in left midfield, who passed it to Katie Campbell to execute the final shot on goal.

Insta held sway for much of the third quarter with Cregan and Kym Daly going close. Rebecca Coll for Old Alex was unlucky not to score when Ciara Ronan had another excellent save for Institute but no further goals meant the Limerick side stay very much in the mix.

Pegasus 3 (Vanessa Surgeoner 2, Arlene Boyles) UCD 4 (own goal, Jeamie Deacon, Leah Ewart, Anna O’Flanagan)
UCD followed up their intervarsity success with another imposing victory to show they are in it for the long haul, doing the rare feat of winning in Ulster against Pegasus. Vanessa Surgeoner had given her side the lead inside two minutes but the Dubliners stormed back to make it 3-1 at half-time. Grace Irwin and Pamela Glass initially did well to hold out waves of attacks but Nicola Gray’s crash found its way into the goal off a defender’s stick to tie the game up.

Leah Ewart made it 2-1 with a shot from the right of the circle before Jeamie Deacon followed up with a penalty corner for a two-goal margin at the interval. Pegs responded in kind with their own double, Arlene Boyles scoring a corner and, within seconds, Surgeoner got the goal from a Claire McMahon run to make it 3-3. But Anna O’Flanagan netted her seventh goal of the campaign for a huge victory that puts UCD in the top two in the group with a huge game against Hermes to come to determine who goes into the winter break at the head of the table.

Standings (played): 1. Hermes (2) 8pts (+6) 2. UCD (2) 7pts (+4) 3. Pegasus (3) 7pts (+2) 4. Catholic Institute (3) 7pts (+1) 5. Old Alex (3) 1pt (-6) 6. Armagh (3) 1pt (-7)

Pool B: Lurgan 1 (Carly Johnson) Cork Harlequins 1 (Karen Bateman)
Lurgan claimed their first ever IHL points as they garnered a draw from the first ever visit of Cork Harlequins. Former international Karen Bateman handed her side the lead in the 14th minute but it was cancelled out in the 51st minute by Carly Johnston when a quickly taken Sarah McClure free was quickly slipped her way and her shot crept in at the far post. Both sides had chances to win the game but none were taken, leaving both sides all but out of the competition.

UCC 0 Loreto 4 (Sarah Clarke, Nikki Keegan, Sarah Barnwell, Katie Evans)
Loreto maintained their perfect start to the IHL campaign with a third successive bonus point win which has them four points clear of the pack ahead of showdowns with Railway Union and Ballymoney. Sarah Clarke’s well struck corner got them up and running before Sarah Barnwell capitalised on a defensive error to simply convert.

Nikki Keegan put her side in bonus point territory from the penalty spot before Katie Evans completed the win. Emily O’Leary went closest for the students, drawing a strong save from Louisa Healy, but they were in lack lustre form in the wake of the a taxing intervarsities campaign.

Railway Union 3 (Kate McKenna 2, Julia O’Halloran) Ballymoney 2 (Nikki Parke 2)
Railway Union’s super start under-pinned a fine victory over Ballymoney but they stay third in the standings behind the northern side as they grabbed a losing bonus point. Railway will hope to leap-frog them in a couple of weeks, though, when they play their back match against UCC. They built a 3-0 lead off the back of two goals in the first ten minutes, Kate McKenna and Julia O’Halloran on the mark early on, before McKenna grabbed her second early in the second half.

In a second half riddled with cards, the visitors were briefly down to nine players while Railway also endured suspensions which broke up their rhythm. Nikki Parke pulled two back from open play to earn a bonus point on a day of many high quality tussles, notably Kate Dillon and Katie Mullan – a cousin of Railway midfielder Orla Macken.

Speaking about the performance, Railway coach Mick McKinnon said: “The first half is the best we have played in a long time. However, Ballymoney are fighters, and never gave up. I would be happy to play a match like this every week. This match was an advert for a full time IHL.”

Standings (played): 1. Loreto (3) 12pts (+13) 2. Ballymoney (3) 8pts (+3) 3. Railway Union (2) 7pts (+4) 4. Cork Harlequins (3) 3pts (-4) 5. Lurgan (3) 2pts (-9) 6. UCC (2) 0pts (-7)

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