Last weekend’s EuroHockey Club Champion’s Trophy victory has shown just how threatening Pegasus can be, especially with Suzanne Beaney, Vanessa Surgeoner and Claire McMahon all in scintillating form.
Their exploits look to virtually assure Ireland – and this season’s IHL winners – a first ever place in the new format of European Club Champions Cup.
By winning the competition in Belfast, combined with Metrostroy St Petersburg’s fourth place finish and SHVSM Izmaylovo’s elimination in the first round in the Cup competition, Pegasus will at least leap past Russia into the top eight ranked nations while they have significantly closed the gap on the Belarus and Belgium.
It raises the stakes going into round four of the Irish Hockey League. For Pegs, their main worry for the battle with Armagh is availability of defensive lynch-pin Arlene Boyles who took an injury toward the end of that intense tournament. Michelle Harvey – who started the first three games from the bench – does provide an excellent replacement to slot in next to the immaculate Pamela Glass and Nadine Graham’s power at right back.
Pegs are on seven points in third and will be keen to close the gap on Hermes and UCD before a critical round five.
From a quartet of contenders, Hermes’ two remaining games could be the most central in deciding the fate of who goes through and they will be adding four internationals to Lisa Jacob from their final Leinster league game against Railway.
They sit top of a competitive pool on an impressive 11 points from three rounds and will enjoy home advantage against Catholic Institute.
Insta must win to remain in contention in the pool for a semi final place. The two teams met in the competition last year with Hermes coming out 2-1 winners in a pivotal tie. Institute will look to the experience of Eimear Cregan and Elaine Bromell on the day.
Just up the hill, UCD will look to progress their claims of a return to the semis when they host already eliminated Old Alex, looking to build on their first ever Leinster league win. Both sides also welcome back their internationals after recent Irish duty.
Three from three, something’s got to give when the top two clash in Pool B when Loreto host Railway Union in a gladiatorial challenge. Emma Smyth was Railway’s number 17 on the final day of league action against Hermes but her guile in midfield will be a big plus with Alex Speers also returning up front to offer another forward outlet.
Emer Lucey has a rib injury, though, which could disrupt their defensive balance in the face of the challenge posed by Cathy McKean while Ali Meeke was one of Leinster’s top performers last weekend in the U-21 side’s midfield.
She and Hannah Matthews have Irish trials to look forward to following their performances in Cork as part of a group of 14 hopefuls from the province. A winner from this tie should go through to the semi-finals with only Ballymoney in a position to upset the Leinster hegemony.
They come head to head with Lurgan who are high on confidence with a full complement of players looking forward to building on the club’s recent third place finish in the UHU Premiership, the highest placing in the club’s history.
Supporters of the club are anticipating an entertaining game against Ballymoney following the exciting 4-4 draw between these two teams at the end of March. Cork Harlequins and UCC meet for local pride in the remaining Pool B game.
In the Irish Junior Cup, Pembroke and Hermes’ second strings come face to face on Sunday while Loreto’s double hopes see them host Cork C of I to Beaufort.
Just up the Grange Road, six of the Leinster division cups will be decided in a bumper day of action.
Electric Ireland Irish Hockey League
Pool A: Pegasus v Armagh, 2.30pm, Queen’s; Hermes v Catholic Institute, 3pm, St Andrews; UCD v Old Alex, 4.20pm, Belfield Pool B: Cork Harlequins v UCC, 3pm, Farmer’s Cross; Loreto v Railway Union, 2pm, Beaufort; Ballymoney v Lurgan, 2.30pm, Joey Dunlop Centre
Women’s Leinster Cup finals (all Sunday at Grange Road) Front Pitch:
Division 9-10: Glenanne 3 v Our Lady’s, 11.30am Division 5-6: Three Rock 2 v Our Lady’s, 2pm Division 3-4: Bray v Suttonians, 4.30pm
Division 13-14: Loreto 7 v Avoca 5, 11am Division 11-12: Skerries 3 v Avoca, 1.30pm Division 7-8: UCD 3 v Loreto 5, 4pm
Electric Ireland Irish Junior Cup (Sunday): Pembroke v Hermes, 2pm, Serpentine Avenue; Loreto v Cork C of I, 1pm, Beaufort
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