Women’s IHL semi-finals: Delany puts Railway on track for Loreto final date

Women’s Electric Ireland, semi-finals
Hermes 0 Railway Union 1 (Zara Delany)

Zara Delany’s sharply taken effort in the 42nd minute kept Railway Union’s dream of a second IHL title alive, once again frustrating Hermes on final weekend.

Delany nipped in ahead of Emma Gray for a touch to Alex Speers’ cross from a flowing right wing move, deflecting onto the goalkeeper’s pads for an intervention which proved crucial, teeing up a favourable rebound which the striker swept in on her reverse.

It was her fifth strike in seven days and it could have been augmented as Railway had the cleaner chances to push on.

Gray saved brilliantly from Cecelia Joyce on the dive while the follow-up effort from Jean McDonnell cracked the inside of the post.

But no second goal meant Hermes had the chance to nick an equaliser, piling forward in the closing phases. Sinead Connery – in between a green and yellow card – drove through to win the only corner of the game.

Audrey O’Flynn’s drag was well saved by Grace O’Flanagan low but fell invitingly for Gillian Pinder but Emer Lucey reacted quickest to block a key chance with nine minutes left.

While pressure was applied, it proved the last major opening and ended Hermes’ campaign – the fourth time they have reached the semi-finals without pushing on to the title.

Early on, they had the better of proceedings on a slippy surface, Lisa Jacob seeing her early reverse smothered by O’Flanagan.

Quarter-time swapped the initiative with Railway’s triangle of Kate Lloyd, Alex Speers and McDonnell combining well. Lloyd almost slipped home a brilliant lead-goal three minutes before the break but was denied by the outside of the post with a delicate shot.

It stayed out but the momentum remained and the Park Avenue side carried it through to claim a big win and a shot at either Loreto and Pegasus in tomorrow’s final.

Hermes: E Gray, L Jacob, G Pinder, S McCarthy, K McComish, A O’Flynn, F Connery, E Horan, S Connery, C Quinlan (c), M Crowley
Subs: M Goode, C McGilp, R Burke, A Connery, A Harte

Railway Union: G O’Flanagan, I Joyce, K Dillon, H Jenkinson, S Walsh, J McDonnell, E Smyth, E Lucey, S Dooley, O Fox, A Speers
Subs: C Joyce, E Dolan, J O’Halloran, K Lloyd, Z Delany

Loreto 1 (Nicci Daly) Pegasus 0
Nicci Daly’s improbable winner three minutes from time means either Loreto or Railway Union will have their second IHL title tomorrow as the Irish international somehow squeezed home from the baseline.

It was the defining moment of a cracking, end-to-end tie which Pegasus held the edge from play but were always susceptible to a sucker punch.

And so it proved as the ball found its way to Daly on the left baseline and she plotted a route off the goalkeeper’s pads and in for the winner after Cathy McKean had done brilliantly to intercept and find the striker.

Up to then, Claire McMahon’s sublime skills had been the star attraction but the corners she won were faulty at times, two not being stopped, while Arlene Boyles’ thunderbolts were blocked low by Louisa Healy.

While the corner count was won comfortably by Pegasus, Loreto offered plenty in attack in a much more free-flowing game than the first semi-final.

Nikki Symmons – playing centre-forward – intertwined well with Cathy McKean up top while Niamh Small slid a superb cross-shot just across the face of goal.

Nikki Keegan’s run and square ball teed up Daly on the half-hour but she skewed off target to see the scoreboard blank at half-time.

McKean twice had free shots denied while, similarly, Nadine Graham drew the best from Healy to leave the tie scoreless going into the closing phases when Daly pounced.

Loreto: L Healy, A Meeke, N Daly, S McGirr, N Symmons, N Keegan, C McKean, r Keegan, L Colvin, S Clarke, H Matthews
Subs: N Small, O O’Shea, S Evans, J McGirr

Pegasus: S Moffett, N Graham, A Cooke, C McMahon, S Beaney, K McConnell, A Boyles, G Irwin, P Glass, S Quinn, V Surgeoner
Subs: N Pinkerton, S Sloan, E Hood, M Harvey, A Jones

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