Electric Ireland Women’s Irish Hockey League
Pool A: Pegasus 3 (S Beaney 2, C McMahon) Loreto 3 (N Small, N Keegan, AN Other); Railway Union 3 (K Dillon, Z Delany, J McDonnell) Ulster Elks 1 (K Lammey); Hermes 5 (A O’Flynn 2, L Jacob, A Harte, K McComish) Catholic Institute 1 (E Cregan)
Loreto’s stunning late comeback to draw 3-3 with Pegasus keeps them in pole position in Pool A as the Ulster champions now rely on favours from elsewhere if they are to progress. They hit the front in the eighth minute only for Pegasus to stretch out a 3-1 lead by the fourth quarter.
Suzanne Beaney’s shot took a foot on the line for a stroke which Claire McMahon duly converted. Nadine Graham’s surging run from defence and her early cross was turned in on the reverse by Beaney and the former international nabbed her second, again getting on the end of a cross, this time from Michelle Harvey’s reverse.
That came early in the fourth quarter, a goal that looked to have put the tie to bed. But Loreto kept pushing forward and Niamh Small’s fifth goal in seven days got them back in it and two minutes from the end, Nikki Keegan hit the roof of the net. That draw keeps their fate very much in Loreto’s own hands, top of the group and needing just a draw against bottom ranked Ulster Elks next week to advance.
Railway moved within a win of the semi-finals when they eventually saw off the Ulster Elks who gave them a fright in the final game of the day at St Andrew’s.
After an initial scare, they seemed to take control in the first quarter when Emma Smyth’s ball in broke for Zara Delany on the left baseline and she drifted back toward the flick spot before clipping home at the near post in the eighth minute.
Rachel King could have levelled before half-time but parity was achieved – after Susie Kells had pulled off some fine saves – when Kirsty Lammey cracked home a corner strike.
It left the Dubliners under pressure but they finally broke through in the fourth quarter when Kate Dillon pushed home a corner to the goalkeeper’s right. They added a third to ease the nerves from an innovative corner move, playing the ball away from the main castle at the top and then switching it past a double-dummy to Jean McDonnell.
The move served to disrupt the Elks running pattern and while they got out to McDonnell, her shot deflected high and over the goalkeeper for 3-1.
Hermes kept alive their outside chance of making the semi-finals when they ran up a 5-1 win over Catholic Institute, eliminating the Limerick side in the process.
Lisa Jacob continued her scoring spree when she gobbled up a loose ball from a right-wing cross on the slide. Aoife Harte got an impudent touch to Kerry McComish’s corner strike for 2-0 at the break before Eimear Cregan pulled one back, rebounding at the second attempt after Naomi Carroll’s turnover.
But the final quarter belonged to the Booterstown hosts as Audrey O’Flynn returned from an injured sustained in the second quarter to drag home a pair of corner shots and McComish added a fifth from the penalty spot.
Standings: 1. Loreto 14pts (+6) 2. Railway Union 12pts (+4) 3. Pegasus 11pts (+3) 4. Hermes 9pts (+6) 5. Catholic Institute 4pts (-8) 6. Ulster Elks 1pt (-11)
Pool B: UCD 7 (A O’Flanagan 3, K Mullan 2, N Evans 2) Lurgan 2 (McClure, own goal); Old Alex 3 (E Hinkson, M O’Donnell, D Costigan) Ards 1 (H Coey); Ballymoney 3 (J Lynch 3, own goal, A Huey) Cork Harlequins 1 (Y O’Byrne)
UCD and Ballymoney put themselves in pole position to progress from Pool B as they ran away with large wins over Lurgan and Cork Harlequins while Old Alex put a big dent in Ards’ hopes.
Top scorer in the Leinster season, Anna O’Flanagan underpinned a 7-2 success for the students as they waltzed to success over a youthful Lurgan. She netted from a corner inside five minutes and while McClure netted from a set piece as well, it was a brief respite.
O’Flanagan replied immediately for 2-1 and the Belfielders moved further ahead via Katie Mullan. O’Flanagan completed her hat-trick and Nikki Evans’ direct run made it 5-1. Lurgan did get one back from an own goal but two more final quarter goals closed out the rout for UCD. Ballymoney had too much in the tank for Harlequins at as Jessica Lynch’s triple saw them home 5-1.
In Dublin, meanwhile, Old Alex secured their second win of the campaign to keep the faintest of lifelines in place. Erika Hinkson’s slap from the right of the circle put them ahead against Ards after ten minutes and it was 2-0 at the break when Millie O’Donnell swept home her second corner goal in a week.
Ards got themselves back in the mix when Hannah Coey eventually flicked the ball over Pamela Smithwick after she had saved a series of corner rebounds. But the game was safe from a classy team goal, Shirley McCay lifting the ball over the Ards’ defence for Sofie McLeod to control and then volley across goal for Danielle Costigan to bat home.
Ards pushed hard for a valuable losing bonus point but it never came and the Ulster side must now beat Lurgan in round five and hope UCD beat Ballymoney.
A draw will do for UCD in that game while Alex need Money and Ards to both lose and then win emphatically in Limerick against Cork Harlequins.
Standings: 1. UCD 13pts (+11) 2. Ballymoney 12pts (+6) 3. Ards 9pts (-1) 4. Old Alex 8pts (-2) 5. Lurgan 5pts (-6) 6. Cork Harlequins 5pts (-8)