In stark contrast to the final round of the men’s Irish Hockey League, the permutations abound on the women’s side with eight sides still in the running for the four semi-final berths, making for a thrilling final weekend of the pool stages.
Pool A is an incredibly close affair with five points covering first to fourth with all very much with an interest in the final reckoning. It shows the value of Loreto’s incredible late comeback against Pegasus, coming from 3-1 down to draw as they are easily in the best shape.
They meet an Ulster Elks side beset by injuries and without a win to date but do have the hosting rights at the Glade, Mossley’s ground, for round five. Against a motivated Beaufort side needing just a draw to put them through, it is a tall order.
Hermes’ derby with Railway Union at Park Avenue sees the former knowing that only a victory gives them a chance of returning to the semis. Should they manage that, they would need help from Catholic Institute when they host Pegasus while Railway require the win to avoid recourse to a favour from elsewhere.
Railway welcome back Alex Speers after missing last weekend’s game for a family wedding. Hermes will hope that Lisa Jacob and Audrey O’Flynn continue their fine scoring form as the game looks poised to be a cracker.
Insta have a very difficult assignment this weekend against Pegs after picking up three injuries last weekend in Dublin and others not available due to exams. It has been a difficult campaign for Institute who have managed to play some high-quality hockey against some of the best sides in Ireland.
Pool B is similarly poised though UCD are virtually home and hosed due to their goal difference after three successive goal frenzies. Bridget Cleland’s Ballymoney, though, will hope to put them under pressure as they need a draw to pin down a semi-final place.
Lose by more than two goals at Park Avenue, though, and the Co Antrim will be under pressure from Ards who meet Lurgan at the Glade.
Old Alex has an outside chance of making the final four, needing results to go their way in the other pool games. Their only hope of progression will be if Lurgan beat Ards, UCD put a few past Ballymoney and Alex themselves run up the goals against Cork Harlequins.
At Grange Road this weekend, the women’s junior interpros sees the South East and Leinster battle it out for the title with the blues hoping to retain the crown.
Corinthian duo Colm Blennerhassett and Cathy Brock are on the management team for the Leinster crew with the former hoping the blend of players at his disposal bears fruit.
“We have had a short amount of preparation time and the squad was still getting to know each this week. Despite that it’s a good group of players looking forward to the weekend and hopefully developing as the tournament progresses.
“Captained by Julie Garvey leading from the back and Marie Goulding vice-captain leading the press up front we are confident of producing some good performances.”
Five Kilkenny players make up this year’s South East squad, co-captained by Alexandra Doyle from Weston and Lynn Darling who led the cats to the Irish Hockey Challenge. They have a relatively young team and assistant coach Donal Doyle hopes that their commitment to training will flow over into their campaign.
“I am looking forward to the tournament. Our preparations have gone well due to the dedication of the squad. Their commitment to training has been second-to-none and I would like to thank them for the effort put in to get to the sessions, which required at times a lot of driving.”
Electric Ireland Women’s Irish Hockey League
Pool A: Railway Union vs Hermes, 2pm, Park Avenue; Ulster Elks vs Loreto, 2pm, The Glade; Catholic Institute vs Pegasus, 2pm, Rosbrien
Pool B: Ballymoney vs UCD, 4pm, Park Avenue; Ards vs Lurgan, 4pm, The Glade; Cork Harlequins vs Old Alex, 4pm, Rosbrien
Electric Ireland Women’s Junior Interprovincials (all at Grange Road)
Saturday: Munster vs South East, 9.30am; Connacht vs Leinster, 11.15am; South East vs Ulster, 1.15pm; Leinster vs Munster, 2.45pm; Ulster vs Connacht, 4.30pm
Sunday: Munster vs Connacht, 9.30am; Leinster vs Ulster, 10.45am; Connacht vs South East, 12.30pm; Ulster vs Munster, 2.15pm; South East vs Leinster, 4.15pm