Loreto and Pegasus make statements of intent as Ards stun UCD

finalised

IHL Womens Pool A
Railway Union 1 (Emma Smyth) Loreto 3 (Hayley Mulcahy, Hannah Matthews, Niamh Small); Pegasus 4 (Vanessa Surgeoner 2, Kate McConnell, Suzanne Beaney) Hermes 1 (Lisa Jacob); Ulster Elks 0 Catholic Institute 2 (Eimear Cregan, Elaine Bromell)

Loreto picked up a huge psychological boon on day one of the women’s Irish Hockey League as they saw off perennial rivals Railway Union, bouncing back from the Leinster Senior Cup final defeat with a 3-1 victory in Beaufort.

The hosts thought they had initially broken the deadlock when Ali Meeke had a goal chalked off – after good work from Nikki Keegan – after consultation with the ball deemed to have gone through the side-netting.

But, despite being reduced to ten players for a Hannah Matthews foul on Zara Delany, Loreto did have the lead when Sinead McGIrr’s slap across the circle was controlled and finished quickly by Hayley Mulcahy.

That prompted Railway to raise their game and force a couple of penalty corner chances, but they were unable to convert, with Jessie Elliott in goal in fine form and the energetic Catriona O’Kelly. With Nicci Daly and Lizzie Colvin controlling the middle, Loreto finished the half ahead 1-0.

They increased their lead in fortuitous fashion from a penalty corner. Railway’s goalkeeper Grace O’Flanagan, who had minutes earlier saved brilliantly from a Rachel Keegan close range effort, was unlucky as Matthews shot from the penalty corner, rebounding off the post, hit O’Flanagan on the way out and bounced back in the net.

This kickstarted Railway into action, producing their best spell, raising the tempo, and after a period of sustained pressure and penalty corners they brought themselves back into the tie. A corner push-out went awry but Isobel Joyce and Alex Speers recovered to scramble the ball over to Emma Smyth to score.

The last quarter was a tense affair but, with nine minutes left, O’Kelly’s determination won the vital corner that led to Niamh Small’s deflection making it more comfortable. It leaves them at the top of the group alongside Pegasus and Catholic Institute who got the better of Hermes and Ulster Elks respectively.

At the Joey Dunlop centre, Pegs were in dominant form, drawing some great saves from Emma Gray before Kate McConnell put them in front from a corner on the quarter-time hooter. Suzanne Beaney added the second from another corner before a pair of Vanessa Surgeoner goals in the closing quarter sandwiched one from Lisa Jacob.

In Cork, a goal in each half saw Insta run up a 2-0 win over tournament newcomers the Ulster Elks. Former Irish captain Eimear Creagn smashed home in the 25th minute and while the Elks missed a stroke to level matters, Elaine Bromell completed the win in the second half.

Standings: 1. Pegasus 4pts (+3) 2. Loreto 4pts (+2) 3. Catholic Institute 4pts (+2) 4. Railway Union 0pts (-2) 5. Ulster Elks 0pts (-2) 6. Hermes 0pts (-3)

IHL Womens Pool B
UCD 1 (Anna O’Flanagan) Ards 2 (Janice Vaughan, Chloe Brown); Ballymoney 3 (Nikki Parke, Katherine Minihan, Kate Caithness) Old Alex 0; Lurgan 1 (Zoe Hawthorne) Cork Harlequins 2 (Cliodhna Sargent, Orlagh Cotter)

Ards caused the surprise of the weekend as two goals inside two third quarter minutes set them on course to defeat the Leinster league champions in dramatic fashion.

Janice Vaughan and Chloe Brown both finished off right wing moves to claim the points but the Belfield side were left seething that they were denied a late Anna O’Flanagan equaliser.

The Dublin side had the best of the first half with Nikki Evans unlucky not to get a back post touch to an O Flanagan pass while they also had a couple of corners but their routine suffered through the absence of Niamh Athcheler, Chloe Watkins, Nicola Gray and Brenda Flannery through injury.

They were rocked in the third quarter, meanwhile, as Tamara McLeod’s excellent baseline run brought her right up to Stella Davis before slipping to Vaughan for a simple finish.

The second was a great individual goal by Chloe Brown, pictured. She looked to have blown the chance after hesitating under pressure from Deacon but calmly slotted a reverse in the bottom corner.

UCD fought back and got one back through Anna O’Flanagan after good work from Sam Willis and Kate Collins Smyth in the build-up. O’Flanagan had a second ruled out after the umpires consulted and UCD were unable to convert four corners the last of which was saved by McKnight from a Deacon flick.

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To cap a bad day, Sarah Greene suffered a serious ankle injury late in the game. It leaves the students playing catch-up after Ballymoney made a statement of intent at the Joey Dunlop centre when they undid Old Alex 3-0.

Nikki Parke put her side in front in the second quarter from a broken down penalty corner and that was how it stayed until the final stages of the tie as Old Alex were frustrated to see a penalty stroke awarded before being overturned.

With Alex pushing for an equaliser, Robyn Chambers passed to Katherine Minihan, putting her through one-on-one with Pamela Smithwick. She calmly dodged the Old Alex goalie and scored to make score 2-0. And the win was rubber-stamped when Kate Caithness swept home a penalty corner.

In Cork, Harlequins saw off Lurgan 2-1 as they built on Cliodhna Sargent’s early bullet from the top of the circle, giving them the lead in just the fourth minute. The northern side had their moments in the first half but were pegged back further when Acacia Taylor’s shot was saved by Victoria Parks into the path of Orlagh Cotter who struck home the rebound.

Zoe Hawthorne who struck home in the 52nd minute to make it 2-1 after the Lurgan forwards were left two on one with the Quins keeper. But the Cork hosts held on for the four points with Lurgan taking just a losing bonus from the tie.

Standings: 1. Ballymoney 4pts (+3) 2= Cork Harlequins 4pts (+1) 2= Ards 4pts (+1) 4= UCD 1pt (-1) 4= Lurgan 1pt (-1) 6. Old Alex 0pts (-3)

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