Small’s double double sees Loreto take IHL front-runner mantle

finalised

Women’s Pool A
Loreto remain the only side unbeaten in the women’s Irish Hockey League after they claimed a pair of wins this weekend, something which Railway Union matched in order to rekindle their interest in the competition after an opening day loss.

On Saturday in St Andrew’s, the critical goal came seven minutes from the end as Niamh Small finished off as part of a rich scoring vein for the Irish international in the past week, helping to see off Hermes 3-2.

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Loreto edged into an early lead capitalising on a defensive error for Nikki Keegan to finish neatly past Emma Gray. Audrey O’Flynn’s drag-flick levelled matters from a corner but a second phase corner for the Beaufort side was brilliantly returned back into the mix by Hannah Matthews who found Small on the right post to turn home.

Injector Lisa Jacob equalised for a second time from a corner but, during a stirring closing quarter, Loreto won several corners before the winner came. Nicci Daly’s persistent baseline run saw her force the ball into Small’s path who swept home first time for the winner.

Small was then on the mark five minutes into Loreto’s Sunday date with Catholic Institute which ended 5-2 in the Dublin side’s favour. Hannah Matthews scored from a corner for 2-0 while, in the second half. Cathy McKean found the backboard from an acute angle to further extend the lead.

Eimear Cregan pulled one back but Small’s fifth of the competition put the game beyond doubt while Cregan once again countered with an almost identical solo goal but Nikki Keegan closed out the tie with her side’s fifth goal.

Railway’s recovery mission started on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Insta. Cecelia Joyce got the final touch after a scrappy goalmouth scramble after Emer Lucey’s shot got buried in front of the goal.

Jean McDonnell created the second when her surging left wing run and cross went in off the goalkeeper with Alex Speers providing the distraction. McDonnell then smashed home a neat corner switch for a 3-0 win.

Sunday’s 1-0 win over Pegasus, though, could have the lasting impact on the group as Railway saw off one of their big rivals for a semi-final spot. Sinead Dooley got the only goal in the second minute when Emma Smyth pounced on a poor clearance.

She threaded the ball through to Sinead Dooley who placed it past the advancing Sharon Moffett in the Pegasus net. Moffett then kept her side in the tie with a trio of saves from Alex Speers to keep her side interested and ultimately land a losing bonus point which might prove critical.

Hermes kept their interest in the group alive with a comprehensive 6-0 win over the Ulster Elks with Lisa Jacob shooting a hat trick. The Elks are out of the reckoning after they fell 1-0 to Pegasus on Saturday.

Saturday: Hermes 2 (A O’Flynn, L Jacob) Loreto 3 (N Small 2, N Keegan); Railway Union 3 (C Joyce, own goal, J McDonnell) Catholic Institute 0; Ulster Elks 0 Pegasus 1 (V Surgeoner)

Sunday: Loreto 5 (N Small 2, H Matthews, C McKean, N Keegan) Catholic Institute 2 (E Cregan 2); Pegasus 0 Railway Union 1 (S Dooley); Hermes 6 (L Jacob 3, A O’Flynn, J O’Brien, J Kinch) Ulster Elks 0

Standings: 1. Loreto 12pts (+6) 2. Pegasus 9pts (+3) 3. Railway Union 8pts (+2) 4. Hermes 5pts (+2) 5. Catholic Institute 4pts (-4) 6. Ulster Elks 1pt (-9)

Women’s Pool B
UCD are right back in the running as they rose from their defeat to Ards a week ago with key wins over Old Alex and Cork Harlequins to lift them to the top of Pool B.

After a tentative first quarter, the students were in devastating form against Alex on Saturday, running up a 4-1 success. Caroline Hill’s intercept set up Nikki Evans to roof the first while Niamh Atcheler crashed home a corner rebound. Seven minutes later and skilful approach work from the returning Chloe Watkins offered up the chance for Evans to score here second for 3-0 at half-time.

Anna O’Flanagan made it four before Lauren Kingston got one back with four minutes to go. UCD ran up another comfortable win on Sunday, seeing off Harlequins 4-0, taking the lead in the eighth minute when Nikki Evans reeled in a miscontrolled ball in the circle, rounded Vanessa Sargent and hit home.

Jeamie Deacon’s sharp volley made it two and it became 3-0 in the 41st minute when a Katie Mullan reverse cross was bundled in by Evans. Caroline Hill scored the goal of the game on the 3rd quarter hooter sliding in to deflect an Evans reverse stick cross into the roof of the net.

They are tied up at the top with Ards who picked up five points over the weekend. First off, they shaded a 2-1 win over Cork Harlequins, dominating the first quarter with Hannah Coey finishing nicely and Sar Alexander doubling the score.

Quins got themselves back into the game with nine minutes to go following a corner strike from Cliodhna Sargent taking a deflection from Acacia Taylor but they could not force an equaliser. But Ballymoney brought Ards back down to earth on Sunday with Bridget Cleland’s single goal the difference, coming in the 25th minute when she picked up a corner rebound.

It allowed Money to bounce back from a stunning 5-3 setback against Lurgan a day earlier. Ballymoney had led 3-0 with Nikki Parke on the mark twice by the 46th minute. But an amazing five-goal spree in 19 minutes swung the tie in Lurgan’s favour for their first win of the campaign.

Old Alex closed out the weekend with a 3-1 win over Lurgan. Charlene Hull’s corner had put the Ulster side in front but some superb goals from Shirley McCay turned the tie in Alex’s favour.

The first came from dynamic individual skill to beat a number of players and found herself with space at the top of the D, and reversed in. Millie O’Donnell put Alex in front with from the third corner of the game before McCay extended the lead midway through the quarter with another reverse.

Saturday: Ballymoney 3 (N Parke 2, J Lynch) Lurgan 5 (L McKee 2, P Joyce, J-A Wilson, C McCann); UCD 4 (N Evans 2, N Atcheler, A O’Flanagan) Old Alex 1 (L Kingston); Cork Harlequins 1 (A Taylor) Ards 2 (S Alexander, C Brown)

Sunday: UCD 4 (N Evans 2, J Deacon, C Hill) Cork Harlequins 0; Old Alex 3 (S McCay 2, M O’Donnell) Lurgan 1 (C Hull); Ards 0 Ballymoney 1 (B Cleland)

Standings: 1. UCD 9pts (+6) 2. Ards 9pts (+1) 3. Ballymoney 8pts (+2) 4. Lurgan 5pts (-1) 5. Cork Harlequins 5pts (-4) 6. Old Alex 4pts (-4)

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