Three Leinster sides set to contest women’s IHL semis


Electric Ireland Women’s Irish Hockey League
Pool A: Railway Union 4 (Emma Smyth 2, Zara Delany, Jean McDonnell) Hermes 0; Loreto 5 (Nicci Daly, Jessica McGirr, Niamh Small, Rachel Keegan, Ali Meeke) Ulster Elks 1 (Lyn Brown); Pegasus 3 Catholic Institute 2

Loreto and Railway Union eased into the semi-final berths of the Irish Hockey League, rendering Pegasus’ efforts in Limerick to grind out a 3-2 win not enough.

Both Dublin sides produced breathtaking performances to run up four-goal wins that put them very much in the contenders bracket in Grange Road next weekend.

With Railway’s tip-off time against Hermes delayed due to a pitch-watering malfunction, Loreto were the first to seal their ticket as they ran amok against the Ulster Elks.

Lyn Brown had put the northern side in front but Nicci Daly replied in kind before the first quarter was out and a stellar second stanza saw the Beaufort side virtually home as Jessica McGirr, Niamh Small and Rachel Keegan extended the advantage to 4-1.

Ali Meeke closed out the tie with the only goal of the second half to confirm Loreto as the leaders of an ultra-competitive group.

Railway, meanwhile, wasted little time after their delay against Hermes as Zara Delany nipped onto a lovely through ball by Alex Speers before the striker steadied herself and lifted over the advancing Emma Gray.

Hermes subsequently survived being reduced to nine players and conceding two penalty corners but Jean McDonnell did make them pay when she flicked home from a narrow angle on the backline, working her way past Sinead McCarthy in the corner.

Emma Smyth added two more in the second half, starting it in blistering fashion. Delany instigated the first with Smyth getting a touch on her shot to redirect home and the fourth came from a nice interchange between Speers and Kate Lloyd down the right. The ball was worked through Sinead Dooley and McDonnell before Smyth finished into an open goal

Hermes had some big chances late on but none were capitalised upon, leaving them fourth in the group. Pegasus, though, were the most frustrated side as they battled to victory in Limerick but ended up a point shy of Railway in third place.

Standings: 1. Loreto 18pts (+10) 2. Railway Union 16pts (+8) 3. Pegasus 15pts (+4) 4. Hermes 9pts (+2) 5. Catholic Institute 5pts (-9) 6. Ulster Elks 1pt (-15)

Pool B: Ards 2 (Sara Alexander, Becky Weir) Lurgan 0; Ballymoney 0 UCD 3 (Anna O’Flanagan 2, Chloe Watkins); Cork Harlequins 0 Old Alex 1 (Hannah McDermott)
UCD confirmed first place with a strong 3-0 win over Ballymoney, a result that eliminated the Co Antrim side while allowing Ards to sneak through, too, to the semi-finals.

The students tie was switched to Serpentine Avenue as Park Avenue endured pitch-watering issues on a sunny, dry day in south Dublin and they found the surroundings to their liking.

Chloe Watkins notched their first before the break, capping a dominant showing, by drag-flicking into the roof of the net. Emily Beatty created the next when she raced along the baseline and dropped the ball back into the path of Anna O’Flanagan to get her first of the day.

Ballymoney worked hard to create openings with Nikki Parke being instrumental in midfield but as they pushed on in the final quarter, needing a losing bonus point to stay alive in the competition, they were stung once more.

A lovely passing moved between Watkins and Nikki Evans, who collided with Sammy-Jo Greer, opened the door for O’Flanagan to slot into the empty goal, effectively killing off Ballymoney’s hope of qualifying for the finals.

That was because Ards had picked off a 2-0 win over Lurgan with Sara Alexander setting them on their way before Becky Weir clinched the four points.

It left Old Alex unable to breach the top two but they did close out their IHL campaign with a 1-0 win, Hannah McDermott netting with just a couple of minutes to go to see of Cork Harlequins.

Elsewhere, UCC confirmed their place in the 2013/14 Irish Hockey League when they beat Galway 3-0 with Miriam Crowley, Emily O’Leary and Olivia Roycroft on the mark.

Standings: 1. UCD 17pts (+12) 2. Ards 13pts (+1) 3. Ballymoney 12pts (+5) 4. Old Alex 12pts (-1) 5. Cork Harlequins 6pts (-9) 6. Lurgan 5pts (-8)

Semi-final line-up: UCD vs Railway Union; Ards vs Loreto

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