UCD storm to third successive Leinster league title

UCD’s women claimed a third successive Leinster women’s division one title as they claimed full points from games against top four rivals Railway Union and Loreto over the weekend, notching up back-to-back 3-1 wins while getting over the line by virtue of Railway’s 4-3 win over Hermes.

In beating such high quality opposition in controlled, composed fashion, it gave a measure of their ability and makes them the clear favourites ahead of Irish Senior Cup finals weekend. On Saturday, they ran good against Railway, outdoing the Dublin 4 side in most aspects.

Former Unionite Jeamie Deacon was their destroyer, netting a penalty stroke and then scoring from play to make it 2-0 at half-time. Katie Mullan extended the advantage to three four minutes into the second half with Zara Delany finishing off Kate Lloyd’s good work late on being the sole response.

It eliminated Railway’s outside title hopes but Hermes were still in position to catch the students. However, their chances were extinguished when they shipped their loss on Sunday to Railway. It was out of character for Hermes who had only conceded seven times in their previous 16 league games as they ended up in a shoot-out with the reigning IHL and Senior Cup champions.

Christine Quinlan had Hermes 2-1 up after 18 minutes but Railway were level early in the second half via Zara Delany. Sinead Dooley made it 3-2 from the penalty spot before Audrey O’Flynn equalised once again from a corner with eight minutes to go.

But Alex Speers nicked a winner at the death and, half an hour later, Hermes’ title credentials were formally extinguished by UCD. At Belfield, they were given an early warning by Hannah Matthews who struck home a corner very early on for Loreto. Emily Beatty levelled quickly and UCD largely controlled the game from there on though they will be concerned at the high volume of penalty corners that were faulty.

They eventually went ahead in the 43rd minute when Nikki Evans intercepted powerfully 35 metres out and bustled up to the edge of the circle. Her slip pass was almost slowed by a deliberate back-stick stuck out to deny Anna O’Flanagan but play was waved on as the Irish international picked up the ball and pushed past Louisa Healy. Healy did get a stick to the shot from point blank range but not enough to stop the ball bobble over the line.

In reply, Ciara Vincent’s pace on the counter did cause issues and she won a corner that Tiffaney Ellis did well to boot away. But UCD were largely in control and sealed the deal with a classy pitch-length move that showed just what the side is capable of at full throttle.

Kate Collins-Smyth got Deirdre Duke and Elaine Carey moving at speed and the latter delightfully exchanged a one-two with Evans, allowing her to slide into an empty net from a selfless final pass. It copper-fastened a 15th league win from 17 outings while their one loss this season came when they were short ten squad players – six of whom were on international duty. That makes them an imposing prospect going into the Irish Senior Cup next weekend when they will Railway Union once again.

Elsewhere, Old Alex moved into pole position for the fifth Irish Hockey League place by virtue of Lauren Kingston’s solo goal in the first half seeing them get the better of Pembroke.

They could not build fully on that result, however, as a 0-0 draw on Sunday against Glenanne meant that Pembroke are still three points behind them with two games to go this term. Pembroke’s 5-0 win on Sunday against Corinthian means they are still in with a chance of nabbing fifth place with two wins probably required against UCD and at Glenanne.

After a scrappy start, Alex forced the issue and won multiple corners, one of which rebounded out to Kingston at the injector’s spot and she scored. Pembroke replied by winning a couple of corners of their own while Jilly Collins was through one-on-one but found Pam Smithwick in top form.

And they built on that momentum in the second half with Rachel O’Brien and Maebh Horan stepping up the pressure in the second half with Collins again brilliantly denied by Smithwick while Sorcha Clarke also came close. Alex were short-handed for some of the closing phases but ultimately held on.

On Sunday, Pembroke bounced back against Corinthian built on four first half goals. Anna O’Neill made the first breakthrough with a back post finish from Rachel O’Reilly. Poacher goals from Collins and Claire Foley put them three up before a well worked corner saw Claire Mulcahy deflect in for her third of the season and fourth before half time.

Corinthian came out battling, forcing Stella Davis into an excellent stop one on one with Ailish Long and saving a stroke well down low from Niamh Sweeney. The game was killed off when Rachel O’Reilly scored in the second phase of a corner.

The reds endured a torrid weekend, falling 3-0 on Saturday to Loreto before that Saturday result against Pembroke. Ali Meeke blasted home a corner from an initially poorly executed corner routine and they extended their advantage to 3-0 with two goals in the early phases of the second half. Player of the match Nikki Keegan went on a mazy run, releasing a pass to Ciara Vincent who timed her ball to Lauren O’Leary who drew the keeper and dined home.

Keegan was involved again three minutes later when Sarah Clarke thumped home her ninth goal of the season.

Glenanne made it four points and two clean sheets from the weekend as Kate O’Connor scored the goal that saw them beat North Kildare 1-0. It leaves the Kilcock side with one game left to try and get ahead of Corinthian and avoid the relegation playoff game.

Women’s Leinster Division One
Glenanne 1 (K O’Connor) North Kildare 0; Trinity 0 Hermes 9 (A Connery 5, C McGilp, R Carrigan, S McCarthy, L Jacob); Pembroke 0 Old Alex 1 (L Kingston); UCD 3 (J Deacon 2, K Mullan) Railway Union 1 (Z Delany); Corinthian 0 Loreto 3 (A Meeke, S Clarke, L O’Leary)

Sunday: Pembroke 5 (A O’Neill, J Collins, C Foley, C Mulcahy, R O’Reilly) Corinthian 0; Hermes 3 (A O’Flynn, C Quinlan, S Hoban-Logan) Railway Union 4 (A Speers 2, S Dooley, Z Delany); Old Alex 0 Glenanne 0; UCD 3 (E Beatty, A O’Flanagan, N Evans) Loreto 1 (H Matthews)

UCD celebrate making it 3-0 against Railway Union in their key game on Saturday Pic: Adrian Boehm

UCD celebrate making it 3-0 against Railway Union in their key game on Saturday Pic: Adrian Boehm

Women's Leinster Senior Div 1