Three of the four Irish Hockey Leagues, on the face of it, currently offer limited potential intrigue with wedges forming between the top sides and the chasers.
Not so in Pool B of the women’s competition which sees plenty of key battles to be played out. With the top four meeting each other, there looks to be a good shake-up this weekend with Pegasus, Cork Harlequins, Ards and Loreto jostling for position.As such, those two games are definitely the ones to watch in round three of the women’s Irish Hockey League. Pegs have hit form at a good time, retaining their Ulster Premier League title in midweek fashion with a 5-3 win over Ards in the title decider.
The oranges had led 3-1 in the first half to look likely to claim the league but a Vanessa Surgeoner hat trick and one from Robyn Chambers turned the tide in dramatic fashion. In addition to two IHL wins, they are very much back after they bowed out of the Senior Cup to Glenanne.
Pamela Glass and Suzanne Ferris give a youthful squad experience while Kate McConnell and Steph Quinn are midfield dynamos.
They welcome Cork Harlequins who are on a high thanks to their 2-0 win over Ards on home turf last week and if they can nick something from this tie.
Loreto, meanwhile, stay in Dublin for a third successive week and host the oranges at Beaufort in a repeat of last year’s Irish Hockey League semi-final which Loreto progressed from. They have had a turnover in personnel since then but Ards have had a tricky week to make this a tough one to call.
Ballymoney host Old Alex in the other game in the group with both sides looking for their first win of the season.
On paper, Pool A could be a bit of a holding weekend with the three Leinster sides having the look of clear favourites going into their third series of games. UCD are runaway favourites to continue their perfect record against Greenfields with the chance of Brenda Flannery coming up against her home club for the first time.The Galway side are buoyed by their first IHL win a week ago against Lurgan with Mary Healy showing a liking for the competition with two goals to date. But the students are a vastly different prospect and will expect, with home advantage, to make it three wins from three, an outcome that would give them at extension on their four point buffer in the playoff zone.
Railway Union’s bid to keep pace sees them face a Catholic Institute side who need victory to keep their chances of progressing in the competition. But the Limerick side have endured some tough defeats on the national stage this season, falling 5-1 to Ards in the Senior Cup and 7-0 last weekend against UCD.
Against a goal-hungry Railway – with Kate Dillon, Jean McDonnell and Alex Speers all in good form – they will have their work cut out to bounce back and keep the group in the balance.
For Hermes, there may be some frustrations to get out of their system after opening losses to UCD and Railway Union have left them with just two losing bonus points to their credit.
Lurgan are the other side without a win to date but, with no goals to their name and similarly no goals in 80 minutes in the Senior Cup semi-finals, their struggles in front of goal would see a Hermes side with Aine Connery in rude health as the favourites.
Elsewhere, Pembroke and UCD shared a midweek 1-1 draw in the final game of the Leinster women’s division one season with Jilly Collins on the mark before regular keeper Tiffany Ellis deflected past former UCD net-minder Stella Davis in the last 20 minutes.
St Patrick’s Day brings three LHA finals to Grange Road with Railway Union hoping to retain the Jacqui Potter Cup title when they take on Trinity who are looking to win the title for the first time in 81 years and first final since 2008.
They will look to key players like Anna May Whelan, Sophie Marshall and Avril Dooley O’Carroll and they are a tidy outfit under Gavin Bourke and Richie Pedreschi, staying up in division one with plenty to spare despite wholesale departures in the last couple of years.
Railway, though, have so much experience on this stage and are aiming for a third title in four seasons since making the breakthrough in 2011.In the Junior Jacqui Potter Cup, Corinthian and Old Alex are back in action for a third successive season with the score count currently one each. Genesis and Hermes meet in the Trophy.
Midweek’s Leinster division two fixtures set up March 22 as a nail-biting final date for Genesis as their 1-1 draw with Loreto II, allied to Muckross’s 0-0 tie with UCD II on Wednesday, means that they will watch and wait to learn their fate.
If Muckross had won that tie, that would have guaranteed they would be involved in a playoff for promotion to division one against North Kildare whose wait for the playoff looks set to continue for over a month. However, with Genesis’s programme finished, Muckross have a second chance to secure that playoff if they get at least a draw against Old Alex II.
Women’s Irish Hockey League
Pool A: UCD vs Greenfields, 2pm, Belfield; Lurgan vs Hermes, 2.30pm, Lurgan HS; Railway Union vs Catholic Institute, 2.30pm, Park Avenue
Pool B: Pegasus vs Cork Harlequins, 1pm, Queen’s; Ballymoney vs Old Alex, 2.30pm, Joey Dunlop Centre; Loreto vs Ards, 2.30pm, Beaufort
St Patrick’s Day, at Grange Road
Jacqui Potter Cup final: Railway Union vs Trinity, 2pm
Junior Jacqui Potter Cup final: Corinthian vs Old Alex, 10am
Junior Jacqui Potter Trophy final: Genesis vs Hermes, 11am
Women’s Division One
Tuesday: Pembroke 1 (Jilly Collins) UCD 1 (Tiffany Ellis)
Wednesday: Genesis 1 (tbc) Loreto II 1 (tbc)
Thursday: UCD II 0 Muckross 0