Tight-knit women’s IHL groups set for big showdowns

It’s moving weekend in the women’s Irish Hockey League with victory in round three of the competition likely to see the race for semi-final places move closer to finding a resolution.

Pool A is incredibly close-knit with five teams covered by just two points with Ballymoney the one straggler without a point on the board.

As such, it makes each of the ties of the utmost importance. Railway Union’s hosting of Pegasus at Park Avenue is particularly do-or-die in a repeat of last year’s Irish Hockey League semi-final.

Alex Speers has swapped Railway yellow for Pegasus' red Pic: Adrian Boehm

Alex Speers has swapped Railway yellow for Pegasus’ red Pic: Adrian Boehm

Railway missed Kate Dillon, Cecelia Joyce and Grace O’Flanagan last weekend as they ground out a win over Trinity but their return could see them gain some extra fluidity. Their win over UCD suggests they enjoy much more open affairs than trying to unpick tightly-knit defences with the hope Pegasus will attempt to push forward.

Former Railway woman Alex Speers will lead the visitors’ line while Suzanne Ferris and Vanessa Surgeoner make up a strong forward line while Pegaus have been refreshing their side over the past couple of years.

Hermes head the group at this stage along side Pegasus on six points and, on home soil, they play UCC who are two points back. Audrey O’Flynn’s break from the game means the students will be relieved not to face one of their former players.

But the Booterstown side’s compact panel is brimming with quality and a victory here would push them closer to a semi-final spot especially with two more than winnable ties to come having already played Pegasus and Railway.

Money, meanwhile, will be bouyed by their 1-1 draw in midweek against the high-flying Ulster Elks and will look to grab something from their trip to Lurgan.

In Pool B, UCD and Loreto – the two sides with two wins from two – meet at Belfield in another repeat of last year’s semi-finals. Anna O’Flanagan and Nikki Evans have combined for over 20 goals already this term, meaning it is likely to be a busy outing for the Loreto defence.

Hannah Matthews has been performing that role admirably while also weighing in with a string of set piece goals at the far end – seven times already – to be one of the key performers for Niall Denham’s young side.

Whoever wins that tie will move to the brink of the semi-finals even with two games to go. The rest of the group will be hoping to close the gap.

Ulster Elks have two losing bonus points on their record but will fancy getting a win on the board against Greenfields despite some recent low-key results. Ards and Cork Harlequins, meanwhile, showdown in Ulster.

Away from the IHL, there is a full schedule of Leinster women’s division one games with Saturday seeing the non-IHL teams in action. Pembroke can move up the overnight rankings if they get the better of Stephen Stewart’s Corinthian.

North Kildare will need to get something out of their home date with Old Alex if they are escape the bottom rung of the table while Glenanne and Trinity is certain to be a hotly contested tie.

Sunday sees UCD come up against Hermes in a hugely anticipated game while Loreto face Railway.

Women’s Irish Hockey League
Pool A:
Hermes v UCC, 2pm, St Andrew’s; Lurgan v Ballymoney, 2.30pm, Lurgan HS; Railway Union v Pegasus, 2.30pm, Park Avenue
Pool B: Ulster Elks v Greenfields, 2.30pm, Newtonabbey; Ards v Cork Harlequins, 2.45pm, Ards LC; UCD v Loreto, 2.45pm, Belfield

Leinster Division One
North Kildare v Old Alex, 1pm, The Maws; Glenanne v Trinity, 2pm, Glenanne Park; Pembroke v Corinthian, 3.30pm
Sunday: UCD v Hermes, 2pm, Belfield; Loreto v Railway Union, 2.45pm, Beaufort

Division Two
Muckross v Rathgar, 3pm, Muckross Park; Hermes II v Loreto II, 1pm, St Andrews; Old Alexandra II v Avoca, 1.30pm, Alexandra College; Genesis v Pembroke Wanderers II, 2pm, St Raphaelas; UCD II v Railway Union II, 4.30pm, Belfield
Sunday: Avoca v Muckross, 2.30pm, Newpark

Women's Leinster Senior Div 1