Women’s Leinster Division Two
In the end, getting over the line proved a slightly drawn out affair but Pembroke II claimed the Leinster women’s division two title on Sunday, surviving a dramatic last gasp corner to draw 0-0 with Old Alex II.
That earned them the point they needed to get out of range of Muckross with one game to go, fulfilling what long looked their destiny after a spectacular start to the season.
They went eight games before conceding a goal and nine before they lost a game, establishing a large lead that moved them to the precipice of retaining the league this weekend.
Had Muckross slipped on Friday against Railway, it might have been Pembroke’s without lifting a stick but Jane Gilsenan’s four goal salvo earned a 4-1 win to keep the title race going.
Pembroke then let a 1-0 half-time lead, courtesy of Maeve Faherty, slip against Loreto II on Saturday as Aideen McGuinness ran up a second half hat trick, giving the Beaufort side a 3-1 win.
Muckross kept up the pressure with a 4-0 win over Avoca on Saturday evening with Sarah Scott on the mark twice while Mia Jennings and Gilsenan’s fifth goal in 20 hours accounted for the others.
And Pembroke coach Patrick Good was worred that their title bid might go down to the final day when Old Alex won a final whistle corner that could have won that tie. But Faherty charged down the set piece to start the celebrations in earnest.
“We have a side filled with really good players rather than superstars so we the emphasis is on a huge team effort with a massive work rate, doing the basics better than the other teams,” Good told The Hook when reflecting on the season.
“Sunday’s draw was a fantastic game; we were very good and so were they. It made it a great way to win the league after Saturday which was our worst performance of the season.”
Good worked with Irish internationals past and present Alan Giles and Maurice Elliott whom he says “couldn’t have been better to work with”.
“Winning back to back leagues is incredible. Five of the squad were totally new so it wasn’t as if we had a settled squad with experience of winning things but we are still in contention to do a double.”
The bid to do that, though, remains several weeks away with the Irish Junior Cup the next competitive fixture on April 18, something that Good finds extremely frustrating.
His team have endured successive back-to-back weekends and will complete their Leinster league programme on February 28 which he sees little sense in, especially with his side having had to play four games in eight days.
“We started the season with 23 players and were wondering how we would find a place for everyone. But, in the last few weeks, we have players like [captain] Fiona O’Donovan lining out with a strapped up broken thumb and Julie Garvey having to play through injury.
“For player welfare, we try and manage our squad as best as we can and not overplay players. But when you are forced to refix a game for the IJC within 10 days, it becomes a huge issue.
“In Pembroke, at the moment, we are blessed for numbers but I don’t know how other, perhaps smaller clubs, can manage it. Professional players would scarcely do it so how do we end up doing this with club players?”
He adds that he does not know why the season is finished by the last weekend in February but says that, as has been suggested to him, “any league, other than division one, should be influenced by the international calendar”.
For now, though, Good can bask in a second successive title in the only two seasons of his coaching career to date with the hope of his side landing the Irish Junior Cup that evaded their grasp a year ago.
“I am so proud of the girls and absolutely delighted for them. You could not work with a better team.”
Friday: Railway Union II 1 (N Carey) Muckross 4 (J Gilsenan 4)
Saturday: Hermes II 0 Old Alex II 4 (S Gilsenan, P Smithwick, P Hopkins, R Hinkson); Pembroke II 1 (M Faherty) Loreto II 3 (A McGuinness 3); Muckross 4 (S Scott 2, J Gilsenan, M Jennings) Avoca 0
Sunday: Railway Union II 2 (M Carey, K Morrissey) Genesis 1 (L Barrie); Pembroke II 0 Old Alex II 0
Monday: Railway Union II 1 (N Telford) Rathgar 0
Women’s Irish Hockey Trophy, third round: Naas 1 (A Sexton) Genesis 2 (S Larkin, K Tanham); Bandon 0 Armagh 2 (C Russell, K Glass)