Former champions UCD, Pegasus and Loreto along with Hermes will all be hoping to land Irish Hockey League glory this weekend at Grange Road in what is the highlight of the annual club season.
Reigning champions UCD – with an array of international stars – face Pegasus on Saturday morning in the first semi-final at 10.30am.They do have a doubt over the fitness of key striker Anna O’Flanagan – who has scored over 30 goals this season – following a nasty ankle injury sustained in the Netherlands last Monday while in European club action, necessitating a set of crutches to aid her journey home.
At that stage, it was unclear how much damage was done amid the swelling but, if absent, could leave Jonathan Harte’s side shy a potent attacking force.
Nonetheless, Nikki Evans was hugely impressive in their run to sixth place in the EuroHockey Club Champions Cup as were Sarah Greene, Katie Mullan and Leah Ewart at the back.
But the fatigue of three major tournaments within a month – five of UCD’s side were part of the World League round two gold medal winning side – could take its toll.
They meet a Pegasus side – the 2011 champions – in something of a transitional phase with Pamela Glass, Claire McMahon, Sharon Moffett and Arlene Boyles retiring in recent times.
Stephanie Quinn and Suzanne Beaney, though, are both top quality performers while Ayeisha McFerran and Hannah Grieve are growing all the time into the panel since moving to the club.
The second semi-final pairs Dublin rivals Loreto and Hermes. The latter were left stunned by Ulster Elks in the Irish Senior Cup final a fortnight ago, ending their hopes of a quartet of titles.Hermes had won the Leinster league and the Jacqui Potter Cup crown and they will be keen to bounce back quickly from that Senior Cup setback. They are bidding to win the IHL for the first time with Loreto, the side that beat them to the 2009 edition, providing an opposition rich in historic rivalry.
The clubs shared the spoils in the Leinster league, with Hermes winning on the final day of the season to land the title and drop the Beaufort side into fifth place.
But Loreto are different side with their full international quotient of Hannah Matthews, Nicci Daly, Lizzie Colvin and Ali Meeke – who have recently been joined by Hayley Mulcahy – and they picked up an impressive 3-0 win over Hermes.
As such, this looks set to be a combative tie. If Hermes can get speedsters Aisling Naughton, Aine Connery and Sinead Loughran going, they will pose a huge threat while Loreto have similarly strong options in attack and defence to push their claims.
It sets the scene for an exciting finals weekend with the winners of the semi-finals meeting at the same venue on Sunday at 1.30pm.
Women’s Irish Hockey League (all at Grange Road)
Semi-finals (Saturday): Pegasus vs UCD, 10.30am; Loreto vs Hermes, 12.30pm
Final (Sunday): 1.30pm