Railway, Pegasus and UCD progress playoff hopes as Hermes inch closer to clinching first

Women’s EY Hockey League
Pembroke 1 (Caroline Hill) Pegasus 2 (Rosie Henderson, Alex Speers)

Alex Speers produced a final quarter goal to edge this key battle in the race for the women’s EY Hockey League playoff places, winning their seventh game in their last eight outings. It lifts them to third place on their own with Pembroke dropping to fifth place with a game extra played.

Pembroke had the slight edge in the early stages and saw more of the ball than Pegasus. Both teams had a player green carded but neither side took advantage of the extra player. Pegasus upped the pressure in the second quarter and Stella Davis was proving much the busier goalkeeper, crucially keeping out a corner in the 19th minute.

She was beaten, however, in the 41st minute when Rosie Henderson popped home from the second phase of a corner. Steph Quinn was instrumental in winning the ball and scrambling the ball Henderson’s way. Caroline Hill replied quickly with a goal from open play in the 45th minute to make it 1-1 going into the final phases.

But Pegasus upped the tempo once again and while a corner shot was taken off the line by Rachel Scott, the Ulster side took the lead when Speers made a thrust away from Davis to the left of the circle before slotting home.

Greenfields 1 (Orla Callanan) UCD 5 (Deirdre Duke 2, Hannah McKay, Emily Beatty, Leah Ewart)

UCD produced a five-star second half comeback to avoid a surprise defeat in Galway after Greenfields had held a 1-0 lead at the break.

That advantage owed much to Sinead Collins’ goalkeeping and last-ditch defending while Brenda Flannery – against her former club – was the key playmaker, ably assisted by Ellie Noone.

After that initial barrage, play began to swing from end to end with Deirdre Duke, Elaine Carey and Aisling Naughton testing the Greenfields’ defence. UCD were stunned on the counter, however, when Carmel Heery’s cross in from the right hit the post and Orla Callanan was first to react, her shot finding the bottom right corner.

The studemts, though, turned the game in the third quarter with a pair of Deirdre Duke goals and one from Hannah McKay. Duke picked up the pieces from a Collins’ save to level matters early in the second half, making no mistake from close range. Five minutes later Duke was in for her and UCD’s second goal when good play down the right saw Duke eventually pick up the ball on the penalty spot and she finished well to the right corner.

Greenfields lost the influential Flannery during this quarter through a back injury which had limited her playing time in the two preceding quarters Hannah McKay added the third goal that put UCD in a far more comfortable position.

And UCD continued to dominate and were rewarded with two further goals. Leah Ewart netted after some fine work again down the right which resulted in a cross which found Ewart free on the far post and she scored from close range. UCD scored their fifth goal from a well-worked short corner which was deflected in by Emily Beatty.

Pegasus celebrate Rosie Henderson's opening goal. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Pegasus celebrate Rosie Henderson’s opening goal. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Ards 1 (Kerry Harvey) Hermes 2 (Nikki Evans, Sally Campbell)

Hermes got the best of an explosive final quarter, getting the best of a flurry of three goals in the closing seven minutes to maintain their perfect run of wins to move ever closer to the regular season title and a European spot.

The first two quarters were especially tight with most of the tie played between the 23-metre lines. Ards’ Ashley McIlroy made a double save from the pick of the chances while Tamara MacLeod broke into the circle at the far end but her last pass was turned wide by Scarlett Holdsworth.

Into the second half, Chloe Brown’s crash ball was turned goalward ny Naomi Grundie, forcing a smart save from Emma Gray as the scoring blank continued. Hermes eventually broke that deadlock in the 52nd minute when Nikki Evans got the finishing touch.

Kerry Harvey’s equaliser came within two minutes when she deflected home a penalty corner. Ards then came close to taking the lead moments later when Sara Alexander’s strike went inches wide. But Hermes broke Ards’ hearts with less than 10 seconds remaining when Sally Campbell forced home after a scramble in front of goal to nick the winner.

Railway Union 2 (Michelle Carey, Hannah de Burgh Whyte) UCC 1 (Kate Harvey)
Railway Union strengthened their hold on a playoff place with results elsewhere meaning they have five points in the bank over fourth placed UCD and Pembroke in the race to be one of the top three sides in the league.

The win was much tighter than when the sides met before Christmas at the Mardyke when Railway won 4-0. The Dubliners did most of the damage in the first half with Michelle Carey scoring early on. It came from a nice interchange with fellow youngster Nina Heisterkamp which led to a shot that was initially saved by Kat Murphy but Carey snapped up the rebound.

Railway continued to press but were frustrated when Hannah de Burgh Whyte’s penalty stroke went wide from a great chance. No matter, she wasted little time in making amends when she intercepted a pass, stormed up the pitch and shot home for 2-0.

Alex Speers gets away from Stella Davis. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Alex Speers gets away from Stella Davis. Pic: Adrian Boehm

UCC picked up their game in the second half and were rewarded when a quick break from midfield was clinically finished by Kate Harvey. Their high, energetic pressing saw UCC look for an equaliser with Riona Norton called into action on a number of occasions.

But it never came in a scrappy closing quarter in which Murphy tipped away a rasping shot while UCC went close to a tip-in at the back post but no further goals accrued.

Ulster Elks 1 (Jess McMaster) Cork Harlequins 3 (Cliodhna Sargent, Yvonne O’Byrne, Lesley-Anne Daunt)

Cork Harlequins’s topsy-turvy season hit an up-note to reignite their interest in the playoff places as Ulster Elks fell to a fifth successive loss in the league.

Goals from Lesley-Ann Daunt and Yvonne O’Byrne late in the third quarter proved the difference for Quins who made it six wins and six losses from their 12 games this season.

Cliodhna Sargent started the scoring with the only goal of the first half with a bang from a penalty corner hit. Elks started the second half strongly and were back on terms via Jessica McMaster.

But the Jordanstown side suffered a big blow when Rebecca Barry added to their injury woes, requiring an ambulance with the game delayed by an hour. On the restart, Elks had a corner goal chalked off after an umpire’s consultation before Quins got their key goals – O’Byrne scored from a corner before Daunt netted from play. A final quarter of broken play for the most part saw no advance on the scoring and Quins had the win.

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