Loreto claimed the women’s Leinster Division One title, a feat they long looked likely to do, on Saturday afternoon but the playoff picture is still as competitive ever with the last few games open to multiple different outcomes.
The Beaufort side sealed the deal with a 2-0 win over Corinthian with Carly Baker and Hannah Matthews scoring the goals, ending the reds’ five-game unbeaten streak.It was their 15th win of the campaign, scoring almost double the amount of goals of any other side in the division with just seven conceded by end of play on Saturday evening, putting them in great shape ahead of the lengthy EY Hockey League playoff phases.
The battle for the second playoff place, though, is a fascinating situation. The first twist of the weekend saw Muckross grab a 1-0 win over second placed Old Alex with Sophie Barnwell’s first half goal doing the damage.
Glenanne and Trinity took advantage of that loss for Alex to close the gap signifcantly with big wins over Rathgar and Avoca, respectively. The Glens ran out 3-0 winners with Marie Goulding, Sarah-Jane Kelly and Niamh Cashman on the mark while Trinity ran up a 4-1 success.
The Glens followed up with one of the big performances of the season as they scored a 2-2 dreaw against champions Loreto. The Beaufort side spread the ball wide and fast but the Tallaght side stepped up and closed them down at every opportunity.
The greens took the lead halfway through the first half when Serena Rush made a break from the halfway line, sending a cracking ball into the circle for Cashman to get an excellent touch to. The ball soared through the air and over the keeper’s head into the net.
Loreto equalised within a few minutes from a short corner; Hannah Matthews took a rebound and hit a reverse shot across the goal into the net. The Glens fought back and retook the lead with seconds to the end of the half from a corner; Kelly was ready to take the rebound, her second goal of the weekend.
The second half continued much the same as the first; Loreto had possession, creating space and looking dangerous. With some good balls down the line from Ali Meeke, Loreto entered the circle a few times but the Glens defence was solid with Jennifer Rynne calmly saving a ball that came across the face of the goal.
Shortly before the end, though, Loreto won a corner which Niamh Small was able to convert to secure a share of the spoils. With Muckross winning 6-1 on Sunday, too, it makes for a fascinating endgame for the guaranteed second place in the division.
Old Alex have the box seat on 34 points with two games remaining. Glenanne, though, are one point back and will look to jump ahead of the Milltown side when the two meet next Saturday.
Trinity are in fourth place on 32 points with games remaining against Muckross and Genesis over the next two weekends. That tie for Muckross is their last game; should they win, they will hope for a couple of other results to go their way to have a shot at a playoff.
It is all part of a mad scramble for the EY Hockey League promotion places. From Leinster, the top two league finishers will be joined by two teams from Ulster, two from Munster and one from Connacht.
The final place in the eight-team round-robin phase of the playoffs will go to the third place finisher in Leinster and third in Ulster. Of the other provinces, Galway are another side formally confirmed side as the Connacht representative.
In Ulster, Belfast Harlequins have confirmed one spot with Lurgan needing one point from their closing three games to take second. Randalstown, Queen’s and Ballymoney will battle it out for third place and the playoff place. Randalstown play Lurgan on Wednesday evening.
Catholic Institute are leading the way in Munster and need four points from their last five games to formally get over the line. Bandon have second place with Limerick and Ashton in a tie for third place, four points back with Limerick having a game in hand.
Meanwhile in Leinster, Avoca assured their Leinster Division One status with a 3-2 win over Rathgar with Aideen McGuinness scoring twice early on to lay the base for the win. Rathgar will finish in tenth place and potentially await Our Lady’s in a playoff for a reprieve to protect their Division One status.
Women’s Leinster Division One:
Saturday: Avoca 1 (H Clark) Trinity 4 (L Thomas 2, N Sweeney, A Long); North Kildare 0 Genesis 1 (S Kane); Glenanne 3 (M Goulding, S-J Kelly, N Cashman) Rathgar 0; Corinthian 0 Loreto 2 (C Baker, H Matthews); Muckross 1 (S Barnwell) Old Alex 0
Sunday: Glenanne 2 (N Cashman, S-J Kelly) Loreto 2 (H Matthews, N Small); North Kildare 1 (L Hassett) Muckross 6 (E Mathews 2, J Gilsenan, S Barnwell, S Nolan, K Fitzgerald); Avoca 3 (A McGuinness 2, S O’Brien) Rathgar 2 (D de Paor)