The women’s EYHL promotion playoffs pits Loreto against Ulster trio Lurgan, Randalstown and Belfast Harlequins after two vastly different round-robin groups in Lisnagarvey and the Merrion Fleet Arena.
Pool A was an epic, in the balance right until the end with Lurgan, Randalstown and Old Alex locked on six points with only goal difference separating the three.Lurgan dominated most of Friday night’s game against Randalstown and Charlene Hull grabbed the winner when she coolly converted a penalty corner in the seventh minute.
Old Alex also recorded an opening day win, seeing off Glenanne 2-0 with Hannah McDermott and Leanne Ryan on the mark.
Randalstown got right back in the mix with a 4-0 win over Old Alex on Saturday afternoon, all the goals coming in the second half in a mad-cap blitz of goals. Alex missed a stroke at 1-0 down and hit the post while the Ulster side took their chances to inflict an important win, not least because of the volume of goals.
Lurgan strengthened their position with a 2-0 win over Glenanne, Kathryn Edgar on the double, to make it two wins from two.
It left them top on Saturday night but they needed to avoid a three-goal defeat to Alex in their final game. And they were made to sweat profusely as Rebecca Evans and McDermott both scored in the first half of the tie to make for a really nervy spell for Lurgan but no further goals in an end-to-end half meant the Ulster side prevailed.
Randalstown took the other spot as they picked off a 4-1 win against Glenanne with Zoe Wilson scoring twice – her second and third of the weekend – to ensure they head the group with the healthiest goal difference.
In Pool B, Loreto eased through the competition with 11 goals, none conceded and three strong wins to continue their excellent season. They started in comprehensive fashion, 7-0 winners over Galway before beating Belfast Harlequins and Bandon 2-0 each.
The race for second place saw Belfast Harlequins make a good start as an 18th minute goal from Lucy Geddes gave the south Belfast side a 1-0 win over Bandon.
The west Cork side were eliminated when they fell 1-0 to Tara Melvin’s buzzer beater for Galway, scoring the only of the game from a final second corner.
It meant that the winner of Quins’ tie with Galway would go through to the knock-out phases but the Belfast side proved too strong, sweeping to a 5-0 win and second place.
Geddes struck twice while Claire Weir, Jenna Watt and Odilia Goldsworthy were also on the mark. Weir’s was the pick of the bunch, a great byline effort, while Watt’s was a sweet effort, too, beating a few players in the D before shooting home on the open side.
The playoff semi-finals take place next Saturday at Grange Road with Loreto meeting Lurgan on one side of the draw while Randalstown will play Belfast Harlequins.
** Additional reporting from the Belfast Telegraph’s John Flack
Women’s EY Hockey League Playoffs
Friday: Lurgan 1 (C Hull) Randalstown 0; Old Alex 2 (H McDermott, L Ryan) Glenanne 0
Saturday: Randalstown 4 (CJ McDonald, A Reid, A Christie, Z Wilson) Old Alex 0; Lurgan 2 (K Edgar 2) Glenanne 0
Sunday: Glenanne 1 Randalstown 4 (Z Wilson 2, K McDowell, N Moore); Lurgan 0 Old Alex 2 (R Evans, H McDermott)
Standings: 1. Randalstown 6pts (+6) . Lurgan 6pts (+1) 3. Old Alex 6pts (0) 4. Glenanne 0pts (-7)
Friday: Loreto 7 (L Tice 2, C Baker, N Small, C Vincent, H Matthews, S Evans) Galway 0; Belfast Harlequins 1 (L Geddes) Bandon 0
Saturday: Bandon 0 Galway 1 (T Melvin); Loreto 2 (H Matthews, L Colvin) Belfast Harlequins 0
Sunday: Galway 0 Belfast Harlequins 5; Bandon 0 Loreto 2 (H Matthews, S Evans)
Standings: 1. Loreto 9pts (+11) 2. Belfast Harlequins 6pts (+4) 3. Galway 3pts (-11) 4. Bandon 0pts (-4)
EYHL promotion playoffs (all next Saturday, April 23; Grange Road): Loreto v Lurgan, 10.30am; Randalstown v Belfast Harlequins, 12.30pm