Railway or UCD looks to be the main equation on the final day of the women’s EY Hockey League to untangle who will reach the Champions Trophy playoffs while the race to join the elite league begins in earnest.
Already there are Hermes – who will be presented with the regular season trophy following their game with UCC – and Ulster Elks as Irish Senior Cup champions.
It leaves two places open with Pegasus all set to take the third place barring a goalscoring meltdown. The only way they can be denied is if it they lose to Ulster Elks and then Railway beat Pembroke and UCD defeat Ards with a seven-goal swing going against the Ulster side.
As such, the battle looks more likely to be between Railway and UCD in their respective games. The former have the edge by a point but missed their chance last week, falling 1-0 on home turf to Ards.
They will, however, have the benefit of a competitive game in their legs, something that Pembroke don’t have as coach Keith Crawford alluded to, their last match being on March 12.
“It’s been a challenge trying to get back to full match sharpness but we feel we are approaching it ahead of this weekend.”
He gave his side a couple of weeks break before returning for three weeks training and 8v8 matches against UCD but it is a difficult task to get up for, essentially, an academic tie with a win guaranteeing sixth.
UCD, meanwhile, make the trip north needing victory and results to go their way. The Belfielders have been training without the likes of Gillian Pinder, Katie Mullan, Deirdre Duke and Emily Beatty but their top level performances in New Zealand will boost the panel.
Pegasus, to make sure, of their playoff place need just a draw, a stunning turnaround after they languished in the lower reaches of the division in November, waiting until game five for their first win.
They meet an Elks’ side without the services of Shirley McCay who broke a bone in her hand in New Zealand.
The other ties are low-key affairs. Greenfields look to get their first points of the campaign when they host Cork Harlequins while Hermes face UCC who were confirmed in the relegation playoff last weekend.
The battle for promotion, however, hots up significantly over the weekend with the group stages of the playoffs beginning in earnest.
Loreto’s regular season form and Jacqui Potter Cup win suggest they are among the sides to beat. They start off with a tie against Connacht champions in Monkstown before meeting Ulster’s second placed side Belfast Harlequins on Saturday.
Munster runners-up Bandon complete the group off the back of their Irish Hockey Trophy success when they shaded Avoca on strokes.
Old Alex face Glenanne in Lisnagarvey this evening in a tie vital to their respective hopes. Lurgan are the fancied side having won the Ulster title while Randalstown are also a dangerous opponent.
Women’s EY Hockey League (all Saturday): Pegasus v Ulster Elks, 1pm, Queens; Hermes v UCC, 2pm, Booterstown; Greenfields v Cork Harlequins, 2.20pm, Dangan; Ards v UCD, 2.30pm, Ards Park; Railway Union v Pembroke Wanderers, 2.30pm, Park Avenue
EY Hockey League Playoffs
Pool A (Lisnagarvey): Lurgan, Old Alex, Randalstown, Glenanne
Friday, April 15: Lurgan v Randalstown, 5.30pm; Old Alex v Glenanne, 7.30pm
Saturday, April 16: Randalstown v Old Alex, 4.30pm; Lurgan v Glenanne, 5pm
Sunday, April 17: Glenanne v Randalstown, 2.30pm; Lurgan v Old Alex, 2.30pm
Pool B (Monkstown): Loreto, Belfast Harlequins, Bandon, Galway
Friday, April 15: Loreto v Galway, 5.30pm; Galway v Belfast Harlequins, 7.30pm
Saturday, April 16: Bandon v Galway, 3.15pm; Loreto v Belfast Harlequins, 4.15pm
Sunday, April 17: Galway v Belfast Harlequins, 2.30pm; Bandon v Loreto, 2.30pm