The meeting of last year’s two EYHL finalists at the Merrion Fleet Arena – Hermes-Monkstown and Pegasus – promises to be the highlight of day three of the new women’s campaign.
The reigning champions made two major statements of intent on the opening weekend with 15 goals – nine from Anna O’Flanagan – showing little difficulties in dealing with the name change.
Indeed, was it ever likely to be the case with the majority of last year’s Hermes panel available, augmented by New Zealander Lizzie Redwood, Lily Lloyd from Railway and Slaine Fitzpatrick from the Monkstown side of the join. Emma Gray is currently away and so missed the opening weekend of the season with Liz Murphy coming in between the posts.
Pegasus were also free-scoring on the opening weekend with former Irish captain Alex Speers scoring three times. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Speers said that it has been a much-improved opening to the campaign compared to last season.
“We are confident we can go down there and get a positive result,” she said. “We’ve got six points out of six so far and it took us until Christmas to reach that tally last season.
“There is always room for improvement, but we’ve done well, and it was good to beat Pembroke on Sunday having lost the same game last time. Although Hermes won the league last season, the three games we played against them were all close, losing 1-0 in Dublin, drawing 3-3 in Belfast and losing 3-1 in the play-off final.”
Railway Union and UCD’s derby is another key battle between two of the sides who emerged last Sunday unbeaten. The former kept two clean sheets with Grace O’Flanagan back in situ on a more regular basis. Their panel continues to be a mix of experience – Julia O’Halloran, Emma Smyth and Sarah Canning leading the way – with a wealth of players who have emerged from their youth section.
UCD, meanwhile, blooded a series of new faces. Emma Russell scored twice on her return to Ireland from Syracuse while Lena Tice has quickly settled in to run the defence from sweeper since her switch from Loreto. Sarah Patton, Emma Mathews, Sally Campbell, Sarah O’Loughlin and Anna Richardson were among the other newcomers.
Cork Harlequins’ fruitful start to the season – also with two wins and two clean sheets – takes them to Pembroke who will be looking to break their duck. With Rebecca Barry and Naomi Carroll, they look to have one of the most effective forward lines around combined with Yvonne O’Byrne and Cliodhna Sargent at the base of the side.
For Pembroke, Aoife Dalton and Sarah Quill made their debuts while Leinster junior interpro Anouk de Jong stepped up as well last weekend as they begin life under the coaching of Elun Hack.
Loreto and Ards will both be aiming to register their first win when they meet at Beaufort. The Ulster side missed Kerry Harvey through injury for their double-header while Loreto look an energetic side, packed with youth to go with the brilliance of Louisa Healy between the posts while Niamh Small was a more than lively presence against UCD.
In the Ulster derby, both Ulster Elks and Belfast Harlequins will be looking to get off the mark after rough opening weekends, conceding nine and 12 goals, respectively. Harlequins captain Claire Weir said: “I think we suffered from a lot of nerves in the Hermes game and before we knew it we were 4-0 down. But we know that every game is going to be tough.”
In Leinster, Muckross made it two wins from two on Wednesday evening with an 8-2 dismissal of Rathgar with Sophie Barnwell netting a hat-trick and Niamh Gowing a double.
Trinity’s trip to Corinthian – with a number of former reds in tow like Niamh Sweeney and Ailish and Jenny Long – will give a strong idea of their respective hopes for the campaign. Old Alex play an Our Lady’s side who got a sharp awakening to life in Division One last time around and will be hungry to make their mark.
Women’s EY Hockey League (Saturday): Pembroke v Cork Harlequins, 2pm, Serpentine Avenue; Hermes-Monkstown v Pegasus, 2.15pm, Merrion Fleet Arena; Railway Union v UCD, 2.15pm, Park Avenue; Loreto v Ards, 2.30pm, Beaufort; Ulster Elks v Belfast Harlequins, 2.30pm, Jordanstown
Leinster Division One
Wednesday result: Rathgar 2 Muckross 8 (S Barnwell 3, N Gowing 2, N Twomey, C Mathews, T Junghenn)
Saturday: Corinthian v Trinity, 1.15pm, Whitechurch Park; North Kildare v Genesis, 1.30pm, The Maws; Glenanne v Avoca, 2.30pm, Glenanne Park; Our Lady’s v Old Alex, 2.30pm, Terenure