While the top three have cut themselves adrift after a third of the women’s EY Hockey League season, the battle for fourth place – and a potential playoff – looks to be a battle royale with Railway Union and Loreto facing a key meeting in that chase.
The Park Avenue side currently have the fourth spot, level with Ards, with Loreto a point below and Pegasus a further point back in a congested mid-table.
The Sandymount side got back on the winning trail after three defeats on the spin had derailed a good start to the campaign. They have plenty of attacking points of threat with Emma Smyth a symbol of their dynamism for the young stars to try and emulate.
Loreto, meanwhile, have the second best defence in the league with Hannah McLoughlin developing rapidly alongside the tutelage of Hannah Matthews while Louisa Healy still has a wealth of class between the posts.
For the second week running, Cork Harlequins have the task of trying to end a Dublin club’s unbeaten record. This time around, they have the benefit of home advantage for UCD’s visit to Farmer’s Cross in what could be a formative tie for both sides.
Quins showed enough quality to suggest they could have won against Hermes-Monkstown. But the Glenageary showed big-match experience in the key moments to grab the result, crucially riding out a ten-minute wave of attacks before counter-punching through Nikki Evans.
UCD, meanwhile, held their nerve to hold back a Pegasus onslaught last time out to nab a 3-2 victory at Belfield, owing much to skipper Sarah Robinson’s influence and the emergence of Clodagh Cassin as one of Ireland’s top keepers.
Combined with creative talents of Emma Russell, Gillian Pinder and Sorcha Clarke, Miles Warren have forged a strong unit in spite of the injury of attacking totem Deirdre Duke.
Ards host Pembroke with the Ulster side looking to build on their run of three wins on the bounce with Chloe Brown scoring in each of those ties. She is the key player for the Dublin 4 outfit to keep tabs on as they bid to get off the mark.
Ards welcome back first choice goalkeeper Ashley Orr after work commitments ruled her out of last weekend’s tie.
Hermes-Monkstown have been caused a few problems by Ulster Elks in the past few seasons but this year’s vintage have not been at the same level to date this season. As such, Rudi Wortmann’s outfit – for whom Liz Murphy has impressed in Emma Gray’s stead between the posts – will be confident of continuing their perfect record.
Pegasus will be keen to get back on the victory trail having not won since the first weekend of the campaign. They play Belfast Harlequins in the late game at 5pm in Deramore Park.
In Leinster Division One, Trinity and Old Alex will continue to dice for top spot. The students host Genesis who will look to break down the meanest defence in the league.
Alex beat Avoca thanks to a Sylvia Gilsenan hat trick a week ago and have Corinthian – 2-1 winners over Our Ladys – next on the agenda.
Rathgar travel to North Kildare, looking to end their run of three successive clean sheets. The Maws’ side, indeed, have seen just three goals scored in total in their five games this season so expect this to be another tight one.
Our Lady’s coach Mark Lambe comes up against his former club when they meet Glenanne in a derby match of sorts at Terenure.
Women’s EY Hockey League (Saturday): Loreto v Railway Union, 1pm, Beaufort; Ards v Pembroke, 2.30pm, Londonderry Park; Cork Harlequins v UCD, 2.30pm, Farmer’s Cross; Hermes-Monkstown v Ulster Elks, 2.30pm, Merrion Fleet Arena; Belfast Harlequins v Pegasus, 5pm, Deramore Park
Leinster Division One: North Kildare v Rathgar, 12pm, The Maws; Trinity v Genesis, 12.30pm, Santry Avenue; Our Ladys v Glenanne, 1.30pm, Terenure; Old Alex v Corinthian, 3pm, Milltown