Early season roller-coaster sees five sides jockeying for top

The early season roller-coaster in the women’s EYHL enters day seven after two changes in leadership last weekend and five teams still covered by just three points.

On the agenda this week, Park Avenue on Sunday offers up a potential cracker between two sides who like to play the game at a swift tempo as unbeaten Railway Union host UCD who returned to the top of the table last Sunday.

Belfast Harlequins’ Gemma Frazer gets away from Kate Lloyd. Pic: Adrian Boehm

UCD played some breathtaking stuff at times last weekend against Pegasus and Loreto with Deirdre Duke’s glorious goal against the latter a thing of beauty. In working the ball through the back four platform until the space opened up, UCD turned on the after-burners when the chance presented itself and they worked the overload perfectly, leading to a brilliant 3D finish.

The sides that have prospered against the students have defended compact and deep, frustrating their line-up. It means Railway will hope Orla Fox continues her excellent start to the campaign in the centre of defence beside Emer Lucey.

Indeed, Railway’s back four is packed with experience with Holly Jenkinson and Sarah Canning down the channels. Michelle Carey’s driving runs propel them forward with Kate Lloyd showing a ruthless streak in front of goal.

All-Ireland ladies football champion Kate McKenna lined out for the club for the first time this season in the win over Belfast Harlequins, adding to Colm Blennerhassett’s options.

Belfast Harlequins, for their part, have one of the league’s most dynamic midfields with Zoe Wilson in the centre a star performer. With Lizzie Colvin, Gemma Frazer, Robyn Chambers and Jenny McAuley all rotating in and out, it is an exciting line-up.

“Lizzie and Zoe have brought so much experience and they are raising the tempo both in training and on the pitch,” McAuley said to the Belfast Telegraph. “The double-header at the weekend was tough and we were disappointed to come out with just one point.

“Sunday’s game against Trinity is a great opportunity for us to get three more points on the board and maintain our unbeaten home record. However, we cannot underestimate them.”

Indeed, Trinity led twice against Railway with the strength of Sally Campbell and Niamh Sweeney in the forward line is supported by the diminutive Ellie Noone pulling the strings.

Pembroke play Cork Harlequins at Serpentine Avenue looking to end a frustrating start to the campaign, losing four out of six games by a single goal as competitive performances have yet to yield points on the board.

Harlequins are on the road for the sixth time in seven league matches – and seventh away day in total when the Senior Cup is factored in. Along with Railway, they are unbeaten with three draws already, keeping that record thanks to Roisin Upton’s late equaliser at Deramore Park.

Monkstown’s new look side’s difficult start to the season continues as they host a free-scoring Pegasus with Alex Speers, Hannah Grieve and Lucy McKee combining for 15 goals already this term.

Gareth Watkins’ team have not scored since the opening day but their performance against Ards last weekend – despite the absence of Sinead Loughran – suggested they are adjusting to the level required with many in their debut seasons in the EYHL.

Loreto are looking to find some consistency after a run of swapping wins and losses since the start of October. They go up to Londonderry Park, looking to break down one of the tightest defences in the league as Ards have made a fine start to the season.

In Leinster, Corinthian will look to preserve their narrow lead at the top of the Division, facing title rivals Muckross in their second big tie in seven days,

With Hannah McKay and Sarah Coleman shining in defence and Rebecca Murtagh in good form between the posts last week against the previously free-scoring Alex, they broke the Milltown club’s winning streak.

Lauren and Jessica McGrane and Amber Kinlan give them firepower to put Sarah Scott’s charged on full notice. Muckross lost their perfect record in midweek but have the arrival of Emma Mathews to look forward to following her move back from UCD.

Pembroke’s Jilly Ringwood and Pegasus’s Shirley McCay tangle. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Fourth plays fifth with Our Lady’s up against Genesis in a potentially tight encounter while the bottom four meet each other, looking for points to get away from the bottom of the table.

The Irish Hockey Challenge gets under way with seven matches on the agenda.

Women’s fixtures
EY Hockey League
Saturday: Pembroke Wanderers v Cork Harlequins, 2.30pm, Serpentine Avenue
Sunday: Ards v Loreto, 2pm, Londonderry Park; Belfast Harlequins v Trinity, 2pm, Deramore Park; Monkstown v Pegasus, 2.30pm, Merrion Fleet Arena; Railway Union v UCD, 2.40pm, Park Avenue

Leinster Division 1 (all Saturday): Our Lady’s v Genesis, 12.30pm, Terenure; Glenanne v Clontarf, 1pm, Glenanne Park; Avoca v Old Alex, 1.30pm, Newpark; Corinthian v Muckross, 1.45pm, Whitechurch Park; North Kildare v Rathgar, 2pm, The Maws

Munster Division 1 (all Saturday): Ashton v Bandon, 12.30pm, Ashton School; Belvedere v Catholic Institute, 1pm, Ballincollig CS; Cork Church of Ireland v UCC, 12pm, Garryduff; Limerick v Waterford, Villiers, 12pm, Newtown

Irish Hockey Challenge, round one
Saturday: NICS v Portrane, 1pm, Stormont; Mullingar v Kilkeel, 1.30pm, Loreto Mullingar; Athlone v Wexford, 2pm, The Bower; Cork Wanderers v NUIG, 2.30pm, Garryduff; Enniskillen v Greenfields, 2.30pm, Derg Valley; Weston v Blackrock, 3pm, Griffeen Valley Park
Sunday: Clonakilty v Botanic, 3pm, Clonakilty

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