The women’s EY Hockey League promises one final series of competitive twists and turns before the Christmas break with the final round of games before the winter break kicks in.
Railway Union face a pivotal game against Pegasus in their pursuit of an EY Champions Trophy place. Railway moved into the top four courtesy of a dramatic derby win over Pembroke and are one point behind Pegasus – who were frozen out – in third.
The Sandymount side pulled out all manner of penalty corner variation against Pembroke – often dummying the stop for a player five metres back – which will give Pegs plenty to think about.
The Ulster side will hope they have no ring-rust having not played since November 19 due to the weather and international commitments. It means they also have to play a back match in the Irish Senior Cup on Sunday against Genesis.
Cork Harlequins will hope to feel the warming glow of the Farmer’s Cross fireplace on Saturday evening on a high as they close out the first phase of a productive campaign to date.
When they meet Ards, it will be just their second home game of the season, one which sees them within a point of leaders UCD with seven lengthy road-trips already under their belt.
It will be a tough battle, though, for Stephen Dale’s free-scoring side, facing an Ards team intent on defending compactly, backed up by the excellent Naomi McKnight in goal, before looking to star player Chloe Brown to provide magic at the far end.
Her showdown with Cliodhna Sargent, as such, will be a crucial head-to-head. Win that battle and Quins can then look to get their over-lapping game going, freeing Yvonne O’Byrne to break down the right flank at pace.
It has been a key avenue, delivering perfect service for Naomi Carroll – the league’s top scorer alongside Railway’s Kate Lloyd – and Rebecca Barry’s intertwining runs and one that can serve them well.
Belfast Harlequins face Loreto in what will be just their seventh game of the league campaign, hoping to win their first league tie since November 5. Lizzie Colvin comes up against her former club for the first time in the midst of a strong Quins midfield line-up that has impressed this term but maybe has not landed the full complement of points to match.
UCD meet Trinity on Sunday due to Saturday exams. For the former, Sarah Robinson came out of a cast this week but will not be back until the new year while Sarah Twomey is also carrying a knock. Emma Russell is one the comeback trail, though.
The Belfielders will be hot favourites, especially with Bethany Barr and Katie Mullan in flying form. At times, however, they have not made full use of plentiful chances.
Trinity have gone six games since their maiden win in the competition to sit in ninth place and, realistically, anything they can get from the tie will be a bonus. Key striker Sally Campbell faces the club she played for last term.
There is a full programme of action in Leinster’s Division One where Old Alex will expect to retain their four-point lead in the table when they meet Rathgar. Corinthian face Avoca, a side they have drawn with the last three times they have played, with the reds looking to continue their unbeaten run.
Muckross, of the top three, have the trickiest tie on paper at the miserly North Kildare who had conceded just once at home at The Maws so far this season.
Genesis host Glenanne while 2017’s promoted side Clontarf meet the 2016 edition – Our Ladys – at Mount Temple.
There is one Leinster indoor tie on the schedule with Pembroke playing Glenanne on Sunday at 5.45pm in St Columba’s. They are both in Pool A with Railway Union and Genesis who enter the fray in January along with Pool B which has UCD, Three Rock, Avoca and North Kildare.
Women’s fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
EY Hockey League
Saturday: Railway Union v Pegasus, 1pm, Park Avenue; Cork Harlequins v Ards, 1.05pm, Farmer’s Cross; Belfast Harlequins v Loreto, 2.30pm, Deramore Park
Sunday: UCD v Trinity, 1.30pm, Belfield
Irish Senior Cup, second round (Sunday): Pegasus v Genesis, 1pm, Queens
Munster Division 1: Limerick v Bandon, 3pm, Villiers.
Leinster Division 1: Genesis v Glenanne, 12pm, St Raphaela’s; Clontarf v Our Lady’s, 2pm, Mount Temple; Corinthian v Avoca, 2.15pm, Whitechurch Park; North Kildare v Muckross, 2.30pm, The Maws; Old Alex v Rathgar, 3.05pm, Milltown