Muckross’s young troops scored a formative 2-1 win over Old Alex at Milltown, moving them top of the Leinster women’s Division One table at a key stage of the season.
It took three minutes for them to hit the front, Niamh Gowing stealing possession out of the press and then racing in to score one-on-one passed Jess Jecko.
Sophie Barnwell’s good work in the circle created the chance for Jane Gilsenan to get the second, the goal standing despite ardent calls for a foot in the build-up.
Jecko made a double-save to keep Alex in the tie before the Milltown club had a glut of second half penalty corners. They could only score from one of them, though, with Lisa Jacob deflecting in from Pia Diepman’s ball.
That was with 12 minutes to go but Muckross held on for a big win, one that Sarah Scott says will stand to her squad.
“We set out at the start of the season to try and get into the top three,” she told Dublin City FM’s Declan Hughes post-match. “The only game we lost before Christmas was against Alex but we have trained really hard, had a good game plan today and it worked.
“We were really focused from the get-go and knew what areas to try and exploit. We were very happy with the start; then it was about us keeping our shape and our heads and we ground out the result.
“We have 10 teenagers and the rest are 20 to 22. We do lack experience and have a lot to learn but today they really showed good composure as a team and we are looking to give it a really good shot at the end of the season.”
For Jacob, she said Alex rued their first-half performance: “We were under pressure for most of the first half and Muckross pressed us well; we didn’t really help ourselves. We were disappointed, probably more with our own performance rather than the two goals.
“In the second half, I am not sure how many corners we had in the end but they obviously had done their research, were quick out and fair play to them for that.”
The result sees Muckross replace Alex at the top, going a point ahead with five rounds of matches still to play for top spot which, along with the title, brings with it a pass through the first phase of EYHL promotion playoffs.
Both sides have to play unbeaten Corinthian in the coming weeks and Jacob says there are plenty of twists and turns to come.
“This was a huge game but there are plenty more three-points to be won or lost. Corinthian are there as well, very tough opposition, so you can’t take anything for granted.
“There are plenty of teams lower down out for a cut and if I was coaching one of them, I would be encouraging them to make it as hard as possible for us!”
Jessica McGrane’s single goal saw Corinthian win 1-0 against Rathgar, leaving them in third place, three points off top spot and plenty of opportunities to affect their destiny.
Genesis kept their mathematical chance of a playoff place up with a 2-1 win over Clontarf. Their 22 points have, incredibly, come by scoring just 12 goals this season.
North Kildare moved into the top half of the table with Emilie Ryan-Doyle and Aideen Griffen earning a 2-0 win at Avoca. Glenanne were 3-1 winners at Our Lady’s.
On Sunday in the Jacqui Potter Cup, Bray put in a huge stint against Hermes-Monkstown as the side in the bottom two of Leinster Division Two put it up to their EYHL opponents with Megan Shelley scoring an excellent goal.
Hermes-Monkstown, though, prevailed at an ice-cold Loreto with Natalie Esteves and Rosie Carrigan putting the, through to the semi-finals to play UCD next Sunday.
— Monkstown Hockey (@MonkstownHockey) February 11, 2018
On the men’s side, YMCA beat Dublin North to move within three points of Corinthian with five rounds remaining. Ben Campbell scored a hat trick and Grant Glutz got another two, bringing their combined total to 40 goals for the campaign.
Kilkenny continued their decent form – just one loss in seven – as they drew with Rathgar 1-1, Waterford teenager Ben Johnson scoring for them with Mark Collins getting the Gar goal.
Rathgar and Dublin North are back out on Tuesday evening in a refix while Avoca and Clontarf meet on Thursday.
Women’s Leinster Division One (all Saturday): Old Alex 1 (L Jacob) Muckross 2 (N Gowing, J Gilsenan); Our Lady’s 1 (S Kelly) Glenanne 3 (H Delaney, K O’Connor, R O’Brien); Corinthian 1 (J McGrane) Rathgar 0; Genesis 2 (L Barrie, A Tobin) Clontarf 1 (N Taylor); Avoca 0 North Kildare 2 (E Ryan-Doyle, A Griffen)
Jacqui Potter Cup, quarter-final (Sunday): Bray 1 (M Shelley) Hermes-Monkstown 2 (N Esteves, R Carrigan)
Men’s Leinster Division One
Saturday: Dublin North 1 (A Sweeney) YMCA 6 (B Campbell 3, G Glutz 2, G de Grandis); Kilkenny 1 (B Johnson) Rathgar 1 (M Collins)
Tuesday: Rathgar v Dublin North, 7.30pm, High School
Thursday: Avoca v Clontarf, 8pm, Newpark