Senior Cup reaches rapid-fire conclusion as Alex boost hopes of place on national stage

The women’s Irish Senior Cup reaches a swift conclusion over the weekend with UCD facing Loreto at Santry Avenue and Belfast Harlequins meeting Pegasus, making for a Leinster/Ulster decider which will be streamed live on the Hockey Ireland Youtube channel.

It is a reversion of sorts – more by circumstance than design – to the old format of semi-finals and final all taking place over one weekend due to the mass of refixtures this term.

Reigning Irish Senior Cup champions UCD. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Originally, the semis were due to be in late-February but some second round matches had only just been cleared at that date. As such, the move was made to play the semis on Saturday and the final on Sunday – albeit not in one big festival at one venue like in previous years.

Indeed, UCD have had to give up home advantage for their game against Loreto with the National Stadium hosting the Irish Hockey Trophy and Challenge finals.

But whether Loreto can make the switch to Santry Avenue an important point remains to be seen; Miles Warren’s side have yet to lose on the road on the national stage this term.

The students should have Deirdre Duke and Sara Twomey after concussion protocols in the wake of the Jacqui Potter Cup final on St Patrick’s Day while Sorcha Clarke could also return.

Loreto’s Hannah Matthews, sustained a nasty head injury last time out against Ards. For the Beaufort, her bravery will be a key influence at the back along with the driving force of Ali Meeke in midfield for a young side who will be looking to overturn two league defeats to UCD in what is their last real chance of silverware.

In Belfast, Harlequins are the underdogs against Pegasus but have plenty of weapons in their armoury to cause plenty of problems. A midfield of Zoe Wilson, Lizzie Colvin, Gemma Frazer and Robyn Chambers oozes international quality while Lucy Geddes and Jenna Watt provide the firepower up top.

Getting things right defensively, though, is their issue – conceding the second most in the EYHL.

Pegasus are keenly placed to exploit any gaps with former Irish captain Alex Speers leading the line and Shirley McCay whipping in the long passes from the left side. The final will take place at 1pm on Sunday at Belfield.

In Leinster, meanwhile, Old Alex’s 3-0 Thursday night win over Avoca ensures they finish in second place in Division One, improving their chances of being in IHL2 next season should they miss out on promotion to the EYHL.

Sophie Roopnarinesingh, Fiona Bradish and Sylvia O’Mahoney were the scorers. Alex go into the first phase of the playoffs on April 14 and 15 – along with Corinthian – and they will enjoy home advantage in those wildcard rounds.

One side will go through from that phase to the EYHL provincial playoffs phase, joining the four provincial champions.

“It’s nice to have something to play for in your last league game to focus the mind,” Alex’s Lisa Jacob said afterwards. “We have a big 10 days coming up with the playoffs to get into the EY league but we also do look at the worst case which is finishing second.

“Hosting is great for us. We are really thankful for the volunteers behind the scenes around the club who will do anything to help us get up. Hopefully we can make home advantage count.

“We can’t look past the first weekend and plan for four games in two days. It’s one game at a time and you can’t think too far ahead. It reminds me of an interpros and it will be really enjoyable.”

Alex will be joined in the initial five-team tournament by Catholic Institute from Munster with UCC going straight through to the finals weekend.

In Ulster, its still all to play for with the two wildcard and one finals weekend tickets up for grabs. Lurgan have the edge on Queen’s by a single point following a midweek draw for the students against Randalstown.

Either Dungannon or Ballymoney will take third spot with plenty of twists and turns on their horizon. Connacht’s champions – either NUIG or Greenfields – will go straight through to the second weekend of provincial playoffs which will be played in UCC and Cork C of I.

The Old Alex corner defence. Pic: Adrian Boehm

On Saturday, the Trophy final sees Limerick’s Catholic Institute hope to add to last Monday’s Munster Senior Cup win when they face Mossley.

In the Challenge final, Cork’s Blackrock come up against NUIG’s second team.

Women’s weekend fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
Irish Senior Cup, semi-finals: Belfast Harlequins v Pegasus, 2.30pm, Deramore Park; UCD v Loreto, 1pm, Santry Avenue
Sunday: Final, 1pm, Belfield

Irish Hockey Trophy final: Mossley v Catholic Institute, 12pm, Belfield.
Irish Hockey Challenge final: Blackrock v NUIG, 4pm, Belfield.

Leinster Division One (Thursday): Old Alex 3 (S Roopnarinesingh, F Bradish, S O’Mahoney) Avoca 0

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