It’s often said that there’s no substitute for playing and Vanessa Beattie (formerly Surgeoner) is living proof of the old adage, having been forced to take a year out as she bids to recover from injury and line out for Pegasus once again, writes John Flack.
In the meantime, the 26-year-old striker is keeping herself busy with her duties as team manager and she’s had a good view of things from the dug-out as Pegasus attempt to make it three wins from three in the EYHL this weekend.
On Saturday, they travel to Londonderry Park to take on an Ards side that has been finding life without Chloe Brown tough in Irish hockey’s top-flight.
Brown now plays her hockey in the English Premier League with Sussex side East Grinstead and, as Ards’ perennial leading goal scorer in her time with the north Down outfit, she has been hard to replace.
Her old club opened with a scoreless draw against Muckross and then were unfortunate to concede a late goal to UCD, who returned to Dublin with all three points following a hard earned 1-0 victory.
But co-captain Naomi McKnight is far from unhappy as her team prepare for a tough test.
She said: “We are feeling positive going in to the game as we look to get on the scoreboard while maintaining our strong defensive record, having conceded just once so far.”
“It is always a fixture we look forward to as it is always a very competitive and entertaining game.
“Obviously, we have played Pegasus many times in the past and we know a lot about how they play and who their key players are and will be looking to capitalise on this as we aim to get a positive result on Saturday.”
Pegasus, in contrast, have found their goal scoring touch, having hit seven in two starts as they followed up an opening 3-2 win over UCD with a 4-2 victory at Pembroke.
Their manager believes this could be the year Pegasus cast of the bridesmaid’s role, having lost to UCD in the Irish Cup final last season and exited the Champions Trophy after a semi-final loss on penalties to Cork Harlequins.“I think this year will be a great one for Pegasus. We have started the league well with two strong performances and I think that the squad of players will certainly have a great season, and I, for one, hope there will be a few trophies back in the cabinet by the end of it,” said Vanessa.
“Now that the season has started I am finding it difficult to stand on the sideline and watch as playing for Pegasus has been a huge part of my life since the age of 17.
“However, being manager means I get to be involved on a weekly basis and it means I can stay involved with the girls, the game and keep the excitement of, hopefully, getting back to playing the EY League alive.
Vanessa then, hopes one day to be back playing after winning seven Irish caps before her injury woes put a premature end to her international career.
“I have struggled with disc problems in my back since I was 18, but in the past few years they have got progressively worse, making it difficult to play at full fitness but also making post-match recovery twice as hard,” she explained.
“Last season was difficult and more often than not I found myself sore and really struggling to keep up with the pace of each game.
“For this reason I decided to take a step back from playing. I do hope to get back playing in the future but for this year I am focusing on yoga and pilates to get my body into the best shape possible to hopefully enable me to play with less pain in the future.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, the EY Hockey League tie of the round sees UCD host Loreto, a meeting between last year’s regular season winners and the Champions Trophy victors.
Loreto have been superb to date this term with two wins and two clean sheets but Miles Warren’s students are growing into the season. They have eight players from the Irish Under-21 squad named this week in their line-up and, once they gel fully, will be a force to be reckoned with.
Whether the tie with Loreto has come too early in their development, though, could be a factor. Hannah McLoughlin scored the only goal on debut last week and comes up against her former club.
The two promoted sides meet at Muckross Park. Old Alex won 4-1 at the venue last season to inflict the only Leinster league defeat of the season on Muckross in a replayed tie after the first effort ended in floodlight failure.
Muckross won the war, topping the local table with a 2-1 win in the return match. Alex have probably recruited the heavier of the two since then and have one win under their belt while Muckross have one point but are waiting for a first goal.
Another south Dublin derby is on in Serpentine Avenue with Pembroke facing Railway Union. The former have yet to get off the mark while Railway are unbeaten.
Cork Harlequins are another looking to get their scoring sticks in order after two blanks as they head north to in-form namesakes Belfast Harlequins.It’s day two of EYHL Division 2 with Catholic Institute making their bow with a big test against Lurgan in Section B with World Cup star Roisin Upton the driving force.
It already looks to be by far the more competitive of the two groups in the second tier with Monkstown – with Chloe Watkins as their fulcrum – in the mix, facing NUIG on Saturday.
UCC take on a strong Queen’s – with Irish internationals Erin Getty and Jessica McMaster in the line-up – at the Mardyke in Section A. The Cork students bowed out of the Irish Senior Cup a week ago in the first round to Ballymoney.
Corinthian were another EYHL2 side to fall in the first round of the ISC, losing 5-3 to Banbridge despite a double from Nicola Torrans. Their next date is an EYHL2 game with Greenfields in Galway.
The Leinster league has four games on the card with Naas hosting North Kildare, Our Lady’s versus Genesis, Rathgar against Trinity – 3-0 winners over Glenanne in the cup – and the Glens against Avoca.
Women’s fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
EY Hockey League: Belfast Harlequins v Cork Harlequins, 1pm, Deramore Park; Pembroke v Railway Union, 2.30pm, Serpentine Avenue; UCD v Loreto, 2.50pm, Belfield; Muckross v Old Alex, 3.15pm, Muckross Park; Ards v Pegasus, 4pm, Londonderry Park
EYHL Division 2 Pool A
Saturday: UCC v Queen’s University, 12pm, The Mardyke
Sunday: Greenfields v Corinthian, 12.30pm, Dangan
Pool B: Monkstown v NUIG, 2.15pm, Rathdown; Catholic Institute v Lurgan, 3pm, Rosbrien
Leinster Division One: Naas v North Kildare, 11.45am; Our Lady’s v Genesis, 12.30pm, Terenure; Rathgar v Trinity, 12.30pm, High School; Glenanne v Avoca, 1.15pm, St Andrew’s
Munster Division One: Belvedere v Waterford, 1pm, Ballincollig
Last weekend’s women’s cup results
Irish Senior Cup, round 1: Corinthian 3 (N Torrans 2, L Pomeroy) Banbridge 5 (P Haugh 3, S McCullough 2); Glenanne 0 Trinity 3 (A Long, E Markey, A Buttimer); Ulster Elks 5 (J Allen 2, A Hutchinson, B Kretzmann, E Quinn) Genesis 0; UCC 0 Ballymoney 2 (N Parke, S Brown)
Irish Hockey Trophy, first round: CI Ladies 0 Lisnagarvey 9 (J Flynn 3, C McIlwaine 3, R Houston, S Holdsworth, R Chambers); Raphoe 3 (W Patterson, L Patterson, L Smyth) Rainey 1 (A Hegarty); Ashton 0 Mossley 2; Avoca 1 North Kildare 2; Belvedere 0 Clontarf 2; Kilkenny 1 Cork C of I 3; Waterford 2 Weston 3; NUIG 7 Castle 0