Belfast Harlequins moved into the top three on Wednesday night in their game brought forward from the weekend against Ards, putting them within one point of the leading duo.
Jenna Watt opened the scoring when Lizzie Colvin turned over possession at the head of the circle, setting up the forward who has recently been invited to train with the national squad.
Caroline Adams levelled from a well struck early in the second half but Quins went for broke, swapping out goalkeeper Marianne Fox for the last eight minutes and it paid instant dividends.
They netted twice in the last five minutes to win it 3-1. Jenny McAuley lifted over Naomi McKnight after a scrap in the circle and Colvin’s straight corner strike at an awkward height was the ball game.
It puts them within one point of leaders Loreto and Pegasus who both face tricky away trips on Saturday. The Beaufort side go to the other end of the Milltown Road to face Old Alex, wary of their opponents’ ability to score early goals.
Loreto’s Ali Meeke, meanwhile, was announced as part of the first women’s International All Stars Team to take part in the Pro Series Indoor in South Africa in December.
She joins Germany’s Janne Muller-Wieland, the Netherlands’ Kiki van Wijk and Poland’s Marlena Rybacha among others in the invitational team that will play the home nation four times in Cape Town between December 14 and 19.
It is the first time the competition has featured a women’s team. Previously, Ross Canning and Ronan Gormley have been part of the men’s All-Star team.
Meet the world class International All-Stars team that will take on the @sawindoor team at PSi Nationals 2018 in December.
— PSi Hockey (@PSiHockey) November 7, 2018
Pegs, meanwhile, have a much longer journey down to Cork Harlequins as they look to bounce back following their first loss of the season.
UCD face a potentially high-pace encounter with in-form Pembroke who have won their last three games in succession. The students were without Hannah McLoughlin last weekend who was the second player in their team to require a tonsillectomy this season while Abbie Russell sustained an injury on Irish Under-23 duty.
Pembroke, meanwhile, are driven on by Gillian Pinder whose wonderful guile in midfield is key to unlocking the door.
Off a three-player defensive base of Hayley O’Donnell, Amy-Kate Trevor and Katie-Jane Marshall, they have plenty of options in midfield to kickstart their attacks. They were unlucky not to get a few more against Muckross when the width of the post got in their way when they did break through.
Muckross, for their part, face a second successive Dublin 4 derby, hosting Railway Union on Saturday. It will be a measure of how far they have come since a couple of cup losses to Railway last season.
Their youthful side looked well at ease with the speed of game at this level against Pembroke with Caroline and Emma Mathews in midfield pulling strings. Lisa Mulcahy and Sarah McAuley are tenacious in defence while shot-stopper Ellie O’Loughlin is growing in experience with each game since her move from Naas.
Railway sit a place above them in the table and they missed the services of Holly Jenkinson and Anna May Whelan last time out.
There is a full round of Leinster Division One action with the undoubted highlight the meeting Corinthian and Glenanne, the two 100% records meeting at Whitechurch Park.
The Irish Junior Cup and Irish Hockey Challenge are at the second round stage, making for a busy weekend all round.
EY Hockey League: Belfast Harlequins 3 (J Watt, J McAuley, L Colvin) Ards 1 (C Adams)
EY Hockey League: Cork Harlequins v Pegasus, 1.05pm, Farmers’ Cross; Muckross v Railway Union, 3.15pm, Muckross Park; Old Alexandra v Loreto, 2pm, Alexandra College; UCD v Pembroke, 2.50pm, Belfield;
Irish Junior Cup – Round 2: Belfast Harlequins v Pembroke Wanderers, Deramore Park; Lisnagarvey v Portadown, 2.30pm, Comber Road; Loreto v Ulster Elks, 2.45pm, Beaufort; Old Alex v Trinity, 4pm, Milltown; Pegasus v Monkstown, 4pm, Queens; Railway Union v Muckross, Park Avenue; UCD v Ballymoney, 4pm, Belfield
Irish Hockey Challenge – Round 2: Blackrock v Clonmel, 12.30pm, Ursulines; Dromore v NICS, 12.30pm, Dromore; NUIG v Kilkeel, Dangan; Tipperary v Cork Wanderers, 3.30pm, Tipperary
Leinster Division 1: Avoca v Naas, 21.5pm, Newpark; Corinthian v Glenanne, 1.30pm, Whitechurch Park; Monkstown v Our Lady’s, 2.30pm, Rathdown; Rathgar v Genesis, 2.15pm, The High School; Trinity v North Kildare, 1.15pm, Santry Avenue
Munster Division 1: Cork C of I v Limerick, 1pm, Garryduff; Waterford v Catholic Institute, 2.30pm, Newtown; Belvedere v Ashton, 2.30pm, Ballincollig
Sunday 11th November 2018
Irish Junior Cup – Round 2: Cork Harlequins v Ashton, 1.30pm, Farmers’ Cross