Who takes the Christmas women’s EY Hockey League number one spot will be determined over the weekend with Loreto and Pegasus continuing their tussle.
Level on points, any slip will open the door for the other to move clear. For Loreto, their task is the tougher on paper this weekend as they face a reasonably in-form Pembroke at Grange Road.
The Beaufort side have been in devastating form with Hannah Matthews dictating things, stepping out from the back into midfield with teenagers Caitlin Sherin and Grace McLoughlin offering composed back-up while, up front, Sarah Torrans is in sharp form.
Pembroke have won four of their last five league ties to rise into the playoff places for the first time with Gillian Pinder in immaculate form. Youngster Laura Noble has hit a good vein of scoring form while the squad has widened with Rachel Scott – albeit temporarily – and Tara Melvin adding to their squad.
Pegasus face a Muckross side still looking for their first win but coach Sarah Scott is confident her side will make it a game as they continue to improve with each game.
Caroline Mathews has been excellent in midfield with Sarah McAuley, Lisa Mulcahy and Ellie McLoughlin putting in fine performances. At Cork Harlequins last week, they carved open a number of great chances on the counter and were unlucky to see one disallowed.
Pegs, though, are yielding the benefits of experience Pam Glass, Alex Speers, Michelle Harvey, Shirley McCay and Steph Thompson bringing an abundance of know-how.
Zoe Wilson has overcome a hamstring injury and will line out for Belfast Harlequins in their tie with Old Alex at Deramore. The World Cup silver medallist missed last weekend’s 5-1 defeat to Loreto in Dublin which saw her team slip out of the play-off places.
But she will be back on Saturday after scoring twice for Quins in their 6-2 opening Denman Ulster Shield game win over Ballymoney at the Joey Dunlop Centre on Wednesday night.
UCD host Cork Harlequins with plenty of nice match-ups. Quins are the only side to have beaten the students at Belfield since 2016 and if they can continue the direct approach from Michelle Barry and Olivia Roycroft, their efforts can bear fruit again.
Railway Union go to Ards seeking their third win of the campaign. Sarah Hawkshaw has proven a dynamic, aggressive returnee this season from the US in midfield for Colm Blennerhassett’s side while Amy Elliott’s energy and pace has seen both included in the Irish panel.
Ards have found a scoring touch, scoring five times in their last three games after four blanks, threatening to get a result.
In the IHL’s second-tier, it is a big weekend with plenty of perfect records on the line. In Pool A, Queen’s will be out to make it four wins from four when they take on another 100%er, Corinthian, with Trinity and UCC needing a victory to close the gap.
Likewise, in Pool B, Catholic Institute go to Monkstown with both sides holding perfect records at this stage. Dungannon and Lurgan have six points to make up on the other two and will look to start off in this showdown.
There are six Leinster Division One ties on the card – three on Saturday, three on Sunday – with plenty of scope for movement in mid-table.
Women (Saturday unless stated)
EY Hockey League: Ards v Railway Union, 2.30pm, Londonderry Park; Belfast Harlequins v Old Alex, 2.30pm, Deramore Park; Loreto v Pembroke, 1pm, Grange Road; Muckross v Pegasus, 3.15pm, Muckross Park; UCD v Cork Harlequins, 1pm, Belfield
EYHL Division 2
Pool 1: Corinthian v Queen’s, 1.30pm, Whitechurch Park; Trinity v UCC, 3.30pm, Santry Avenue
Pool 2: Dungannon v Lurgan, 2.30pm, Royal School; Monkstown v Catholic Institute, 12.30pm, Rathdown
Leinster Division 1
Saturday: Rathgar v Naas, 12.30pm, High School; North Kildare v Our Lady’s, 1.30pm, The Maws; Avoca v Genesis, 4pm, Newpark
Sunday: Trinity v Avoca, 1pm, Santry Avenue; Glenanne v Monkstown, 3pm, St Andrew’s; North Kildare v Corinthian, 4pm, The Maws
Munster Division One: Cork C of I v Belvedere, 12.30pm, Garryduff; Bandon v Waterford, 2pm, Bandon GS