Speers cuts loose to send Pegasus clear at the top over Christmas

Women’s EY Hockey League – day 8 round-up
Loreto 2 (S Clarke, S O’Brien) Pembroke 2 (L Noble, H O’Donnell)
Hayley O’Donnell fired in a last second penalty corner slap-shot to end Loreto’s winning streak, earning Pembroke a strong draw. They had trailed 2-0 with 15 minutes remaining but produced an excellent fightback to keep their own good run rolling.

A brilliant one-two from Grace McLoughlin and Sarah Torrans resulted in the day’s first penalty corner from which Sarah Clarke thumped home for an early lead.

Pembroke were not set to lie down, though, and won two corners of their own in an end-to-end first quarter while Liz Murphy pulled off the pick of the saves before half-time. It remained 1-0 through the third quarter before Siofra O’Brien latched onto a misread aerial from the back from Hannah Matthews, making it 2-0.

Laura Noble grasped her fourth goal of the campaign to get the game back in the mix and Pembroke threw everything at the last few minutes and O’Donnell – wearing the kicking-back’s bib – took their chance when it came. For Loreto, Nicci Daly made a cameo on her return from the US.

Muckross 1 (S O’Loughlin) Pegasus 3 (A Speers 2, M Harvey)
Alex Speers and Michelle Harvey both struck in the last 10 minutes at Muckross Park to grab the Christmas number one spot for Pegasus, eventually seeing off the ever-improving Muckross.

The Dubliners got off to a good start with Sophie Barnwell’s incision causing a threat and they won the first corner which Megan Todd produced a good double save.

But they were caught cold by a counter from that corner, good passing from Taite Doherty and Lucy McKee finding Speers in the Muckross D and she made no mistake in the 11th minute. Pegs stepped it up in the second, forcing a couple of corner saves from Rachel Barnett.

Muckross equalised, though, from a long corner that is worked around the circle to Sarah O’Loughlin who buried the chance, making it 1-1 at the end of a breathless first half.

It continued in that manner in the second with Emma Mathews charging down a corner while Niamh Gowing was just beaten in a race to the ball by Todd. Sarah McAuley and Laura Hanlon were required to keep it all square at 1-1 at the end of a frantic third quarter.

Muckross kept out another couple of corners but the key Pegs goal came in the 60th minute when Speers netted her second of the game and seventh of the campaign from a set piece, Shirley McCay with the assist.

Two minutes later, the die was cast as another lightning attack ended with Harvey making it 3-1, slotting home from Doherty’s assist. The pace dropped markedly as Pegasus played keep ball, closing out their seventh win of the season to date.

UCD 0 Cork Harlequins 2 (M Barry, Y O’Byrne)
Cork Harlequins made it three wins in four outings as they raided Belfield for the points for the second successive season.

The students were without Lena Tice and Bethany Barr – with Hannah McLoughlin returning – for the tie and they fell behind when Michelle Barry opened the scoring from the Cork side’s second penalty corner in the 16th minute, cleaning up after Cliodhna Sargent’s initial shot.

The second quarter saw both sides with chances, Quins shooting a corner wide. Ava Beatty’s superb effort was saved by Becky Maye while Barry had an equally good effort denied by Clodagh Cassin.

Lorna Bateman – who came on between the posts at half-time –kept out an Ellen Curran shot at the end of a weaving run while Sargent and Emma Barber were excellent in defence. Yvonne O’Byrne got on the end of Caoimhe Perdue’s bobbling ball in the D to make it 2-0 in the 48th minute.

And it remained that way through the closing quarter despite Niamh Carey’s threat and a cracking Sophie Thomas’s cracking reverse which Bateman saved.

Ards 1 (C Adams) Railway Union 1 (K McKenna)
Ards picked up their second point of the season to go into the winter break on two, one clear of Muckross, as they tied with Railway Union at Londonderry Park.

Three Railway corners on the first quarter hooter came to nothing while Ards were defending well with Naomi Grundie marshalling the circle well. Early pressure in the second half saw Ali Carson’s shot on goal lead to a penalty corner which Caroline Adams scored for her third of the season.

They then had a golden chance to go further ahead when they won a stroke on the counter but Beck Weir saw her effort blocked by Carolyn Crampton who also kept out Francesca Brown.

The Dubliners, though, got back on terms in the closing quarter from play via Kate McKenna and then had a series of penalty corners but could not break through.

Belfast Harlequins 1 (G Frazer) Old Alex 1 (A Connery)
At Deramore, a brilliant second-half equaliser from Gemma Frazer secured Belfast Harlequins a 1-1 draw with Old Alex but the result leaves Davy Frazer’s side still outside the play-off places.

Former Ireland player Aine Connery put the Dublin side in front in the 29th minute with a sweetly struck backhand shot after her side had edged the opening exchanges. But Frazer rescued Quins a point when she scored a terrific individual goal in the 44th minute, drifting in from the left to fire home a fierce shot from the top of the circle.

But the hosts were left ruing the fact they were unable to convert any of their seven penalty corners although Ireland World Cup star Lizzie Colvin was denied by a full length save from Pamela Smithwick from one of their few shots on target.

Alex deserved their draw though and, in fact, could have taken home all three points had Erika Hinkson’s shot, after a great run down the left, been centimetres lower instead of hitting the junction of post and crossbar late on.

Belfast end the pre-Christmas schedule in sixth place, two points off third placed UCD. Alex are on 10 points, a good return following their promotion up the EYHL for the first time.

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