Race for women’s Champions Trophy tickets hots up

The dicing for fourth position in the women’s EYHL goes into full effect on Saturday with six sides currently covered by just four points at the halfway stage of the campaign.

Crucial among the ties is the battle between Belfast Harlequins and Railway Union with the former on 13 points and Railway one back on 12. The sides shared a high quality 2-2 draw in the first half of the season and there are plenty of key match-ups on the cards with the rising star Amy Elliott potentially facing off against the master Lizzie Colvin in midfield.

In Milltown, Old Alex host Cork Harlequins hoping to record a double for the season but will be wary of the Munster side’s ability to pick up points on their travels.

Three quarters of their 12 points have come on the road with last Sunday’s final second defeat to reigning All-Ireland champions Loreto the only blemish on that record.

They did lose to Alex at Farmers’ Cross with former UCC player Aine Connery providing the vital difference between the sides but the Dublin club has not won in five outings.

Currently fourth, Pembroke’s credentials will be put to the test at Pegasus, particularly by the league’s top scorer Alex Speers who has nine from nine this term in the EYHL.

At Muckross Park, the youthful hosts will be hoping to cause a big shock and get their first win of the season when they come up against table-toppers Loreto.

The other tie between Ards and UCD is postponed due to the Ulster side’s involvement in the European indoors in Douai, France. On day one, they fell 3-2 to Lisbon Casuals but did give themselves a fighting chance of reaching the promotion pool when they snatched a 3-3 draw against Turkey’s Bolu.

They had trailed going into the final minute but Amy Benson’s fourth goal of the day nicked a draw. It means if they can win over Slovakia’s Raca – who have lost their two ties so far – they could possibly overhaul the Turks.

EYHL2 returns for the second half of the campaign. In Pool 1, UCC will look to carry their exceptional form into one of their toughest assignments of the season, an away date at Queen’s University in the women’s EYHL Division 2.

After a disastrous start to the campaign, losing their first three matches, the Mardyke outfit have since dragged themselves back into contention on all fronts.

Seven Munster league wins have come in succession – the last four with clean sheets from goalkeeper Hannah Humphries – while they also have a provincial cup final to look forward to.

EYHL2, though, is the big one with a possible promotion to the national division the prize. To do this, they need to finish in the top two of their five-team pool to reach the playoffs – a congested area with one point covering Corinthian, Trinity and UCC with Queen’s four points clear.

Classy wins over Greenfields (4-1) and Corinthian (3-1) have put the Cork side right back in the frame on this front but Queen’s have been the standard bearers to date with Irish internationals Jessica McMaster and Erin Getty driving things.

Getty’s battle with Jenny Clein, in particular, will be a key element to the tie while Munster’s top scorer Aoife Collins and Christina Dring will be hungry to add their tallies. They have reported a full enough bill of health with Irish Under-18 Muireann Scanlon on the comeback trail.

In the other pool, Catholic Institute are also facing a tricky road-trip to Ulster where they take on Lurgan. The Limerick side have a perfect record in all competitions and shaded a 3-2 thriller against Lurgan in October, putting them in pole position and a victory would pretty much assure their place in the playoffs with three games to spare.

Monkstown can take a big step toward the playoffs, too, should they get the better of NUIG in Galway. They have been in superb form of late, too, and picked off an excellent win on Monday evening courtesy of Chloe Watkins’ immaculate stickwork, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 success.

It was her 14th of the season in all competitions, leading the Division One table ahead of two of her club mates with Sadhbh Hoban-Logan and Rachel Moore (both on 12).

In Leinster, there are three matches on the agenda for Saturday after Our Lady’s and Genesis’s 0-0 draw on Wednesday evening. That result will give Naas a little bit of cause for concern as they are back in range of the Terenure side for the first time and so they will hope to get something for their derby tie against Naas.

Trinity will look to get back ahead of Monkstown when they host Rathgar in Santry while Avoca take on Glenanne at Sion Hill.
Sunday sees the Jacqui Potter Cup reach the semi-final stage with Loreto facing Railway and Old Alex meeting UCD.

Women’s weekend fixtures
EY Hockey League: Belfast Harlequins v Railway Union, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Muckross v Loreto, Muckross Park, 2.15pm; Old Alexandra v Cork Harlequins, Milltown, 2pm; Pegasus v Pembroke Wanderers, Malone Playing Fields, 4pm

EYHL Division 2, Pool 1: Queens University v UCC, Malone Playing Fields, 1pm
Pool 2: Lurgan v Catholic Institute, Lurgan JHS, 1pm; NUIG v Monkstown, Dangan, 1.20pm

Leinster Division 1
Wednesday: Genesis 0 Our Ladys 0
Saturday: Avoca v Glenanne , Sion Hill, 1.15pm; North Kildare v Naas, The Maws, 12pm; Trinity v Rathgar, Santry Avenue, 3pm

Munster Division 1: Belvedere v Cork C of I, Ballincollig CS

Jacqui Potter Cup (Sunday): Loreto v Railway Union, Beaufort, 1pm; Old Alex v UCD, Milltown, 2pm

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