Vital weekend in EYHL relegation battle, Leinster and ISC semi-finals

Each of the frontline games on the shortened women’s agenda this weekend carry huge importance in both the women’s EY Hockey League, Leinster and Irish Senior Cup.

On Saturday, the EYHL sees a make or break date for Muckross as they bid to keep their survival hopes alive. The Donnybrook club were promoted in awesome style 12 months ago, winning the Leinster title after a 21-year wait en route to promotion to the national stage.

Pegasus’ Steph Thompson and Loreto’s Siofra O’Brien are looking forward to ISC semi-finals. Pic: Sinead Hingston

But this season has been tough for their young charges primarily promoted from within with many having been part of their rise from Division 4. Alex – the other promoted side – on the other hand recruited some former internationals and have enjoyed a season of safety.

And so Muckross will need to get their first win in the EY Hockey League on Saturday against their fellow strugglers Ards or be all but condemned to an instant return to the regional leagues.

They have impressed in the back lines with Lisa Mulcahy, Sarah McAuley, Caroline Mathews and Ellie McLoughlin having fine seasons. But goals have been scarce with just six in 14 games telling the tale.

Ards have been only marginally better, sitting four points better off in the relegation playoff spot but a win would assure they have that playoff shot at least.

In midweek, Pembroke were denied three points in their chase for the playoff spots late on as Emma Russell’s 67th minute goal meant a 3-3 draw against Old Alex.

Russell opened the scoring before Pembroke went in front when Sorcha Clarke and Amy-Kate Trevor found the goal. Hannah McDermott equalised for 2-2 before Claire Foley got what looked like a winner until Russell struck again.

The one EYHL2 date on the card is a refix of Catholic Institute and Monkstown which was off earlier this month due to a water-logged pitch. The winner is likely to top the group and a date with Trinity with the other side facing Queen’s.

Sunday is Irish Senior Cup semi-final day. Ireland interim head coach Boyles will be supervising two training sessions this weekend in Dublin, meaning the internationals won’t be available for these ties.

Pegasus, therefore, will be without Shirley McCay and Ruth Maguire for their home tie with Cork Harlequins, who will be missing Yvonne O’Byrne.

The Belfast side will be aiming to repeat last week’s 3-0 EYHL win over the Munster side and reach the final for the second year in a row after losing 4-0 to UCD in last season’s showpiece.

However, Harlequins are likely to pose a stiffer test in the rematch while Pegasus will miss Maguire, who was on the scoresheet last week, and McCay’s overall influence and at penalty corners in particular.

The other semi-final is an all Dublin clash between Loreto and Railway Union, who will also be depleted by the absence of their internationals.

Loreto will have their work cut out in that tie as they will without World Cup stars Ali Meeke, Hannah Matthews, Sarah Torrans and Nicci Daly while Sarah Hawkshaw is sidelined for Railway as a recent addition to the Irish panel. In the Jacqui Potter Cup semi-final, Railway prevailed in similar circumstances in a shoot-out.

Emma Russell scored twice in midweek. Pic: Adrian Boehm

It will also be the defining and final day in Leinster Division One as Monkstown host Trinity. Town need a win to take the provincial title for the first time in their current guise with the students will have the Leinster trophy for the second time in three years.

Monkstown kept their title hopes alive on Monday when Rosie Carrigan scored in the first few minutes for the only goal against Avoca, a 1-0 success

Sunday also sees the Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals with NUIG hosting Cork C of I and Portadown up against Greenfields.

EY Hockey League: Ards v Muckross, Londonderry Park, 2.30pm
EYHL 2: Catholic Institute v Monkstown, Rosbrien, 1pm
Munster Division 1: Ashton v UCC, Ashton School, 12.30pm; Bandon v Limerick, Bandon GS, 12pm

Irish Senior Cup – Semi-Finals: Loreto v Railway Union, Beaufort, 1.30pm; Pegasus v Cork Harlequins, Malone, 1pm
Irish Hockey Trophy – Semi-Finals: NUIG v Cork C of I, Dangan, 1.30pm; Portadown v Greenfields, Edenvilla, 2.30pm
Leinster Division 1: Monkstown v Trinity, ALD Merrion Fleet Arena, 4pm

Midweek results
Women’s EYHL: Pembroke 3 (S Clarke, A-K Trevor, C Foley) Old Alex 3 (E Russell 2, H McDermott)
Leinster Division One: Avoca 0 Monkstown 1 (R Carrigan)
Munster Division One: UCC 2 Bandon 4; Waterford 0 Belvedere 1 (H Leacy)

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