Harlequins nick Champs Trophy place as Ards relegated and Muckross pin down playoff shot

Women’s EY Hockey League
Cork Harlequins 2 (O Roycroft, Y O’Byrne) Ards 1 (A Benson)

Cork Harlequins will return to the EY Champions Trophy for the second successive season as their win over Ards combined with Pembroke’s 3-3 draw with Old Alex saw them leap into fourth place in the table.

They led from just two minutes in as Michelle Barry’s mazy run saw her beat several players and while her shot was blocked, Olivia Roycroft snapped up the rebound.

Quins dominated that first half and won a number of penalty corners which were repelled but had to stay on their toes as Ards – battling against relegation – caused problems with Becky Maye needed to keep the sheet clean.

One became two when Yvonne O’Byrne embarked on a driving run and her shot deceived the visiting goalkeeper, 2-0 at half-time.

Ards enjoyed a great third quarter, causing plenty of problems and Amy Benson got one back from a corner. They continued to push on, chasing the win they needed to get off the bottom but no further goals came and Ards were relegated while Harlequins had their playoffs spot.

Old Alexandra 3 (A Connery 3) Pembroke Wanderers 3 (C Foley 2, A-K Trevor)
Aine Connery proved the Pembroke nemesis as her hat trick denied them a place in the EY Champions Trophy, dropping below Cork Harlequins on the final day of the season.

Claire Foley put Pembroke 1-0 up in the first quarter with a nice chip shot from midway into the circle. It proved the only goal of a lively first half before Connery started to show her glorious skills.

She slalomed her way along the end line and beat the goalkeeper and driblled the ball in. Foley got her second when her ghosted in unmarked, dragged the ball right and slotted home for 2-1.

Connery replied once again with a corner move, a slip left which she thumped home. The Kilkenny native then showed her camogie skills to get into the circle and her shot rattled the backboard.

Pembroke threw everything into the last quarter with their high press causing problems with Pam Smithwick called on to make big stops. A broken down corner got them level when Gillian Pinder clipped a shot to the back post for Amy-Kate Trevor to tap in.

Pembroke camped in the Alex 23-metre zone but Smithwick saved from Sinead Loughran and the follow-up shot to keep it at 3-3, a result Alex and Cork Harlequins celebrated with gusto.

Muckross 1 (Y Pratt) UCD 1 (S Patton)
Muckross defended brilliantly to pick off another point against UCD to give them an extra buffer over Ards, ultimately ending their first EYHL campaign in ninth place, setting them up for a relegation playoff game next Sunday.

UCD broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute from a well executed penalty corner which was well saved by Sorcha Cunningham but then fell to Sarah Patton who flicked home.

The equaliser was swift in coming as terrific stick-skills from Sophie Barnwell in the D eliminated the goalkeeper and she laid on a shot which Yasmin Pratt got a stick to for 1-1.

UCD had the lion’s share of the game in the second half with Caroline Mathews having a stormer in defence while UCD were frustrated they could not make more of the chances that fell to Michelle Carey and from their corners. Muckross held on and got another point to make it seven points from 12 after a run of 13 successive defeats.

Reacting to the win, Muckross coach Sarah Scott said: “it was an extremely tough league fixture, going 1-0 down early on put us on the back foot but we never gave up and created some really good opportunities.

“This side has a serious amount of character. Seven weeks ago, you would have thought we were buried and gone. To see the faces of the senior girls today, it puts us in a playoff and a chance of stating in a division where I believe we deserve to be.”

Belfast Harlequins 3 (G Frazer, R Johnston, Z Wilson) Pegasus 3 (K Millar, C Harvey, C McKane)
In a tie with little on the line, Belfast Harlequins and Pegasus played out a lively Ulster derby at Deramore Park with the hosts leading 2-0 only to trail 3-2 before eventually salvaging a draw.

The champions were without the services of Shirley McCay (suspended), Pamela Glass and Kate Gourley while Quins also fielded a young side for a lively affair in torrid, rain-soaked conditions.

Gemma Frazer scored from a corner in the sixth after a stroke decision was downgraded to the lighter punishment. Rachel Johnston got a second from a fantastic corner deflection in the second half before Pegs bounced back with three goals in a five minute spell to change the complexion of the game.

Kate Millar got the first before Caitlyn Harvey levelled and Claire McKanne followed up a loose clearance to make it 3-2. Zoe Wilson responded in kind with an excellent reverse-stick strike at the end of a fine team move.

Railway Union 0 Loreto 1 (G Donald)
Grace Donald’s first quarter goal saw Loreto finish their regular season campaign on a high and in decent shape for the EY Champions Trophy as they beat Railway Union 1-0.

In a low-key game of few chances, Loreto saw out the win to end on 40 points, comfortable in second and six points off winners Pegasus.

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