At the third time of asking, Muckross produced a remarkable performance to beat UCD 2-1, lifting them off the bottom of the table and a possible escape from automatic relegation.
First time out, fog saw the game cancelled at 3-1 in the first half; the second meeting fell victim of torrential rain at 1-1 but Wednesday night at Whitechurch Park was the Donnybrook side’s moment to savour.
Niamh Carey gave the students an early lead from Hannah McLoughlin’s exquisite long backhand pass, a fine angled shot into the left corner.
Muckross equalised quickly after Katie Fitzgerald chased a ball seemingly bound for the endline. She recovered it and laid back to Rachel Cuddy whose cross fell kindly for Sophie Barnwell to crack home from mid-circle.
And they were in dreamland when Yasmin Pratt picked up Laura Hanlon’s blast from the right sideline, weaving into space and flicking home.
It was all UCD in the second half but Ellie McLoughlin was in inspired form while Michelle Carey’s shot hit the crossbar as Muckross heroically held on to a 2-1 win. The result lifts them above Ards with one game remaining.
Sarah Scott said their season is finally falling into shape: “This group were like rabbits in a headlight at the start of the season but as each game has gone on, we have been unlucky with some results and coming out on the wrong end of them.
“I am just really thrilled this group has put themselves in a position to potentially grab a playoff.”
On Thursday, Pembroke moved back into the top four with a 2-0 win over Railway Union who were left to rue a series of wasted chances in the first half.
It was another refix that went against the initial weather-affected tie with their first meeting snowed off with the score at 3-0 to Railway.
The Park Avenue side had consistent pressure in the second quarter with Zara Delany going close twice with Pembroke on the back foot, particularly when Eanna Horan was shown a yellow card.
Pembroke, though, were much stronger in the second half and hit the outside of the post via KJ Marshall before going ahead from a cracking reverse from Anouk de Jong.
Sinead Loughran applied a great deflection to a corner move and they stayed two clear until the end. It moves them back into fourth place and ahead of Cork Harlequins with one game to go.
“It’s where we want to be; it hasn’t been plain sailing but it’s a real testament to how hard the side has worked for the last three or four weeks. We have had five or six injuries at a time – we had five missing again tonight – and we really dug in.
“There were a few nervy moments so we had to defend the way we did to keep the clean sheet. It showed there’s something there that we badly want.”
On the women’s side, there are no league matches in the EYHL with the focus on the national cups. UCD II meet Railway Union II in the Irish Junior Cup final; Cork C of I meet Greenfields in the Irish Trophy and Dromore take on Clonmel in the Challenge decider.
Women’s EY Hockey League
Wednesday: UCD 1 (N Carey) Muckross 2 (S Barnwell, Y Pratt)
Thursday: Railway Union 0 Pembroke 2 (A de Jong, S Loughran)
Fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
Irish Hockey Trophy Final: Cork Church of Ireland v Greenfields, Serpentine Avenue 4.45pm
Irish Hockey Challenge final: Dromore v Clonmel, Serpentine Avenue, 12.45pm
Irish Junior Cup Final (Sunday): UCD II v Railway Union II, Grange Road 2pm
Munster Division 1: Catholic Institute v UCC, Rosbrien, 12pm