With a six-week Christmas break for the majority of sides pending, round 10 of the women’s EY Hockey League can give plenty of festive cheer to those who end 2016 with victory.
For Cork Harlequins and Loreto, it is especially so. Loreto have been one of the form teams in the division, unbeaten in the last five games and have conceded just nine times since their promotion.
Hannah Matthews in defence and Ali Meeke in midfield have been superb while the McDermott sisters are starting to find their goalscoring touch.
And if they can reverse their opening day defeat to Quins and run up a fifth win of the campaign, they will end 2016 within a point of the top three.
Harlequins’ form, meanwhile, has been mixed of late, recording one win in four games since their perfect record came to an end in the competition. As such, they will hope that all their impressive early work will not be undone and a buffer between them and the chasers will remain in tact.
Railway Union, bouyed by their excellent win at Cork Harlequins last time around, host Pembroke in the Dublin 4 derby. The multi-talented Kate McKenna received another honour this week when she was named in the Dublin ladies Gaelic football “Dub Stars” squad, one which honours the best players from the club championships in 2016.
The Irish cricket international starred in Clanna Gael Fontenoy’s run to the Leinster intermediate championship final in November, earning her place in the representative team that takes on the Dublin senior team on January 8 in DCU.
She capped Railway’s win over Quins with an assist and a goal and will form part of an attacking line-up looking to finish off their pre-Christmas campaign in contention for a playoff place.
Hermes-Monkstown scored 10 against Belfast Harlequins when the two sides met in September at Deramore Park and the visitors – who have a number of injuries in their forward lines – will probably be looking at damage limitation in this tie.
Shirley McCay is taking time out after a hectic first half of the season, combining her numerous coaching roles with international duties and club games. As such, she will not be in the Ulster Elks squad for their trip to Pegasus.
Dawn Axon’s return to Elks drew some instant dividends with a goal against Pembroke and she and Robyn Chambers will look to cause their former club some major issues in a key game for both sides.
The Elks will be looking to drag Pegasus back within range of the relegation places while the hosts are hoping to get back into the playoff chase.
UCD are in Sunday action for the second successive week, bringing their unbeaten record to Ards. Both are missing high profile stars in Chloe Brown and Deirdre Duke.
The students, with Katie Mullan and Lena Tice excellent throughout, ended Hermes-Monkstown’s perfect record and showed that they are in for the long-run in the title race.
Women’s EY Hockey League (Saturday): Hermes-Monkstown v Belfast Harlequins, 2.15pm, Merrion Fleet Arnea; Cork Harlequins v Loreto, 2.30pm, Farmer’s Cross; Pegasus v Ulster Elks, 4pm, Queen’s; Railway Union v Pembroke, 4.15pm, Park Avenue
Sunday: Ards v UCD, 2.30pm, Londonderry Park