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Pembroke rebuild four-point lead in women’s EYHL as Insta emerge as main challengers

Women’s EYHL Division One – day 13 round-up
Old Alex 1 (Nikki Evans) Pembroke 1 (Gillian Pinder)

Old Alex and Pembroke shared the spoils from an extremely hard-fought tussle in Milltown with World Cup silver medalists Nikki Evans and Gillian Pinder trading goals.

Alex were first to strike just 68 seconds into the contest when Evans pounced on some dither in defence, picking up the ball on the circle’s edge and unleashing a brilliant reverse stick shot to match her one from a week ago.

The hosts had the momentum in this phase with Emma Russell’s shot well saved by Emma Buckley while their first of five penalty corners slipper just wide.

With a higher press in Q2, Pembroke had more of the play as they pinned Alex back for spells as both goalkeepers pulled off key stops. Emily Beatty’s quick shot was parried away by Holly Micklem while Buckley slid out to smother the menacing Mikayla Power.

Martha McCready had a huge chance snuffed out on the goal line by Micklem and the goalkeeper produced the pick of the saves from the follow-up penalty corner when she somehow blocked a corner deflected from Sally Campbell.

The equaliser for Pembroke arrived in the third quarter when Pembroke’s press swallowed up the Alex midfield, turning over ball on the 23m line. Ellen Curran slipped the ball right to Pinder who flicked across goal with a defensive intervention turning the ball in.

While Pembroke had slightly more of the ball, Alex were the ones who had the chances down the closing stretch with Evans hitting the side-netting from a corner move while two further penalty corners were blocked down in the last five minutes.

Belfast Harlequins 1 (J Watt) UCD 3 (A Naughton R Kelly, E Paul)
UCD kept up their push for a playoff place as they won well at Deramore Park, putting 10 points between them and their Saturday hosts.

The students started the livelier, forcing a corner in the first three minutes which was eventually cleared. Harlequins sustained the early pressure and started to ease up the pitch but an unfortunate slip in midfield allowed a ball through to the danger zone and Aine Naughton scored on her reverse. Although the play evened out, UCD found Michelle Carey in space on the right and she used her considerable pace to get to the byline and cross to Rachel Kelly at the left post for their second of the game.

Quarter 2 was a more even affair with some exciting hockey. Belfast Harlequins had their best chance to score from a corner but the UCD keeper made a fine save. Likewise, Q3 was honours even with not much circle penetration for either team but nonetheless entertaining hockey.

It heated up in the final quarter with Quins going down to 10 players but still found some slick two-touch hockey to get on the scoreboard as Sophie Hunter drove into the circle and made a crucial pass to Jenna Watt on the left. Watt made no mistake with the goal: 2-1.

Quins continued to press but a debated penalty corner for UCD, along with a yellow card for Natalie Lyttle, proved definitive. Emma Paul’s shot from that set piece took a deflection to kill off the result and a further yellow for the hosts stymied any hopes of a late charge.

Loreto’s Sarah Torrans gets away from Pegasus’s Emma Quinn. Pic Billy Pollock

Pegasus 0 Loreto 4 (H Matthews, S O’Brien, G Donald, S Torrans)
Loreto ran up a big win away to Pegasus to continue their hot and cold season, putting a dent in the Ulster side’s title hopes while giving their chances of a playoff place an extra pep in its step.

After a scoreless first half, Olympian Hannah Matthews broke the deadlock in the third quarter and they spun out into a 3-0 advantage courtesy of Siofra O’Brien and Grace Donald.

Pegs withdrew their goalkeeper Megan Todd for an extra outfielder for parts of the fourth quarter in a concerted bid to try and grab something from the game but it backfired with Sarah Torrans scoring into an open net. The defeat sees Pegasus drop into fourth place.

Railway Union 2 (L Lloyd, E Smyth) Muckross 0
Railway spent much of the first half on the front foot with Muckross’s defence called on to make a series of important blocks with Aoife Glennon busy in goal while Julia Balcerzak and Ella Malone clearing up off the pads.

The first goal came on the half-hour as Sarah Hawkshaw cut in from the right wing and laid on a perfect slide-rule pass to set Lily Lloyd free. She dummied right to creat a narrower angle but, crucially, an extra sliver of space to flick home from close to the baseline at the near post.

The pattern was a similar one in the second half with Railway pushing on and Muckross defending feverishly with Hawkshaw’s pump at goal well blocked by Glennon. Lily Lloyd picked out her older sister Kate in behind the last defender for another great chance but she was unable to connect with her reverse-stick effort.

Muckross, though, developed as more and more of a threat as time wore on and – after a series of three corners – Catalina Paz Montino hit the post from the second phase of one set play.

Railway Union’s Sarah Hawkshaw takes on Muckross’s Becky McMullen. Picture: Max Fulham

But the vital second goal arrived in the 51st minute when Niamh Shaw, Lily Lloyd and Ailish Long combined down the left channel, getting the ball into the middle where Emma Smyth swept home.

Catholic Institute 6 (N Carroll 2, A Horan, R Upton, A Hickey, E Ryan) Cork Harlequins 1 (L O’Shea)
Catholic Institute closed the Saturday night gap to one point in the women’s EYHL with their fifth successive win. They did fall behind in the first 10 minutes when Leah O’Shea as the bottom side dreamt of a shock result.

But Insta were firing in the second quarter when Olympic duo Róisín Upton and Naomi Carroll combined, the latter finishing off to make it 1-1. Anna Horan put the Limerick side in front for the first time when she dragged in a penalty corner before half-time and Upton matched that feat on the other side of the break.

Aoife Hickey extended the lead to 4-1 and Upton’s hit was turned in by Elizabeth Ryan for another one. Carroll closed out the scoring for a comprehensive win.

Sunday: Cork Harlequins 1 (Beth-Anne O’Farrell) Pembroke 2 (Gillian Pinder, Aisling Naughton)
Pembroke restored some breathing room when they dug deep to beat Cork Harlequins 2-1. Beth-Anne O’Farrell had put Quins in line for a shock result with a 49th minute penalty corner goal but Pembroke rallied quickly with Pinder netting a penalty stroke and Rachel O’Brien got the winner in the 53rd minute.

Pembroke went on the attack from the start, drawing a series of excellent saves from Lorna Bateman while Quins were holding their own in trying to disrupt Pembroke’s flowing hockey in the first half. All the fireworks came in a four minute spell toward the end of the third quarter and while Quins fought hard in the closing quarter, Pembroke picked up three more precious points to rebuild a four-point lead at the top of the table.

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Lisnagarvey back on top of men’s EYHL with thrilling win

Men’s EY Hockey League – day 13 round-up
Three Rock Rovers 2 (R Canning) Lisnagarvey 3 (D Nelson, A Edgar, O Kidd)

Lisnagarvey won a top-table classic to move back to the top of the men’s EY Hockey League table as they beat previous leaders Three Rock Rovers 3-2.

It was their second successive win at Grange Road, winning 2-0 in the Irish Senior Cup a week ago, with this tie a far more open affair.

Garvey looked in good shape to win with something to spare when Ollie Kidd set up Daniel Nelson for a simple finish in the first half and Andy Edgar whipped in a penalty corner drag-flick.

But Rovers came storming back in the third quarter and got a deserved one back via Ross Canning’s outstanding reverse-stick shot that ripped into the netting.

Rovers looked well set to potentially level it in Q3 but Garvey steadied the ship and went into a 3-1 lead courtesy of Kidd’s goal from another set piece.

In the endgame, Peter Blakeney cracked a shot off the post with James Milliken getting an incredible touch to redirect it and the goalkeeper also brilliantly smothered Harry McMahon’s deflection.

James Walker smashed in a second for Rovers with two minutes to go before Matthew Nelson became the next player to rattle the metalwork with a powerful shot pinging off the crossbar.

It puts Garvey into a two-point lead at the head of the table with Rovers dropping back to second, level on points with Glenanne who were 5-2 winners over UCD.

“It’s been tough coming two weeks in a row here and it is always tough against these guys so delighted to come away with the points,” said goalkeeper Milliken post-match, highlighting how his side toughed up a concerted second half onslaught.

“We work really hard on our PCD [penalty corner defence] and it is one of our points of pride; sometimes its guys picking it off the line, sometimes are runners charging it down and occasionally I have to do a job!”

Lisnagarvey’s Troy Chambers and Three Rock Rovers’ Peter Blakeney. Pic: Adrian Boehm

It is the sixth successive round the lead has changed hands in the competition and Milliken says it keeps Garvey on alert that there is a long way to go.

“It is a significant win but we have to keep our feet on the ground. There’s five games left and a lot of teams playing well – Glenanne going well, Banbridge doing great stuff.

“You have to play well every week, have that as a baseline and not as a peak. Every team is working so hard this year and it is one of the most competitive years we’ve had and it forces you to be better every week.”

Annadale 2 (C Robson 2) YMCA 5 (H McCarthy 2, F Marriott 2, A Meates)
YMCA won a huge three-points at Annadale to move five points clear of the relegation zone and also give them a buffer in sixth place in the chase of the playoff places.

It took just two minutes for them to open the scoring with Harry McCarthy picking up the ball wide on the right and delivering an inviting cross for Fionn Marriott to deflect on his backhand.

There was just five minutes on the clock when Dale levelled, again a right-wing cross that was turned in first time, this one by Callum Robson with an open side slap. YM hit back when Scott Ruttle powered through the middle and while a couple of bodies were sent sprawling, Andrew Meates cracked home a reverse-stick shot for 2-1.

For the remainder of the half, Annadale laid siege to the YM circle but they could not make the most of five penalty corner opportunities. The visitors were proving far more efficient, through, as they grew their lead out to 3-1 in the third quarter as a diagonal overhead from Sam Hyland created an overload with the cross going to McCarthy to sweep in his first of the day.

Annadale bounced back with Michael Robson’s slip pass through to Callum Robson allowed the latter slam in his second, cutting the gap to 3-2. But they were wide open at the back and another long ball saw McCarthy through one-on-one with Sam Hamill and he rounded the goalkeeper fo 4-2.

Matthew Walker’s long overhead from left back made it all the way through to Marriott, again behind the last defender, and he slotted home with nine minutes to go and a big three points were assured.

Pembroke 3 (A Sothern 2, G Chambers) Banbridge 5 (Ph Brown, J McKee, O Magee, J Moffett, L Rowe)
Banbridge continued their excellent form, extending their run to eight games unbeaten as they won a goalfest at Serpentine Avenue. It was a measure of things to come that Owen Magee drew the first save from Ilko Dartsch just 10 seconds in.

Pembroke hit the front soon after when Greg Chambers cleaned up off the pads of Luke Roleston following an initial save from Cian Murphy. Bann replied with Philip Brown dragging down the middle from their first corner and they went 2-1 ahead from the penalty spot.

Annadale’s Michael Robson holds off YMCA’s Matthew Walker. Picture: Billy Pollock

Brown’s initially drag was parried high in the air where Jonny McKee batted it goalwards onto the body of Nick Burns; McKee slotted the stroke. It was 2-2 at half-time, though, as Sothern produced one of his trick moves at corner time, dribbling, lifting then bunting home from close range.

Bann restored their lead in the second half when, after some strong Pembroke blocks, a long corner was played to Magee whose shot from a tight angle snuck in. Josh Moffett made it 4-2 in the 44th minute when Alexander Tinney made it all the way up to Louis Rowe; he slipped the ball to Moffett who had a simple tap-in.

A direct Alan Sothern drag brought the contest back into focus but Banbridge killed off the game with nine minutes to go as the Co Down side hunted in packs to turn over the ball on halfway. The ball was fed forward to Rowe who was a handful all game and he dummied the goalkeeper before scoring.

Pembroke had a series of late corners but none hit the sweet spot and so they remain in ninth place while Bann move within two points of second place for the first time since the second day of the season.

Glenanne 5 (S O’Donoghue 4, G Gibney) UCD 2 (S Byrne, H Lynch)
Shane O’Donoghue netted two strokes and two corners to see Glenanne move back into second place with a 5-2 win at St Andrew’s. Gavin Gibney opened the scoring for the Glens with a diving finish to a backhand cross from the left-wing before the students replied with Sam Byrne finishing off in the wake of a turnover move on halfway.

But then O’Donoghue took over, making it 2-1 at half-time from the penalty spot after his initial drag hit a foot on the goal-line. He went direct to make it 3-1 with a direct shot, one which UCD countered with a corner goal of their own from Harry Lynch.

O’Donoghue, though, completed his hat trick in the 58th minute and he made the results extra safe with his second stroke, again awarded after his drag hit a UCD body on the line.

Corinthian 1 (P Caruth) Monkstown 6 (D Carson 2, L Cole 2, G Sarratt, M Gibbons)
Monkstown eased to a strong win over Corinthian to close the gap to the top of the table and put themselves in the frame for a possible top two finish and direct qualification for the EY Champions Trophy finals weekend.

It was 2-0 at half-time and while Peter Caruth got one back for the reds in the third quarter, Monkstown race off into the distance with Davy Carson and Lee Cole scoring twice each with Guy Sarratt and Mark Gibbons also chipping in.

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Vital weekend of EYHL, IHC and interpro action

It’s one of the busiest dates of the season thus far with 11 crucial EYHL top tier games, four more in EYHL2 along with Irish Hockey Challenge knock-out ties and men’s interpro action on Sunday.

In the men’s EYHL, Three Rock Rovers and Lisnagarvey reprise their Irish Senior Cup meeting from a week ago with top spot in the table up for grabs. Garvey won round one 2-0 with a composed performance but Rovers have a couple of forwards returning to the line-up who could make a difference.

In the bottom half of the table, there are loads of permutations with Annadale, YMCA, Corinthian and Pembroke all lying between the cusp of the EY Champions Trophy playoff places and possible relegation.

The pivotal tie looks to be Annadale’s hosting of YMCA; the lie one and two points above the drop zone respectively. Pembroke, meanwhile, will aim to carry their win over Glenanne into a home date with an in-form Banbridge.

Corinthian will look to the double over Monkstown to aid their chances while the Glens host UCD, the latter needing close to a miracle to avoid the drop.

In the Irish Hockey Challenge, Waterford will look to continue their dominant form when they host Mullingar in the quarter-final while Limerick welcome Midleton in the other tie.

On the women’s side, leaders Pembroke and bottom side Cork Harlequins face a double weekend with the two meeting on Sunday. Before that, Pembroke have a big test against third equal Old Alex on Saturday as they seek to maintain their lead at the top.

Any slip, though, could open the door for Catholic Institute to put on more pressure; they host Cork Quins in the Munster derby.

Pegasus face Loreto in another classic encounter while Railway Union will hope not to have too much fatigue in their legs following their indoor exertions when they welcome Muckross to Park Avenue.

In EYHL2, the two Pool 1 leaders are in action with Corinthian facing Ards at Whitechurch Park with both sitting on 17 points, 10 clear of UCC and Trinity. As such, it is a de facto battle for top spot while the two student sides meet in the other game to try and keep their playoff hopes going.

In Group 2, Monkstown take their perfect record to Cork C of I while second place Queen’s go to NUIG in search of points to maintain their hold on second spot.

The women’s Irish Hockey Challenge is at the semi-final stage with Clonakilty welcoming NICS while Wexford go up to Bangor in two of the longest journeys undertaken this season.

Sunday’s interpros see Ulster face Munster at Under-16, 18 and 21 level in the male competitions. Ulster will hope to keep their perfect record going in the younger two age groups while Munster are aiming to reprise their earlier 3-0 win over the northern province at Under-21 level.

Saturday 26th February 2022
Men
EYHL Division 1:
Annadale v YMCA, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Corinthian v Monkstown, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Glenanne v UCD, St. Andrews, 1.30pm; Pembroke v Banbridge, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm; Three Rock Rovers v Lisnagarvey, Grange Road, 3pm

Irish Hockey Challenge – Quarter-Finals: Limerick v Midleton, Villiers, 2pm; Waterford v Mullingar, Newtown, 1pm

Women
EYHL Division 1:
Belfast Harlequins v UCD, Deramore Park, 12.45pm; Catholic Institute v Cork Harlequins, Rosbrien, 1pm; Old Alex v Pembroke, Milltown, 1.30pm; Pegasus v Loreto, Queens University, 12.45pm; Railway Union v Muckross, Park Avenue, 3pm

EYHL Division 2 – Pool 1: Corinthian v Ards, Whitechurch Park, 1.15pm; UCC v Trinity @ Mardyke, 2.30pm
Pool 2: Cork C of I v Monkstown, Garryduff, 3pm; NUIG v Queens University, Dangan, 1.50pm

Irish Hockey Challenge – Semi-Final: Bangor v Wexford, Bangor Aurora, 2.30pm; Clonakilty v NICS, Clonakilty, 2pm

Sunday 27th February 2022
Men
Interprovicincial series
Under-16:
Ulster v Munster, Grange Road, 3pm
Under-18: Ulster v Munster, Grange Road, 3pm
Under-21: Ulster v Munster, Grange Road, 3pm

Women
EYHL Division 1:
Cork Harlequins v Pembroke, Farmers’ Cross, 1.15pm

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Old Alex land key win in women’s EYHL as Corinthian shine in Division Two

It was a quiet weekend in the women’s EY Hockey League with one game each in Divisions One and Two, initially postponed from before Christmas.

Women’s EY Hockey League
Old Alex 1 (A Russell) Pegasus 0

Old Alex won an enthralling, if not high scoring game, with Abbie Russell’s single goal just before the end of the third quarter lifting the Milltown side up to a share of third spot with each club now having played 12 games.

Pegasus had the better of the first half with Alex Speers getting a lot of joy on the right sided attack but she came up against Holly Micklem – following her recent call-up to the Irish senior squad for their trip to France – who was in super form.

The ball seemed magnetised to the goalkeeper’s boot as she kicked away four corner shots and brilliantly slid out to deny Speers when through one-on-one. Lena Tice was also impressive with timely tackles and interceptions as the Dubliners hung tough.

In the second, half Old Alex took the upper hand and created some good chances from open play, causing panic stations when Millie O’Donnell, Jessica McGirr and Tice all testing Megan Todd in one melee.

McGirr had a goal initially awarded when her rising slap went up off Shirley McCay’s back and over Todd; after consultation, it was ruled out for the danger created.

Alex did get their goal when Niamh Sweeney slid a backhand pass to Mikayla Power whose one-time deflection across goal was out of reach of the goalkeeper to the back post where Abbie Russell was waiting to apply a diving tip-in.

The hosts ran up a couple more corners and Emma Russell went close with a powerful shot but without the insurance goal, the game remained lively right through to the final whistle.

EY Hockey League Division 2, Group A: Corinthian 3 (L Motyer 2, C Seggie) Galway 0
Laura Motyer’s double helped Corinthian move into a share of top spot in Group A of the women’s EYHL DIvision 2 Group A, seeing off a tough challenge from Galway.

In the early phases, the Connacht side put it up to the Leinster team at Whitechurch Park, winning a couple of corners which caused plenty of danger as Alyssa Manley, Elaine Carey and Rachel Kelly caused plenty of danger.

It was scoreless after the first quarter but Corinthian began to take greater control over the game in Q2 with Camila Arbulo getting things motoring. They took the lead when Christine Seggie scored on the half hour via a corner.

The second half saw that second quarter pattern continue and the reds moved further clear with Jessica Meeke the creator and Motyer the scorer on two occasions. Their first interaction saw Meeke slide a backhand pass into the danger zone for 2-0 on 45 minutes and they reprised that link-up in the last 10 minutes for the third.

At the mid-point in this group, Corinthian join Ards on 17 points, 10 clear of third placed UCC.

“After a tough first half, we finally got a bit of momentum which are key for us to progress in this league,” said Motyer after the win.

“They were hard to break down, very strong defensively and fair play, too, to our defence who are always strong. We take it one game at a time and hopefully we will be there for the playoffs at the end of the season.

For Galway’s part, player-coach Manley – an Olympian from 2016 – said her side’s performance was a big step-up for them in their maiden season in EYHL2.

“It was good. We have struggled in matches coming out hard from the start and this was probably our best start,” she said.

“Over the course of the season, we have shown a lot of growth and that showed in this match. We have a lot of young players who are getting more and more confident to play at this level and it is really exciting to see them grow.

“I really like it over here. If I was back home in the US, now that I am not in the US team, I wouldn’t be able to play hockey. Coming over to do a masters at NUIG, getting to continue playing hockey is really great. Galway is like a little family and the support system is really great.”

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Railway in Euro indoor action on lively weekend of action

A varied weekend of action sees games in European indoor action, women’s EYHL 1 and 2, the Irish Senior Cup and the Irish Hockey Trophy on what was initially set to be a relatively quiet fixture list.

For Railway’s women, they start bright and early on Friday morning in Alanya, Turkey in the EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy, facing Buckingham at 8am Irish time.

It has been a tough build-up for the side who recently retained their National Indoor Trophy crown with Emma Buckley and Holly Jenkinson unavailable through injury while, of their successful side from Gormanston, Kate McKenna and Hannah de Burgh Whyte also unable to travel.

As such, they look to the experience of Orla Fox and Orla Patton along with the trickery of Kate and Lily Lloyd; they can play with some freedom knowing there is no relegation this year with two sides withdrawing from the competition.

They also face Slavia Prague on Friday in their second game before meeting Austria’s SV Arminen and Turkish home club Gaziantep on Saturday. The tournament concludes with a final group game on Sunday against Scotland’s Clydesdale.

Elsewhere, on Thursday evening, Loreto won their first match of the new year with a healthy 4-1 win in the teeming rain at Belfield against UCD. The Beaufort side dominated the first half and went into a 3-0 lead with Hannah Matthews getting the ball rolling from a penalty stroke with Yasmin Pratt and Mia Jennings also weighing in.

Siofra O’Brien got their fourth despite UCD having the best of Q3, getting one back via Hannah McLoughlin’s deflected penalty corner. But they could make no further inroads and they drop out of the EY Champions Trophy playoff places with Loreto taking their place inside the top six.

On Saturday, Old Alex will face Pegasus in another rearranged fixture in the last outstanding match of the first 12 rounds of the season. Both need a win to close the gap on the automatic Champions Trophy semi-final spots.

For Pegs, three points would lift them into second place while Alex need a result to keep in touch with the three sides above them.

In EYHL2, Corinthian and Galway will play their refixed at Whitechurch Park with the former hoping to move level with Ards at the head of their group at the halfway stage while the Connacht side aiming for a first win.

The final four for the women’s Irish Senior Cup will be finalised with Banbridge and Catholic Institute both seeking their first journey that far in the competition.

Insta are the obvious favourites having made their way up to second in the EYHL while Bann sit sixth in the Ulster Premier League.

On the men’s side of the competition, there is a potential classic in store at Grange Road where Three Rock Rovers meet Lisnagarvey in the Irish Senior Cup quarter-final.

Rovers are top of the men’s EYHL with Garvey in second but the latter did win their meeting earlier this season, 3-2 at Comber Road. It is the first of two meetings between the teams in Dublin within seven days of each other as they play a crucial league encounter next week too.

The Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals for men are an all-Ulster affair with North Down facing South Antrim and Queen’s up against Portadown.

On the basis of reaching the top half of the split Ulster Premier Division, South Antrim and Queen’s would be pegged as favourites in these ties.

In the women’s Irish Hockey Trophy, Leinster Division 1 side Avoca face Challenge A side YMCA in a semi-final derby with the other final four tie postponed between Raphoe and Ashton due to the various weather warnings in place in Donegal and Cork.

Thursday 17th February
Women
EY Hockey League: UCD 1 (H McLoughlin) Loreto 4 (H Matthews, Y Pratt, M Jennings, S O’Brien)

Friday 18th February 2022
Women
EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy (Alanya, Turkey – times Irish): Railway Union v Buckingham, 8am; Railway Union v Slavia Prague, 2.15pm

Saturday 19th February 2022
Men
Irish Senior Cup, quarter-final: Three Rock Rovers v Lisnagarvey, Grange Road, 3pm
Irish Hockey Trophy, semi-finals: North Down v South Antrim, Comber LC, 2.40pm; Queens University v Portadown, The Dub, 2.30pm

Women
EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy (Alanya, Turkey – times Irish): Railway Union v SV Arminen, 10.30am; Railway Union v Gaziantep, 3.30pm
EYHL Division 1: Old Alex v Pegasus, Milltown, 1.30pm
EYHL Division 2, Pool 2: Corinthian v Galway, Whitechurch Park, 1.15pm
Irish Senior Cup, quarter-final: Banbridge v Catholic Institute, Havelock Park, 2.45pm
Irish Hockey Trophy, semi-finals: Avoca v YMCA, Newpark, 2.30pm; Raphoe v Ashton, Royal and Prior, 1pm

Sunday 20th February 2022
Women
EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy (Alanya, Turkey – time Irish):
Railway Union v Clydesdale, 7am

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Garvey stung late on as TRR go back top in men’s EYHL

Men’s EY Hockey League – day 12 round-up

Corinthian 2 (D Howard, A Sutton) Lisnagarvey 2 (O Kidd, M McNellis)

A rare Andrew Sutton goal saw Corinthian produce an incredible late fightback to nick a point against Lisnagarvey, knocking them off top spot of the men’s EY Hockey League.

The first half ended scoreless but things appeared to be going smoothly for Garvey when Ollie Kidd and Mark McNellis put them two clear in the fourth quarter.

But Davy Howard and the experienced Sutton’s goal in the last 30 seconds earned the reds a gleefully celebrated point which lifts them from eighth place to sixth in the rankings.

Glenanne 3 (S O’Connor, J Rogan, R Couse) Pembroke 5 (A Sothern 4, J Dale)

Alan Sothern showed how invaluable he is for Pembroke as he scored four goals as he returned to full flow after injury to give his side a vital victory over Glenanne, denting the hosts’ title chances in the process.

It was a measure of efficiency as Glenanne had a larger amount of possession and chances but Pembroke picked off corners and strokes from their fewer attacks to make the difference.

The Glens peppered Ilko Dartsch’s goal in the first few minutes with a couple of corners and a Richie Shaw volley flashing across goal. Sam O’Connor put them in front in the 24th minute but Sothern equalised within two minutes to have it level at the big break.

The second half started with the Glens on the attack for the most part but Pembroke’s first attack of the half led to a stroke which Sothern did not catch too cleanly but got enough on it to make it through David Lawless.

Jason Rogan equalised when he flicked in when the ball fell to him after a left-wing attack and Richard Couse applied a very smart take through his legs and finish for 3-2 from Shane O’Donoghue’s pin-point pass.

But Pembroke finished strong with Sothern scoring a second stroke for 3-3 after a corner shot hit a body on the line with 13 minutes to go. Julian Dale added a direct drag-flick to retake the lead soon after and Sothern completed the victory with his fourth of the day. They finished up round 12 one point away from safety while Glenanne are in third, three points off first.

Annadale 1 (J Clark) Three Rock Rovers 3 (B Johnson 2, R Canning)

Three Rock Rovers returned to the top of the men’s EY Hockey League as their set-piece functioned well to record a 3-1 win over Annadale at Lagan College.

Annandale got off to a flying start with Owen McElhinney’s left-wing cross on his reverse turned in by James Clark. Rovers, though, were level in the sixth minute when Ben Johnson nailed a drag-flick.

Rovers were initially awarded a stroke in Q2 when Johnson got in behind the last defender and went tumbling under a challenge from goalkeeper Sam Hamill but an umpire’s consultation overturned the decision.

Lisnagarvey’s Daniel Nelson shoots under pressure from Craig MacKay. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Conor Quinn made a big save from David Tremlett’s deflection before Rovers made it 2-1 with the last play of the half as Johnson’s shot was blocked by a body on the line and Ross Canning stepped up to convert from the penalty spot.

The Dubliners moved into a 3-1 lead from their third penalty corner of the second half with Johnson again the man on target, going down the glove side into the bottom corner.

After that, Rovers held on reasonably comfortably with Quinn not called into action in the closing 20 minutes while Hamill made some robust stops in the Dale goal.

UCD 1 (H Lynch) Monkstown 4 (D Carson, T Kohlmann, M Gibbons, G Sarratt)

Monkstown recorded a 4-1 win for the second week running as they proved too strong for UCD at Belfield. The students started well with Ewan Ramsay drawing a couple of good saves from Dave Fitzgerald but Monkstown were on their way in the second quarter.

David Nolan danced one way then the other from a free, getting to the baseline and crossing to Davy Carson to finish off. It was 2-0 by half-time via a sweet team move through the middle which Theo Kohlmann finished off.

Mark Gibbons was credited with the third goal with a deflection from a right-wing cross though the students argued it took a foot rather than a stick. Matthew O’Brien Holohan made a number of top class saves but the fourth goal fell to Guy Sarratt with a piece of individual brilliance, beating a couple of players on the baseline and then reversing into the net.

Harry Lynch pulled one back from a corner in the dying minutes for UCD.

YMCA 2 (G Glutz 2) Banbridge 3 (D Finlay, J McKee, E Magee)

Banbridge, meanwhile, won a rollercoaster against YMCA 3-2 to continue their push for a good playoff draw.

Grant Glutz had the Y 1-0 up from a penalty stroke but David Finlay had Bann level before half-time and a world class effort from Johnny McKee gave the Co Down side the lead for the first time. Eugene Magee’s corner goal put the visitors 3-1 up; Glutz’s second of the day closed out the game but proved immaterial.

Bann remain level with Monkstown in fourth place but have reeled in the gap to the top three.

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Pembroke winning streak ends as chasers cut the gap

Women’s EYHL – day 12 round-up

Cork Harlequins 0 Belfast Harlequins 1 (E Uprichard)

Emma Uprichard’s 19th minute goal gave Belfast Harlequins a huge three points over their Cork namesakes, pushing them five points clear of the relegation zone. For the Farmers’ Cross side, it leaves them with eight points to make up in the closing six matches.

The Cork side had the pick of the first quarter chances with Beth Anne O’Farrell going close but the Belfast side came into their own and began to threaten before Uprichard got the only goal.

She came in from the right, beating a couple of defenders before sliding a reverse sweep past the Cork Harlequins keeper. It remained that way through to the break despite Michelle Barry winning a corner but produced no reward.

The third quarter was end to end with the hosts having some big chances they should have put away while the Belfast side were fast on the break but held at bay by a strong defensive showing. The fourth quarter followed a similar pattern with both teams creating chances but not capitalising as the visitors held on for a significant victory.

Pembroke 2 (E Curran, S Campbell) UCD 2 (K Egan, E Paul)

Pembroke’s seven-game winning streak was brought to an end as UCD stormed back to grab a share of the points at Serpentine Avenue, coming back from 2-0 down.

In a first half of few chances, Pembroke opened the scoring from a lovely flowing move, started and finished by Ellen Curran. The midfielder laid off to Sinead Loughran who fed it on to Aisling Naughton on the right baseline. Her ball to the baseline ended up blocked at the near post by goalkeeper Laura Gunning but Curran had followed up the attack to pop in off the pads.

For UCD, their best chance came off the back of Michelle Carey’s driving run with the ball hitting the outside of the goal. Pembroke, though, doubled their lead when a corner was slipped to Sally Campbell who pushed in from the left of the D.

The students were back in the game in the 47th minute when Aine Naughton raced into space down the right right wing and squared for Katherine Egan who controlled well and slotted by Ruth Cowman in the Pembroke goal.

Early in Q4, Hannah McLoughlin hit the post after a surge from the top of the circle as UCD put on the pressure while a corner chance was well blocked by Cowman, scrambling to her right from a deflected shot.

And the equaliser arrived with five minutes to go with Emma Paul slamming in a sweep-shot from a corner into the bottom right corner. Pembroke did land a corner in the closing seconds but it was skewed wide and the laurels shared.

Muckross 0 Catholic Institute 4 (R Upton 2, N Carroll, H Kelly)

Catholic Institute continued their excellent start to 2022 with a third successive victory since the turn of the year, keeping them in second place. 

Hannah Kelly lines up a shot. Picture: Adrian Boehm

The first quarter was scoreless with Insta testing the Muckross defensive mettle before taking the lead in the second quarter through Naomi Carroll, a cracking reverse-stick shot from the Olympian.

That was how it remained through to half-time but the Limerick side cut loose in the second half with Hannah Kelly grabbing a second goal. And Róisín Upton added two identical penalty corner drag-flicks in the closing period to expand the lead to 4-0.

Pegasus 2 (K McKee, T Doherty) Railway Union 1 (N Shaw)

Pegasus fought back from a half-time deficit to land an important win of their title chances as Katie McKee and Taite Doherty turned the tide against Railway Union at Malone Road.

Niamh Shaw got the only goal of the first half with a cracking hit from a double-switch move from a penalty corner to give Railway the half-time advantage.

Pegasus, though, were level two minutes into the second half when Katie McKee twisted and turned to get the space to shoot on her backhand where she powered home.

And the Ulster side had the winner when Ruth Maguire picked out a brilliant pass to Taite Doherty and she struck a crisp effort for 2-1.

Loreto 1 (H Matthews) Old Alex 3 (N Evans 2, M Power)

Nikki Evans’ classy double earned Old Alex a key win over fellow playoff chasers Loreto to put them in fourth spot in the women’s EY Hockey League.

Nikki Evans’ sparkling top-corner effort lit up the first half as she picked up Millie O’Donnell’s ball into the D, steadying before unleashing a sublime shot on her backhand.

Prior to that, Loreto had seen a corner shot confidently booted away by Holly Micklem while Emma Russell went inches wide from an Evans pull-back. Liz Murphy, meanwhile, was alert to clean up a one-on-one chance.

Loreto had most of the play after the goal with a number of half-chances slipping by with Cailtin Sherin stepping forward and going close.

Alex had the best of the third quarter and they were rewarded when Lena Tice lifted an overhead into the D to Mikayla Power who controlled and slipped in her shot for 2-0.

The Beaufort side got one back from the third of a series of three corners when Hannah Matthews’ hit took a heavy deflection off the number one runner. 

But Evans quickly restored the Alex lead when she reacted brilliantly to a rebound from Tice’s corner shot, batting home on the dive.

Micklem did brilliantly to keep out an Aoife Taaffe first-time shot in Q4 and Matthews went close with another corner effort in a late series of attacks from Loreto but Alex held on for their first win in the EYHL since early November.

 

EYHL Division 2 round-up
Ards, Corinthian, Monkstown and Queen’s moved into the prime positions in EYHL2 with high-scoring wins in their Saturday match-ups.
Ards head up Pool 1 thanks to a 6-1 win over Galway. It was tight in the first half with the oranges missing a number of chances but they still managed a 1-0 lead at half-time thanks to a near post shot from Ali Carson.
An impressive second half saw Amy Benson and Zara Malseed on the scoreboard twice for Ards before youngster Katie Kimber scored Ards’ final goal from a well rehersed penalty corner routine in the 6-1 win.
Alyssa Manley smartly converted a penalty corner with a well placed strike for Galway to score their first goal in their EYHL2 campaign.
Corinthian withstood a Trinity comeback to win 4-2 in the other game and move into second spot in the group. Two goals from Lauren McGrane and one from Christina Seggie had the reds 3-0 up before Faye Neill and Kate Sullivan made things interesting. Seggie’s second, though, killed off the tie.
In Pool 2, Monkstown moved closer to a confirmed playoff spot with a 5-0 win over Lurgan with Susie Kelly, Claire O’Reilly, Chloe Watkins, Natasha Twomey and Rebecca Carthy all scoring.
It puts them 10 points clear of Queen’s who were 4-1 winners at home against Cork C of I.
EYHL Division 2

Pool 1: Ards 6 (Z Malseed 2, A Benson 2, A Carson, K Kimber) Galway 1 (A Manley); Trinity 2 (F Neill, K Sullivan) Corinthian 4 (L McGrane 2, C Seggie)

Pool 2: Lurgan 0 Monkstown 5 (S Kelly, C O’Reilly, C Watkins, N Twomey, R Carthy); Queens University 4 (J McMaster 3, E Getty) Cork C of I 1 (C O’Sullivan)

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Harlequins duo face key tussle in women’s EYHL as men’s top five meet bottom five

The battle for playoff places continues to heat up in the women’s and men’s EY Hockey Leagues with the newly introduced quarter-final phase making life very interesting.

This season, the top two will go straight to the EY Champions Trophy semi-finals while the next four sides in each competition getting a shot in the quarter-final playoffs for a place at the finals weekend at Havelock Park on April 23rd and 24th.

With two sides automatically relegated from both the elite men and women’s leagues, too, it means there is a wealth of intrigue in each area of the tables.

Indeed, at the bottom of the women’s EY Hockey League, it is a vital day for the two sets of Harlequins as Cork host Belfast at Farmers’ Cross. The Cork side have one point to their name and need to make up five points if they are to get out of the danger zone.

Eighth placed Belfast, on the flip side, will be acutely aware of that and know that if they can land the three points, it could be a knock-out blow to the Munster side’s chances of staying in the top tier.

At the top, leaders Pembroke will meet a UCD side who had a wealth of players involved in the Irish women’s squad who impressed in midweek in an uncapped series against France.

Katherine Egan scored twice in Tuesday’s 4-0 success in Antibes while Eva Lavelle and KJ Marshall also lined out in the series for the senior panel for the first time.

They joined club mates Hannah McLoughlin and Sarah McAuley – another scorer this week in Wednesday’s 3-0 win against the French – and shows the quality they have in their camp.

They will be aiming to end Pembroke’s seven-game winning streak and make a strong push for the playoff places. The Serpentine Avenue hosts, though, have shown all facets to suggest they are in rude health for their title push, fighting back last week to beat Loreto 2-1 having trailed early on.

There is plenty of scope for jostling of positions throughout the division. Loreto currently sit outside the playoff places but a win over Old Alex could see them jump a number of places.

Belfast Harlequins Emma Uprichard in action against Pembroke. Picture: Billy Pollock

Both have players in their panels who got their first tastes of senior Irish hockey with Loreto’s Christina Hamill scoring in game two in France while Alex goalkeeper Holly Micklem recorded a clean sheet for her week’s efforts.

Pegasus have a tester in their pursuit of the top two spots when they host Railway Union who bring a slightly erratic form book to the table in 2022, winning well over Cork Harlequins but falling 6-1 to Catholic Institute.

Insta, meanwhile, are looking for a fourth win in succession when they go to ninth place Muckross.

In EYHL2, Monkstown can potentially propel themselves even further clear in Pool 2 when they go to second placed Lurgan. Simon Lowry’s squad are the only side with a perfect record and hold an eight point lead over the Ulster side with Anna O’Flanagan and Chloe Watkins doing lots of damage.

Lurgan, though, defied the odds last time out to defeat Queen’s in spite of several Covid absentees and will look to cause plenty of problems. Cork C of I go to Queen’s with the winners hoping victory will put them in the top two shake-up.

In Pool 1, Ards will be favourites to maintain their place at the head of the group when they host Galway who have yet to score in the competition. Trinity and Corinthian will be looking to boost their respective playoff chances with the reds winning a recent Leinster league meeting between the sides 4-1.

In the men’s EYHL, the top five face the bottom five. YMCA host Banbridge in what has proven a lively match-up in the past few seasons; the Y were without Harry McCarthy, Ross Henderson and Peabo Lembethe – currently with South Africa in Pro League action – last week for their date with Glenanne.

Lisnagarvey – reinstalled as leaders this week – go to Corinthian looking to maintain their place at the head of the pack after a confident finish to their win over Annadale with Ollie Kidd’s goal the pick of some tidy goals.

Glenanne were understrength last week with Mark Keppel and Paul Byrne getting rare appearances for the first team but they did well to score a good win.

They are up against Pembroke who welcomed back Ronan Flannery to the side a week ago while Ilko Dartsch lined out in goal in their tie against Monkstown.

Three Rock Rovers are on the M1 for a second successive week, this time to face Annadale whom they drew with 2-2 at home.

UCD, meanwhile, are in a last chance saloon as they need to win at least four of their last seven games to have a chance of staying up this term. The first of those is against Monkstown at home on Saturday; for Town, Robert Mason made a comeback to the first team while Geoff Cole and David Nolan did not play.

Saturday 12th February 2022
Men
EYHL Division 1:
Annadale v Three Rock Rovers, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Corinthian v Lisnagarvey, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Glenanne v Pembroke, St Andrews, 3.15pm; UCD v Monkstown, Belfield, 2.50pm; YMCA v Banbridge, Wesley College, 3.50pm

Women
EYHL Division 1:
Cork Harlequins v Belfast Harlequins, Farmers’ Cross, 2.45pm; Loreto v Old Alexandra, Beaufort, 1.30pm; Muckross v Catholic Institute, Grange Road, 1pm, Pegasus v Railway Union, Queen;s, 2.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v UCD, Serpentine Avenue, 2.45pm

EYHL Division 2
Pool 1:
Ards v Galway, Londonderry Park, 2.30pm; Trinity v Corinthian, Santry Avenue, 2pm
Pool 2: Lurgan v Monkstown, Lurgan JHS, 2pm; Queens University v Cork C of I, Malone, 12.45pm

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Pembroke in seventh heaven with key women’s EYHL victory

Women’s EY Hockey League – day 11 round-up

Catholic Institute 3 (R Upton, H Kelly, E Ryan) Old Alex 1 (D Duke)

Catholic Institute maintained their place in second with another significant win in their pursuit of an EY Champions Trophy place as they saw off Old Alex who started the day in third.

Alex did start in roaring fashion, forcing a goal line save from Roisin Upton while Deirdre Duke also drew a good stop from former Old Alex keeper Pamela Smithwick, keeping it 0-0 in Q1.

Q2 began with Upton going to the sin-bin on a green card but immediately on her return, she ran straight into the circle, met Naomi Carroll’s pass, stopped and slotted into the top left corner.

The Dubliners were level within two minutes with a quick free finding Duke in a good shooting position and she found the bottom corner. Parity, though, only lasted just over a minute as Hannah Kelly slapped in from the second phase of a corner to make it 2-1, a lead they held until half-time.

Eimear Ryan had to save another off the Insta line and a couple of Alex corners in another strong start to a period from the visitors but the Limerick side started to get more on the ball with Carroll to the fore. 

And the third goal arrived from an impressive move, Christine O’Shea finding Aoife Hickey who sent the ball square to Ryan who pulled on a first time rocket, 3-1. The visitors attacked in waves in the fourth quarter but that momentum was slowed when Lena Tice was shown a yellow card and Insta stayed clear for another important win.

Loreto 1 (S O’Brien) Pembroke 2 (A Naughton, L McGuire)

Pembroke overcame a tough hurdle to land their seventh win in succession in the women’s EY Hockey League to maintain their five-point lead at the top.

Loreto had beaten Pembroke 6-1 in the Jacqui Potter Cup just a few weeks ago and they took confidence into the early stages with Hannah Matthews’ corner shot and Yasmin Pratt going close.

They took the lead when Siofra O’Brien burst through the centre of the circle and turned the ball home with an upright reverse-stick shot, Pembroke’s calls for an earlier foot falling on deaf ears.

In response, Pembroke earned four corners but could not find a way past Liz Murphy until the 30th minute. Tori Wensley had two bites from the right of the D, her first shot coming back her way and her second landing at Aisling Naughton on the back post for a simple finish.

Pembroke’s Aisling Naughton celebrates with Rachel O’Brien and Martha McCready. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Six minutes into the second half, Pembroke took the lead from another corner, Leah McGuire taking her time before smashing home as Loreto’s corner defence only went halfway to shut down the shot.  

Loreto fought back, creating a string of chances in the aftermath with Matthews slapping a shot inches wide; O’Brien took in a loose overhead on the edge of the circle but could not get a clean shot off while Lisa Mulcahy also went close.

Pembroke steadied, though, and they were the side who went closest to adding the scoring in the final quarter, Sinead Loughran inches from a spectacular third as she slid full length to deflect the ball onto the bar.

Railway Union 3 (S Rooney, S Hawkshaw, Z Delany) Cork Harlequins 0

Railway Union moved into the top four with a healthy win over Cork Harlequins at Park Avenue. They started well, dominating the first quarter and going two goals up. 

The first was a break instigated by Zara Delany who passed to Sarah Rooney – making her EYHL debut for Railway along with sister Hannah – who slotted home. The second came from a corner; Holly Jenkinson’s sweep was saved by Lorna Bateman in the Quins goal but Railway captain Sarah Hawkshaw made no mistake with the rebound. 

While the hosts dominated possession in the 2nd quarter they failed to finish the moves, with the Cork visitors defending well and making a few forays forward.

The third quarter continued in similar vein with Railway getting their third goal, Zara Delany poking the ball in after a good cross in by Hawkshaw. Bateman in the Quins goal made a number of good saves from sisters Kate and Lily Lloyd to keep the score at three. 

The final quarter was a more even affair with Cliodhna Sargeant and Yvonne O’Byrne pushing forward for Cork Harlequins while Beth-Anne O’Farrell and Ruby Walsh were showing good skills up front. However, neither team could find the net and the score remained 3-0.

Belfast Harlequins 0 Pegasus 3 (S McCay, A Speers, T Doherty)

Pegasus won the Ulster derby to kickstart their new year push for EY Hockey League laurels, getting the best of Belfast Harlequins 3-0 at a blustery Deramore Park. Shirley McCay and Alex Speers brought their wealth of experience to bear, netting their first two goals before Taite Doherty completed the scoring.

It was a really exciting encounter with end to end hockey although Harlequins will rue not having at least one goal from good pressure and two penalty corners in the first quarter.  The second quarter saw Pegasus pressurise more consistently which brought some great goalkeeping from Suzie Taylor and an eventual corner which led to a stroke from a foot on the goal line. McCay  powered the ball high just out of the keeper’s reach to leave Pegasus 1-0 up at half time.

Railway Union’s Kate Lloyd crosses. Pic: Max Fulham

It was more of the same in the second half with both teams hitting the attacking circle. Pegasus’ Alex Speers had a simple tap-in from some clever work along the back line by Lucy McKee. 

Quins had their chances to bring one back and set up an exciting finish and even after Pegasus found the net again through Taite Doherty, Harlequins forced a corner and some strong circle play but were ultimately frustrated not to convert from their chances. Therein lies the difference but definitely an entertaining game and a good example of top level hockey.

UCD 3 (K Egan 2, S McAuley) Muckross 1 (K Fitzgerald)

The league’s top scorers UCD came back from a goal down to defeat Muckross and move into the last of the playoff places after their 10th match of the season. Katie Fitzgerald put the visitors into the lead just before the end of the first quarter.

But Katherine Egan celebrated her international call up with an equaliser in the second quarter and it was 2-1 by half-time courtesy of Sarah McAuley. Egan settled the tie in the 50th minute with her second of the game.

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EYHL returns as playoff chase heats in earnest

The EY Hockey League returns on Saturday, kickstarting the final chase for places at the EY Champions Trophy which will take place at Banbridge in April.

Pembroke’s women and Three Rock Rovers in the men’s competition had the edge over the Christmas break but it is all to play for as the games come thick and fast in the coming weeks.

In the women’s league, Pembroke have been the season’s sensation, building a five-point lead. The Ballsbridge club have never reached the playoffs before but they look the clear favourites now to land the regular season title and take one of the EY Champions Trophy semi-final spots on offer.

Coach Gavin Groves has been growing his panel year on year and the latest additions have been hugely influential. Irish international Ellen Curran has added an extra level of dynamism to the midfield since her move from UCD while Isy Delamer’s arrival from Trinity complements their defensive options.

At the back, they have been outstanding with goalkeeper Emma Buckley conceding just five times in 10 outings while Leah McGuire, MIllie O’Donnell and Amy-Kate Trevor have ensured no side has an easy ride against them,

Further up the field, the gameplan is all about pace with Sinead Loughran, Aisling Naughton and Sinead Loughran scaring the life out of their opponents with Orla Macken pulling the strings. Gillian Pinder oozes class in a well-rounded team and their run of six successive wins has seen them emerge from the pack.

Their first assignment sees them face a Loreto side who they beat well in the EYHL earlier this season but, in Leinster’s Jacqui Potter Cup, turned the tables in January with a 6-1 success.

For Loreto, four of their panel have been called into the Irish setup and it shows they will be more than dangerous in the second half of the season with a number of established stars back in the fold.

Catholic Institute jumped into second place in the table in January when they won well against Railway Union in a back match and if they can match that when they face third place Old Alex, they will put themselves in prime position for a playoff run.

Alex have endured a number of injuries and absences but still find themselves in the top three with Deirdre Duke, Lena Tice and Nikki Evans having limited availability initially but should play a fuller role in the new year. Goalkeeper Holly Micklem has impressed to get a call into Sean Dancer’s national panel.

Alex are level on 18 points with Pegasus – the Champions Trophy holders – who were the pace-setters until that Pembroke setback but look like they will still have plenty of say in the season’s shake-up with Shirley McCay and Alex Speers being huge influences.

They will be favourites when they meet eighth placed Belfast Harlequins although the Deramore Park club are significantly bolstered by the return of Katie Larmour to the club following the completion of her spell at Rutgers University. On the downside, up and coming player Imogen Graham is out for the timebeing following a knee injury.

There looks to be a major scrap for the top six places which will bring a playoff spot in the new format this term. Loreto overcame a mixed start to rise to fifth, level with Railway Union. 

UCD are just outside the playoff places in seventh after a tough run of form without the injured Olympian Hannah McLoughlin who remains the competition’s top scorer despite missing the last few rounds. She has been back in the fold in the Leinster cup and will be a key figure against Muckross on Saturday. 

Railway Union, meanwhile, welcome Cork Harlequins who have seen Cliodhna Sargent come back into their panel to try and help them rise off the foot of the table.

TRR’s Ben Johnson shoots under pressure from Banbridge’s Sam Farson. Pic: Max Fulham

The men’s competition has already been a rollercoaster with the lead changing hands on an almost weekly basis in the past month with Glenanne, Lisnagarvey and Three Rock all taking turns at the top.

After 10 rounds, the three sides are covered by just two points with Rovers something of a surprise package despite winning the last three EY Champions Trophy crowns.

That is because many of their stars are now playing professionally in Europe with a new breed making their mark. They go to Banbridge with former captain Harry Morris available having only played once before Christmas due to a work break in the US but Ali Empey has moved the other way across the Atlantic for an Erasmus stint.

For Bann, Peter Brown returns from injury having missed November and December with Josh Moffett also available after hamstring problems.

Ulster U-18 players Tommy Dobson and Matthew Stevenson moved to Bann from Portadown just before Christmas and will push hard for EYHL squad places.

Elsewhere, it is derby days all round. Lisnagarvey meet Annadale at Comber Road. For Garvey, they had their own run of six wins in succession which saw them hit top spot before falling 4-3 to Monkstown and drawing 2-2 with Banbridge slowed their progress.

Ben Nelson has been the fulcrum of their attack from play while James Lorimer’s corner expertise has been a vital feature. James Milliken has excelled between the posts.

Annadale are seventh following a productive first half of the season. They landed their first win in several years in the top tier when they beat UCD 4-0 and backed that up with a 4-0 victory against Pembroke. 

Michael and Callum Robson’s return from Germany and Tim Cross’s move from the Dutch Hoofdklasse where he played with Tilburg has been crucial for them. Twice this campaign, they have managed to come back from three goals down to secure points.

Glenanne had made the early running with five successive wins to start the season with ace marksman Shane O’Donoghue leading the way. He has 15 goals to his name already.

They face a tricky tie against YMCA who knocked them out of the Leinster Senior Mills Cup and are buoyed by African Cup of Nations winner Paebo Lembethe in their line-up.

YMCA are just inside the playoff places thanks to an amazing closing salvo to the pre-Christmas schedule. They came back from 2-0 down to beat Pembroke 3-2 for a second successive win.

Monkstown, in fifth, are something of an enigma. Their performances have managed to knock Three Rock, Glenanne and Lisnagarvey off top at different stages of the campaign, picking up seven points out of nine against the top three.

But they have only picked up nine points from their other 21 available to stymie a push for the very top of the table. Their next assignment is against a Pembroke side who sit in ninth place and in the relegation places, one point below Corinthian.

The reds, meanwhile, are in eighth place and while they were disappointed to draw 4-4 last week against Annadale from a 4-1 lead, it did end a run of five defeats in a row. 

They face bottom side UCD who have just one point so far. It has been a steep learning curve for them following a late turnover of players during the summer and while they have been competitive, they only have a draw with YMCA on their record while the departure of Sam Walker on Erasmus also makes things tricky. Kevin O’Dea, though, has been a star man for the Belfielders.

Elsewhere, Sunday sees four more inteprovincial matches going to Grange Road with Munster facing Ulster and Leinster playing Leinster South in both Under-16 and 18 girls competitions.

NUIG meet Avoca in the women’s Irish Hockey Trophy, a tie postponed from before Christmas.

 

Saturday 5th February 2022

Men 

EYHL Division 1: Banbridge v Three Rock Rovers, Havelock Park, 4.15pm; Lisnagarvey v Annadale, Comber Road, 3pm; Monkstown v Pembroke Wanderers, Rathdown, 2.15pm; UCD v Corinthian, Belfield, 2.50pm; YMCA v Glenanne, Wesley College, 2.15pm

Women 

EYHL Division 1: Belfast Harlequins v Pegasus, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Catholic Institute v Old Alexandra, Rosbrien, 1pm; Loreto v Pembroke Wanderers, Beaufort, 1pm; Railway Union v Cork Harlequins, Park Avenue, 1.30pm; UCD v Muckross, Belfield, 1pm

Irish Hockey Trophy: NUIG v Avoca, Dangan, 1.50pm

Sunday 6th February 2022

Women 

Irish Under 16/18/21 Inter Provincials 

U16 Interpros: Munster v Ulster, Grange Road, 2.45pm; Leinster v Leinster South, Grange Road, 5pm

U18 Interpros: Munster v Ulster, Grange Road, 4.45pm; Leinster v Leinster South, Grange Road, 3pm