Another dramatic week in the women’s EY Hockey League saw Loreto take up the reins at the top of the table from Old Alex after a weather-beaten schedule.Three midweek matches in Dublin all saw fine comebacks with Pembroke overcoming the concession of an early Anna O’Flanagan goal to beat Muckross 3-1 on Wednesday evening with Leah McGuire, Laura Noble and Claire Foley all scoring.A day later, Old Alex looked well set to extend their lead when Hannah McDermott’s double put them 2-0 up on UCD only for Edel Nyland and twins Niamh and Michelle Carey to score three goals in the space four minutes to nick a 3-2 win for the students.It gave Loreto the chance to return to the lead that night but they found themselves 2-1 down against Railway Union going into the final quarter. Three late goals, however, from Hayley Mulcahy, Hannah Matthews and Sarah Torrans swung the game Loreto’s way, 4-2.Saturday, meanwhile, saw Storm Jorge lead to the postponement of both Old Alex and Cork Harlequins’ meeting and that of Pembroke and Pegasus. UCD against Muckross was subsequently abandoned in the second quarter when high winds forced the goals off their moorings.It gave Loreto the chance to extend their lead at the head of the table but they found themselves being held to a 1-1 draw by a Roisin Upton-inspired Catholic Institute. She opened the scoring before Mulcahy equalised in the third quarter.Belfast Harlequins won their first game of the season at Deramore Park to reignite their chances of avoiding relegation, closing the gap on the side they beat, Railway Union, to two points. It came courtesy of Alex Kelly’s final second winner after a thrilling contest in which Quins led 2-0 and 3-2 only for Railway to level the game twice.
This week’s Women’s EY Hockey League results
Wednesday, February 26th: Muckross 1 (A O’Flanagan) Pembroke 3 (L McGuire, L Noble, C Foley)Thursday, February 27th: Old Alex 2 (H McDermott 2) UCD 3 (E Nyland, N Carey, M Carey); Railway Union 2 (K Lloyd, J Long) Loreto 4 (S Twomey, H Mulcahy, H Matthews, S Torrans)
Saturday, February 29th : Belfast Harlequins 4 (L Geddes, C Weir, J Watt, A Kelly) Railway Union 3 (L Lloyd 2, K Dillon); Loreto 1 (H Mulcahy) Catholic Institute 1 (R Upton); UCD v Muckross abandoned in second quarter
Postponed: Old Alex v Cork Harlequins, Pembroke Wanderers v Pegasus
Next weekend’s fixturesSaturday, March 7th: Pegasus v Loreto, Queen’s, 1pm; Pembroke v Cork Harlequins, Serpentine Avenue, 2pm; Old Alex v Catholic Institute, Milltown, 2.30pm; Railway Union v Muckross, Park Avenue, 2.30pm; UCD v Belfast Harlequins, Belfield, 2.50pmSunday, March 8th: Cork Harlequins v Muckross, Farmers’ Cross, 1.05pm; Catholic Institute v Railway Union, Rosbrien, 1.30pm; Pegasus v UCD, Queen’s, 1.30pm; Belfast Harlequins v Pembroke, 2.30pm; Loreto v Old Alex, Beaufort, 3pm
Extended match reports
Wednesday: Muckross 1 (A O’Flanagan) Pembroke 3 (L McGuire, L Noble, C Foley)Pembroke got back on the winning trail for the first time since November. Like the other midweek games, it featured a comeback as Anna O’Flanagan put Muckross in front but Pembroke turned things around to succeed 3-1.Leah McGuire equalised with her fourth goal since the turn of the year and Laura Noble made it 2-1 before half-time and they pushed on from there, Claire Foley closing out the results.Muckross were without recent Irish call-up Ellie McLoughlin due to a concussion return to play protocol with Rachel Barnett deputising. In her first game for 18 months, she saved a stroke.
Thursday: Old Alex 2 (H McDermott 2) UCD 3 (E Nyland, N Carey, M Carey)UCD produced a remarkable set of three goals in four minutes – between the 52nd and 56th minutes – to land a big win in Milltown which strengthened their place in the top four.Old Alex had taken the lead in the table last Saturday and looked well set to maintain that advantage on Thursday when a Hannah McDermott double put them two clear of UCD.But the students transformed a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win as they found the cutting-edge Miles Warren has been willing from them all season.McDermott got the only goal of the first half with a cracking touch to Deirdre Duke’s strike and they looked well in control when the forward guided in another from a penalty corner.UCD, though, were playing their part in a very good contest and the students were on the board via an absolute rocket from Edel Nyland just before the end of the third quarter. They were level when Sarah Patton’s great run down the line was taken on by Sarah Young who drove at goal and Niamh Carey nipped in to get the final touch. Her twin Michelle then went direct down the middle and struck for 3-2 with 14 minutes left.
Railway Union 2 (K Lloyd, J Long) Loreto 4 (S Twomey, H Mulcahy, H Matthews, S Torrans)Top spot in the women’s EY Hockey League continues to be a hot potato as Loreto returned back above Old Alex and Pegasus on Thursday evening with a big come-from-behind win over Railway Union.They won 4-2 in the end thanks to three final quarter goals, denying Railway a third win of the campaign. Sara Twomey’s rebound from a corner switch move had given Loreto a 20th minute lead but Jenny Long tied things up by half-time with a deflection from a corner sweep.
And the Park Avenue hosts went in front three minutes into the second half when Lisa McCarthy picked out Martha McCready who beat a player before crossing into the path of Kate Lloyd who touched in.They carried that lead into the final quarter but another corner goal saw Loreto level, Hannah Matthews reverting the ball to injector Hayley Mulcahy to finish off. Matthews went direct for 3-2 in the 61st minute and, with Railway going without a keeper for the closing minutes, Sarah Torrans added a final hooter corner.
Saturday Belfast Harlequins 4 (L Geddes, C Weir, J Watt, A Kelly) Railway Union 3 (L Lloyd 2, K Dillon)Belfast Harlequins threw themselves a relegation lifeline after Alex Kelly’s dramatic last gasp goal secured them their first victory of the season.Railway Union went into the game five points better off than Quins, who remain at the bottom of the table, but have now closed the gap to just two although the Dubliners have played a game less.
It would have been a very different scenario had Harlequins not scored with the last play of the game when Kelly deflected home a penalty corner for the winner.
Now though, Phil Mills’s team have a fighting chance of avoiding automatic relegation from the top-flight for the first time.
The Quins coach declared: “It was a crucial win for us and we’ve everything to play for going forward with six games to turn things around, including the return fixture in Dublin.”
“We didn’t play our best hockey of the season and we were on the back foot for much of the second-half but the result was the most important thing.”
Harlequins broke the deadlock with a superb goal in the seventh minute, Lucy Geddes finishing clinically as she rounded the keeper before firing home after latching on to a great through ball from Julie Dennison. The home team doubled their advantage 11 minutes later when Claire Weir netted from a penalty corner deflection.
But Quins were rocked back on their heels when Railway fought back to equalise with two goals in the space of six minutes before the break. Lily Lloyd got them both, first netting from close-range after latching on to a cross from Sarah Hawkshaw and then adding a similar effort in the 29th minute.
The Leinster side went on to dominate possession for most of the second-half but were unable to add to their tally. Quins regained the lead in the 64th minute when Jenna Watt hammered in a set-piece but Railway levelled within 90 seconds as Kate Dillon netted a fine goal with a first time shot after being set up by Lily Lloyd.
Quins won two corners in quick succession as the clock ticked down and Kelly grabbed the all-important goal from the second award from Serena Barry’s assist and there wasn’t time to restart the game.
Loreto 1 (H Mulcahy) Catholic Institute 1 (R Upton)Catholic Institute picked up another handy point on the road as leaders Loreto extended their lead at the top but not to the fullest extent. Roisin Upton was immense for the Limerick side as she cleaned up a huge amount of ball from her sweeper role and she also opened the scoring when she whizzed in a drag-flick.It came in the sixth minute from a penalty corner from Insta’s first attack of note after Loreto had made the livelier start to the contest. The Beaufort side would go on to have plenty of chances in the first half with Institute doing a lot of defending.
They held out until the third quarter when Hayley Mulcahy fired home a beautiful reverse-stick shot to make it 1-1. Loreto had the greater chances to win it in the final quarter but they could not get their corner machine up and running.
Loreto lead by three points now but with a game extra played than nearest rivals Old Alex and Pegasus, both of whom saw their Saturday fixtures postponed due to the weather. Insta edge above Muckross into seventh place.