For a third week running, there is a different club on top of the women’s EY Hockey League which continues to throw up dramatic twists and turns.
Old Alex are the side leading the way now on goal difference following their hard-fought 2-0 win over Muckross in Milltown as penalty corner goals from Jeamie Deacon and Millie O’Donnell forged their path to victory.
It means they have 16 points from the last 18 available and sees them jump above Pegasus and Loreto who both dropped points over the weekend.
Performance of the round came in Limerick where Catholic Institute dominated their tie against Pegs to beat the Ulster side for the first time in their 110-year history, running out 4-2 victors.
They had most of the play in the first half but went in level at 1-1 but a scoring spree from Laura Foley, Roisin Upton and Naomi Carroll saw them burst into a 4-1 lead which they saw out.
Insta remain in eighth place but have put daylight between themselves and the relegation playoff place as a result.
UCD and Loreto traded first half goals between Sarah Young and Hannah Matthews to draw their meeting at Belfield 1-1. It leaves Loreto in third place, one point off the leaders, and UCD stay in fourth spot six points back.
Cork Harlequins, meanwhile, continued their excellent run since Christmas with a third win out of four to transform their fortunes from a perilous position to a playoff pursuit.
They trailed to Jenna Watt’s early goal but strikes from Michelle Barry and Emily O’Leary turned things around in the second half for a 2-1 win over Belfast Harlequins.
Railway Union’s date with Pembroke was postponed due to the former being in Portugal to contest the EuroHockey Indoor Challenge I. Pembroke will play on Wednesday night against Muckross while there are two matches on Thursday – Dublin derbies between Old Alex and UCD along with Railway Union against Loreto.
EYHL Division 1: Catholic Institute 4 (C O’Shea, L Foley, R Upton, N Carroll) Pegasus 2 (E Armstrong, T Doherty); Cork Harlequins 2 (M Barry, E O’Leary) Belfast Harlequins 1 (J Watt); Old Alex 2 (J Deacon, M O’Donnell) Muckross 0; UCD 1 (S Young) Loreto 1 (H Matthews)
This week’s fixtures:
Wednesday, February 26: Muckross v Pembroke, Muckross Park, 8pm
Thursday, February 27: Old Alex v UCD, Milltown, 7.45pm; Railway Union v Loreto, Park Avenue, 8.30pm
Saturday, February 28: Loreto v Catholic Institute, Beaufort, 1.15pm; Belfast Harlequins v Railway Union, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Old Alex v Cork Harlequins, Milltown, 2.30pm; Pembroke v Pegasus, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm; UCD v Muckross, Belfield, 2.50pm
Women’s EYHL – day 11 match reports
Old Alex 2 (J Deacon, M O’Donnell) Muckross 0
Old Alex became the third different leader of the women’s EY Hockey League in 2020 as they made it 16 points out of the last 18 available, putting them ahead of Pegasus on goal difference.
Alex were on top in the early stages, winning a couple of corners as Nikki Evans, Orna Bools and Deirdre Duke offered a threat while Emile Ryan Doyle and Audrey O’Flynn impressed at the back.
Jeamie Deacon put them in front from a third corner, Millie O’Donnell’s disguised pass finding the touch for 1-0. Muckross came more into in the third quarter with a rocket shot from Anna O’Flanagan blocked at Pam Smithwick at point blank range.
She also dealt with Sarah McAuley’s disguised shot before O’Donnell got the crucial second goal with less than four minutes to go with a cool finish. It came from a mistrapped corner which she took on, spinning around the first runner and slapped in.
Smithwick kept her clean sheet with a fine stop from Jessica McGirr to maintain the 2-0 lead.
Catholic Institute 4 (C O’Shea, L Foley, R Upton, N Carroll) Pegasus 2 (E Armstrong, T Doherty)
Catholic Institute continued their super run of form to beat the league leaders Pegasus for the first time in the club’s 110-year history, adding to their excellent run of seven points from the last nine available.
Both sides were down personnel with Shirley McCay sustaining a couple of broken toes last week – though she is due to return soon – while youth internationals Niamh McIvor, Charlotte Beggs (both Pegasus) and Sarah Fitzgerald (Insta) rested after their weeks’ exertions.
Christine O’Shea put the Limerick side 1-0 up in the 12th minute but Ella Armstrong replied soon after for the Ulster side; it remained 1-1 through to half time despite non-stop pressure from the hosts.
But they went back in front a minute into the second half when Laura Foley forced home from a barrage of shots, Megan Todd saving twice before the ball the forward’s way. Roisin Upton made it 3-1 five minutes later for an imposing advantage and the win was made safe from the moment of the day.
Naomi Carroll got on the end of some quick passing to lift the ball out of a few tackles with some neat 3D skills and then clipped home with an upright reverse-stick shot. Taite Doherty pulled one back with five minutes left but Insta had their win.
Cork won the battle of the Harlequins to make it four wins from their last five games, moving them level with fifth placed Pembroke having been in the relegation playoff spot before this recent run.
They trailed early on to a Jenna Watt goal and it might have been worse in the second quarter but they survived rhe concession of a penalty stroke which Watt was unable to convert.
Belfast were the side in the ascendancy, playing some strong hockey while Cork looked dangerous on the counter and they got level from that route. Belfast had a couple of corners only for the hosts to race out of defence to set up Michelle Barry to whip home the equaliser in the 40th minute.
And in a dramatic last six minutes, Barry was shown a yellow card but her side managed to get the winner from a penalty corner courtesy of Emily O’Leary.
UCD 1 (S Young) Loreto 1 (H Matthews)
UCD and Loreto shared the spoils to leave them in fourth and third place, respectively, after their high octane draw at Belfield. Sarah Young put the students in front in the 22nd minute of a fairly tight first half with few chances.
But Loreto were back on terms on the half hour when Hannah Matthews slotted a penalty stroke and while the students had the best of the second half openings, a Niamh Carey shot flashed wide while the Beaufort side’s corner defence held firm to keep the game level.