EYHL title chases and relegation battle come into ever sharper focus

A number of the big outcomes in the EY Hockey Leagues are likely to come into sharper focus with the fixtures coming thick and fast this weekend.

It started on Thursday evening when Loreto drew 1-1 at home with UCD in the women’s EYHL. Hannah McLoughlin gave UCD a second quarter lead but a Siofra O’Brien reverse-stick effort levelled the tie.

That result lifted the Beaufort side into fifth, ahead of Railway Union on goal difference, with the students staying in seventh place and two points outside of the EY Champions Trophy quarter-final spots.

It makes for a vital showdown between Railway and UCD at Park Avenue on Saturday afternoon in that particular chase.

For Loreto, their next port of call is a home date against Catholic Institute who are aiming to bounce back from last Sunday’s defeat to Railway Union.

The equation for the Limerick side in the title chase is currently relatively simple – win their last three games and they will be the EYHL champions. In reality, that path is fraught with pitfalls with the Loreto tie a tough start; they then host leaders Pembroke on March 19th before travelling away to Belfast Harlequins on March 26th.

They also have their twice postponed Irish Senior Cup quarter-final against Banbridge thrown into the mix on Sunday morning as part of their schedule.

Pembroke, for their part, have a little more wriggle room in their pursuit of a first EYHL success with their two-point lead going into the final three rounds of action. That starts on Saturday with a home date against Belfast Harlequins.

At the bottom end of the table, this could well be the weekend the relegation issues get done and dusted. Anything other than a win for Cork Harlequins at Farmers Cross against Old Alex on Saturday will see their current tenure in the competition come to an end.

Muckross also need to get something from their double-weekend of home fixtures at Grange Road against Belfast opponents, starting with Pegasus on Saturday and then a crucial fixture against Belfast Harlequins on Sunday, the side five points above them.

In EYHL2, Monkstown will formally have top spot from Group 2 if they pick up at least a losing bonus point at Queen’s. Lurgan go to Galway to play NUIG needing a win to return to the playoff places.

Group 1 has Ards hoping to go 10 points clear but they face a tester of a tie against Dublin University in Santry. UCC will hope to strengthen their position in third when they host Galway.

There’s also a full deck of fixtures in the men’s EYHL. Glenanne’s game with Monkstown is the big one in the top half with any dropped points perhaps spelling the end of their outside title hopes. Both are on 28 points, four off leaders Lisnagarvey with four rounds of matches to go.

Annadale will hope they can put further distance between themselves and the drop zone when they host UCD whose fate could be formally sealed on Saturday.

The other sides in the relegation battle – Corinthian and Pembroke – have tough fixtures with the former going to Banbridge who are unbeaten since November and the latter hosting Three Rock Rovers.

Lisnagarvey will look to maintain their place at the top but they are meeting a YMCA side in decent form, winning three of their last five games to establish themselves as the side likely to complete the EY Champions Trophy quarter-final line-up.

EYHL2’s second half of the campaign begins in earnest. In Group A, Leinster leaders Railway Union hosts unbeaten Ulster Premier side Instonians in a vital battle while Munster’s current leaders Cork C of I have no room for error against Rathgar on Saturday.

In Group B, both Clontarf and Corinthian are gunning for a first victory of the campaign to try and close the gap to Kilkeel who are on the bye weekend.

Bandon, meanwhile, already look assured of a place in the promotion playoffs and the target is now to top the table. Currently, they have the best record across the three groups which would bring with it a semi-final spot; next up is a game with fourth placed Portrane.

Cookstown’s Ulster derby with Mossley will go a long way to determining their chances of progression.

On Sunday, meanwhile, the Irish Junior Cup semi-finals take place with the men’s competition primarily an Ulster-based affair. Cookstown host Bangor while Annadale are up against YMCA, the former getting a reprieve after Banbridge played an ineligible player in the quarter-final. In the women’s competition, Pembroke face Queens and Corinthian host Railway Union in their final four.

Thursday 10th March 2022
EYHL Division 1:
Loreto 1 (S O’Brien) UCD 1 (H McLoughlin)

Saturday 12th March 2022
EYHL Division 1:
Annadale v UCD, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Banbridge v Corinthian, Havelock Park, 2.45pm; Glenanne v Monkstown, St Andrews, 12pm; Lisnagarvey v YMCA, Comber Road, 3pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Three Rock Rovers, Serpentine Avenue, 4pm

EYHL Division 2
Pool 1:
Cork C of I v Rathgar, Garryduff, 2pm; Railway Union v Instonians, Park Avenue, 3.30pm
Pool 2: Clontarf v Cork Harlequins, Mount Temple, 2pm
Pool 3: Bandon v Portrane, Bandon GS, 2pm; Mossley v Cookstown, The Glade, 2.30pm

EYHL Division 1:
Cork Harlequins v Old Alex, Farmers’ Cross, 12.45pm; Loreto v Catholic Institute, Beaufort, 1pm; Muckross v Pegasus, Grange Road, 1pm; Pembroke v Belfast Harlequins, Serpentine Avenue, 2pm; Railway Union v UCD, Park Avenue, 1.30pm

EYHL Division 2
Pool 1:
Trinity v Ards, Santry Avenue, 2pm; UCC v Galway, Mardyke, 2pm
Pool 2: NUIG v Lurgan, Dangan, 1.50pm; Queens University v Monkstown, Malone Playing Fields, 12.45pm

Sunday 13th March 2022
Irish Junior Cup – Semi-Finals:
Annadale II v YMCA II, Stormont, 2.30pm; Cookstown II v Bangor II, Cookstown HS, 1pm

EYHL Division 1:
Muckross v Belfast Harlequins, Grange Road, 2.30pm
Irish Senior Cup, quarter-final: Banbridge v Catholic Institute, Havelock Park, 11am
Irish Junior Cup – Semi-Finals: Corinthian II v Railway Union II, Whitechurch Park, 12.30pm; Pembroke II v Queens University II, Serpentine Avenue, 3.30pm