First time EYHL regular season winner nears in women’s league

Whatever happens, the women’s EY Hockey League will have a first-time winner with the three sides mathematically in contention never having reached the playoffs before since the competition went full-season, let alone take top spot.

The clear favourite is Pembroke who moved five points clear last week but they are going to the toughest venue in Irish hockey with Catholic Institute only dropping two points at Rosbrien in eight outings to date.

Then again, Pembroke’s away form is also the best in the league with 20 points garnered from 24 this term. A key feature has been the ability to find different game winners each game with 15 different goalscorers – amazingly none have scored more than four in the league.

Gillian Pinder provides a lot of magic, deployed in a deep-lying role last week, while Orla Macken joining the attack is a big feature. The pace on foot and of the ball is another crucial facet of their game while just 10 goals conceded is testament to the importance of Emma Buckley, Leah McGuire and Amy-Kate Trevor.

For Insta, they have endured a tough couple of weeks with two losses while they will hope there is not too much weariness in the legs of Naomi Carroll and Roisin Upton following training games at Bisham Abbey against Great Britain.

The Olympic pair are first and second on the league’s goalscoring charts with 12 and 11 goals, respectively, while Aoife Hickey and Muireann Scanlon have impressed, too.

Elsewhere, there is something riding on every fixture. Belfast Harlequins welcome back Jane Kilpatrick for the visit of Railway Union, the side one place – but 16 points – above them.

For Quins, they had hoped to be clear of any relegation uncertainty but last Sunday’s loss to Muckross has cut their gap to two points. Railway, meanwhile, fell out of the top six after a 1-0 defeat to UCD. Railway have Lily Lloyd coming back having lined out for the Irish senior panel in Bisham Abbey this week.

Erratic Loreto hit form last weekend against Insta and if they can back that up against Muckross at the opposite end of the Grange Road, they will likely ensure an extended season. Siofra O’Brien scored for Ireland in a 3-1 training match win vs GB this week in what was her first time lining out for the senior side.

UCD and Old Alex meet for the second time in three days with both sides potentially making a number of changes in personnel from Thursday’s Jacqui Potter Cup final which the students won 2-1.

For UCD, Ellie McLoughlin, Katie-Jane Marshall, Michelle Carey, Sarah McAuley and Hannah McLoughlin could come back in while Lena Tice might be back for the Milltown club.

Pegasus are back on the hunt for a top two place and they are up against Cork Harlequins at home, the latter bouncing back from their relegation to land the Munster Senior Cup after a shoot-out win over UCC.

For the student side, they go to Corinthian with Caoimhe Perdue potentially rejoining the line-up. The reds, meanwhile, are looking to close the gap to group leaders Ards who won the Ulster Premier League in midweek.

Pool 2 has more up for grabs with Queen’s, Lurgan and Cork C of I all jostling for second and third. Lurgan are third and host second placed Queen’s at Lurgan College this week while fourth side C of I go to NUIG, knowing a win would lift them back into the playoff places.

In terms of the next steps, the second place finishers in each group will have home advantage in the promotion playoff quarter-finals against the third place side from the other group on April 2nd.

The winner of these quarter-finals will play against the group winners in the semi-finals on April 9th at Corinthian’s Whitechurch Park with the victors from those final four games earning promotion and a place in the April 10th final.

EYHL Division 1:
Belfast Harlequins v Railway Union, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Catholic Institute v Pembroke Wanderers, Rosbrien, 1pm; Muckross v Loreto, Grange Road, 1pm; Pegasus v Cork Harlequins, Queens, 12.45pm; UCD v Old Alex, Belfield, 1pm

EYHL Division 2 – Pool 1: Corinthian v UCC, Whitechurch Park, 1.15pm; Trinity v Galway, Trinity Sports Grounds, 2.30pm
Pool 2: Lurgan v Queens University, Lurgan College, 12.45pm; NUIG v Cork C of I, Dangan, 1.50pm