Five sides on four points after highly competitive women’s EYHL opening rounds

A measure of the competitiveness in the women’s EY Hockey League is, after just two rounds, there are no perfect records left intact following a couple of high quality midweek fixtures.

Railway Union’s was the last to fall despite an outstanding comeback against Loreto at Beaufort on Wednesday, netting twice in the last quarter to draw 2-2.

Spurred by a healthy crowd, Loreto’s young guns showed plenty of composure and accuracy to build that two-goal lead with Aoife Taaffe on the mark both times.

The first was a cool finish following a long ball up through the middle, controlling and finishing, while the second owed much more to power than subtlety, a blast from the left side of the D.

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And that looked set to bring a big boon for Paul Fitzpatrick’s side who were without Olympians Nicci Daly and Hannah Matthews, Ali Meeke, Mia Jennings and Hayley Mulcahy.

But Railway were always well in the contest and eventually made their penalty corner count tell. Orla Fox’s direct strike got one back and, with just a few minutes left, Kate Lloyd levelled from a corner rebound.

“I thought it was a really good game,” was Loreto coach Paul Fitzpatrick’s reflections afterwards. “Disappointed to have given it away in the end but, given the number of players missing and the experience of the team, absolutely delighted.

“We were down seven players for tonight but showed real character and it is a great opportunity for players to step up to do well in games like this.”

Her Railway counterpart Una McCarthy, meanwhile, added: “Full team effort, full resilience. We are disappointed not to have the win but relieved to have the point with that comeback.”

She said the experience around the squad of Kate Dillon and Emma Smyth – missing this one with a broken toe – has been a key factor in giving their young guns an extra belief to fightback. Both have been in and out of the panel for the past few years.

“Having both of them back after starting young families, to have them on the pitch and guiding our youngsters is great. It’s a great family club and team, going from 17-year-olds up to 35-year-olds. It’s a pleasure to work with them.

“They come off and suggest things to me and my assistant Gareth [Myburgh]. It all makes sense and that’s what they can bring to the game. They have both calmed down from the mad young ones that they were; they used to be much more volatile but they have become rocks of sense… most of the time!

“With Sarah Hawkshaw in there, between them, we have that brainpower on the pitch which keeps things under control. I am not sure whether the young ones would have had that resilience before but there was that know-how to do it.”

Up next for Railway is a home date against Pegasus who were 2-1 winners against Belfast Harlequins in midweek. Quins had taken the lead via Kathryn Smiley’s well-placed shot but rising star Ella Armstrong levelled before the end of the first quarter.

And the winner came in the 42nd minute with Taite Doherty finishing off some strong work down the left by Niamh McIvor to nab the lead.

It means both sides are on four points for the Saturday meeting at Park Avenue with the hosts set to miss Lisa McCarthy with an Achilles injury.

Elsewhere on Saturday, there are plenty of other mouth-watering ties. Old Alex – another on four points – host Loreto who are set to have a couple of players back in their line-up.

Catholic Institute and Muckross will be aiming to land a first point of the season at Rosbrien as will Belfast Harlequins against their Cork counterparts at Deramore Park.

Another couple of unbeaten records will also be put to the test at Belfield with UCD hosting Pembroke at 2.50pm.

Women’s EYHL Division 1 (all Saturday): Belfast Harlequins v Cork Harlequins, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Catholic Institute v Muckross, Rosbrien, 1pm; Old Alexandra v Loreto, Alexandra College, 1.30pm; Railway Union v Pegasus, Park Avenue, 3pm; UCD v Pembroke Wanderers, Belfield, 2.50pm