Harlequins duo face key tussle in women’s EYHL as men’s top five meet bottom five

The battle for playoff places continues to heat up in the women’s and men’s EY Hockey Leagues with the newly introduced quarter-final phase making life very interesting.

This season, the top two will go straight to the EY Champions Trophy semi-finals while the next four sides in each competition getting a shot in the quarter-final playoffs for a place at the finals weekend at Havelock Park on April 23rd and 24th.

With two sides automatically relegated from both the elite men and women’s leagues, too, it means there is a wealth of intrigue in each area of the tables.

Indeed, at the bottom of the women’s EY Hockey League, it is a vital day for the two sets of Harlequins as Cork host Belfast at Farmers’ Cross. The Cork side have one point to their name and need to make up five points if they are to get out of the danger zone.

Eighth placed Belfast, on the flip side, will be acutely aware of that and know that if they can land the three points, it could be a knock-out blow to the Munster side’s chances of staying in the top tier.

At the top, leaders Pembroke will meet a UCD side who had a wealth of players involved in the Irish women’s squad who impressed in midweek in an uncapped series against France.

Katherine Egan scored twice in Tuesday’s 4-0 success in Antibes while Eva Lavelle and KJ Marshall also lined out in the series for the senior panel for the first time.

They joined club mates Hannah McLoughlin and Sarah McAuley – another scorer this week in Wednesday’s 3-0 win against the French – and shows the quality they have in their camp.

They will be aiming to end Pembroke’s seven-game winning streak and make a strong push for the playoff places. The Serpentine Avenue hosts, though, have shown all facets to suggest they are in rude health for their title push, fighting back last week to beat Loreto 2-1 having trailed early on.

There is plenty of scope for jostling of positions throughout the division. Loreto currently sit outside the playoff places but a win over Old Alex could see them jump a number of places.

Belfast Harlequins Emma Uprichard in action against Pembroke. Picture: Billy Pollock

Both have players in their panels who got their first tastes of senior Irish hockey with Loreto’s Christina Hamill scoring in game two in France while Alex goalkeeper Holly Micklem recorded a clean sheet for her week’s efforts.

Pegasus have a tester in their pursuit of the top two spots when they host Railway Union who bring a slightly erratic form book to the table in 2022, winning well over Cork Harlequins but falling 6-1 to Catholic Institute.

Insta, meanwhile, are looking for a fourth win in succession when they go to ninth place Muckross.

In EYHL2, Monkstown can potentially propel themselves even further clear in Pool 2 when they go to second placed Lurgan. Simon Lowry’s squad are the only side with a perfect record and hold an eight point lead over the Ulster side with Anna O’Flanagan and Chloe Watkins doing lots of damage.

Lurgan, though, defied the odds last time out to defeat Queen’s in spite of several Covid absentees and will look to cause plenty of problems. Cork C of I go to Queen’s with the winners hoping victory will put them in the top two shake-up.

In Pool 1, Ards will be favourites to maintain their place at the head of the group when they host Galway who have yet to score in the competition. Trinity and Corinthian will be looking to boost their respective playoff chances with the reds winning a recent Leinster league meeting between the sides 4-1.

In the men’s EYHL, the top five face the bottom five. YMCA host Banbridge in what has proven a lively match-up in the past few seasons; the Y were without Harry McCarthy, Ross Henderson and Peabo Lembethe – currently with South Africa in Pro League action – last week for their date with Glenanne.

Lisnagarvey – reinstalled as leaders this week – go to Corinthian looking to maintain their place at the head of the pack after a confident finish to their win over Annadale with Ollie Kidd’s goal the pick of some tidy goals.

Glenanne were understrength last week with Mark Keppel and Paul Byrne getting rare appearances for the first team but they did well to score a good win.

They are up against Pembroke who welcomed back Ronan Flannery to the side a week ago while Ilko Dartsch lined out in goal in their tie against Monkstown.

Three Rock Rovers are on the M1 for a second successive week, this time to face Annadale whom they drew with 2-2 at home.

UCD, meanwhile, are in a last chance saloon as they need to win at least four of their last seven games to have a chance of staying up this term. The first of those is against Monkstown at home on Saturday; for Town, Robert Mason made a comeback to the first team while Geoff Cole and David Nolan did not play.

Saturday 12th February 2022
EYHL Division 1:
Annadale v Three Rock Rovers, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Corinthian v Lisnagarvey, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Glenanne v Pembroke, St Andrews, 3.15pm; UCD v Monkstown, Belfield, 2.50pm; YMCA v Banbridge, Wesley College, 3.50pm

EYHL Division 1:
Cork Harlequins v Belfast Harlequins, Farmers’ Cross, 2.45pm; Loreto v Old Alexandra, Beaufort, 1.30pm; Muckross v Catholic Institute, Grange Road, 1pm, Pegasus v Railway Union, Queen;s, 2.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v UCD, Serpentine Avenue, 2.45pm

EYHL Division 2
Pool 1:
Ards v Galway, Londonderry Park, 2.30pm; Trinity v Corinthian, Santry Avenue, 2pm
Pool 2: Lurgan v Monkstown, Lurgan JHS, 2pm; Queens University v Cork C of I, Malone, 12.45pm