Old Alex make early statement in women’s EY Hockey League

** Muckross’s Laura Hanlon celebrates making it 1-0. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Old Alex were the big winners on day one of the women’s EY Hockey League as they got the best of Belfast Harlequins 4-1 while the other three times on the agenda ended in close-fought draws. Here’s the round-up of Saturday’s action.

Women’s EY Hockey League – day one round-up
Belfast Harlequins 1 (N Lyttle) Old Alexandra 4 (M Power 2, S Robinson, M O’Donnell)

Old Alex got their campaign off to an impressive start with a 4-1 win over Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park. It was end to end stuff throughout an entertaining contest but Alex edged possession and displayed a more clinical touch in front of goal.

After a scoreless first quarter, the visitors broke the deadlock when Mikyala Power netted at the far post shortly after Niamh Sweeney had been denied by a stunning save from Quins keeper Suzie Taylor.

On the stroke of half time, Alex doubled their lead through Millie O’Donnell’s direct penalty corner strike. The home team replied in kind early in the second half with Natalie Lyttle netting a set-piece to pull one back.

But with nine minutes left, Alex made the points virtually safe when Power got her second from yet another penalty corner. Any hope of a Quins’ comeback were well and truly extinguished in the 68th minute when Sarah Robinson crashed home after a penalty corner switch.

Despite the result, there were plenty of positives for Harlequins who, like Alex, were without their current Ireland players, most notably the performance of debutante Jane Kirkpatrick, who was a tower of strength at the back and was creative when going forward.

Catholic Institute 2 (E Ryan, L Clery) UCD 2 (S Young, KJ Marshall)
Honours even at Rosbrien as KJ Marshall bundled home a penalty corner melee in the dying embers of the tie to earn UCD a point from a strong battle with five Olympians on display.

Sarah Young had given the students the perfect start when she swooped off the pads to score a penalty corner rebound in the early minutes. Pam Smithwick did brilliantly against her alma mater to deny them a second when she got down to low to keep out Katherine Egan.

But Insta started to make waves of their own and they were level in the 17th minute with a swift move down the middle. Their Olympians were key to it with Naomi Carroll feeding Róisín Upton who picked out the run of Liz Ryan to the left of goal and she was on hand to shovel in first time.

The Limerick side enjoyed a lot of the ball between the second and third quarters but they looked like they had been caught on the break when UCD found the net. After a lengthy discussion, though, play was brought back for an Institute free some 80-metres away from their goal for an earlier incident.

And the hosts duly went in front in the 60th minute following a brilliant interception on the 23-metre line which was quickly worked into the circle and crossed for Leah Clery to finish off.

It left UCD only a short while to fight back but they forged forward, winning a couple of corners while Hannah McLoughlin’s driving runs almost unlocked the door. In the end, their leveller was something of a scramble but Marshall was on hand to get the final credit.

Muckross 1 (L Hanlon) Cork Harlequins 1 (M Barry)
Two almost identical penalty corner moves meant the points were shared at Grange Road between two new look sides with Laura Hanlon and Michelle Barry cancelling each other out.

Cork Harlequins’ Michelle Barry on the attack. Picture: Adrian Boehm

The Dubliners started in the ascendancy with a couple of early corners while Caroline Mathews vision from the back was a key feature and Sophie Barnwell’s surging runs a feature. For Quins, Yvonne O’Byrne was the driving force with Barry providing the creativity further up the field along with the beautiful skills of Julia McCarthy.

Hanlon broke the deadlock from a switch move back to the injector, flicking home from the left of the circle for 1-0 at half-time. Barnwell went within inches of a second early in the third quarter before Quins started to run up the corner count with a trio coming in quick succession.

And they got on the board when they used the same move to pick out Barry on the left post and she flicked in. And they had another corner chance on the final whistle but Muckross held them at bey to leave it at 1-1.

Pegasus 1 (E Armstrong) Pembroke Wanderers 1 (C Foley)
Reigning champions Pegasus and a confident Pembroke drew 1-1 from a well-matched battle at Queen’s to open up their respective campaigns.

Claire Foley put Pembroke in front in the 33rd minute after a flurry of attacks. One crash ball found them with an overload and the ball was worked to Foley for a close-range finish.

Peagsus got their equaliser via an excellent give and go move on the left touchline with Ella Armstrong storming on, laying the ball off the baseline and then getting back for a great finish.

The hosts had three corner chances in succession but could not nick a second to take a lead into the closing quarter. Pembroke, meanwhile, pushed on in the final stanza but were also kept out by Megan Todd.