Pembroke move within touching distance of women’s EYHL title

Women’s EY Hockey League – day 16 round-up
Saturday: Pembroke 3 (A-K Trevor, S Loughran, O Macken) Belfast Harlequins 0

Pembroke moved within one result of the women’s EY Hockey League title as three second half goals saw them get the best of a hard-working Belfast Harlequins.

The first half was scoreless with both sides having corners blocked while Pembroke had the edge in terms of general play but could not break through.

They did get on the board in Q3 when Ellen Curran turned over possession to earn a corner which was scored by Amy-Kate Trevor.

It was not a comfortable lead, though, as Quins – powered by an awesome performance from Jane Kilpatrick – made a number of strong chances on the counter and had a couple of corners.

But the game was made safe in the closing five minutes when Rachel O’Brien got to the left baseline and laid the ball on a plate for Sinead Loughran to tap in at the back post.

And Orla Macken finished off the victory with a flourish, shooting in a backhand shot from a final second corner for 3-0.

Belfast Harlequins Emma Uprichard in action against Pembroke’s Gillian Pinder. Pic Max Fulham

Loreto 4 (A Taaffe 2, A Murray, H Matthews) Catholic Institute 2 (L Clery, N Carroll)
Loreto won a firecracker of a contest at Beaufort to boost their EY Champions Trophy playoff chances while putting another dent in Catholic Institute’s league title hopes.

It was a performance built around the speed and direct-running of forward trio Aoife Taaffe, Yasmin Pratt and Siofra O’Brien in a game played at a frantic pace.

Pratt’s brilliant surge and cross into the path of Aisling Murray invited a first-time finish to make it 1-0 in the fifth minute. Insta replied well and were unluckily denied a goal when Naomi Carroll hit the backboard just after the whistle had sounded for a penalty corner.

They did get level when Carroll’s shot made it to Leah Clery at the back post and she forced it over the line despite the best efforts of Lizzie Murphy.

At the far end, Christine O’Shea blocked brilliantly from another swift Loreto attack but Loreto had the half-time lead when another Pratt run put Taaffe through and she measured her finish well for 2-1.

Taaffe then went ballistic in the second half with a goal of the season contender, taking on the ball 40-metres from goal, drawing in a defender and then moving away to the left to unleash a tomahawk high into the net.

Hannah Matthews’ heavily deflected corner shot looped in to make it 4-1; Carroll did get one back – her 13th goal of the EYHL campaign – with a camogie-style lift and hit but Loreto held on for a vital win.

Cork Harlequins 1 (L O’Shea) Old Alex 4 (J McGirr 2, A Russell, M O’Donnell)
Cork Harlequins’ relegation was mathematically confirmed at a drenched Farmers Cross as the yellow rain warning came early. Old Alex took the points to move within point of second place with hopes of landing a possible automatic semi-final spot in the EY Champions Trophy.

Old Alex took a fourth minute lead when Abbie Russell got a touch onto Lena Tice’s shot to start the ball rolling. Jessica McGirr – with her first of the day – added the second just before the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter was more end-to-end and Quins got their goal in the 27th minute but Alex came straight back with a third goal via McGirr.

The third quarter was even enough with both teams having attacking play and chances on goal with Quins unable to capitalise from some corners. Millie O’Donnell, though, was accurate from the set piece to make it 4-1

The last quarter was a real test of will for both sides, not wanting to give up despite the miserable elements.

Railway Union 0 UCD 1 (A Naughton)
UCD swapped places with Railway Union with Aine Naughton getting the only goal of the game with a crucial touch to Michelle Carey’s ball in. It leaves Railway outside of the playoffs going into the final two rounds of the season.

Railway created some early opportunities with Sarah Hawkshaw getting the first chance from a nice interchange which Ellie McLoughlin saved. A couple of corners were also incomplete before Rachel Kelly had a first UCD opening denied by Riona Norton.

A diving Kate Lloyd was unlucky net a strong flat ball in the circle from her sister Lily, and the UCD keeper calmly denied a point-blank attempt from Hawkshaw.

UCD placed intense pressure on the Railway defence, forcing turnovers to create opportunities, while Caoimhe Byrne got in around the back creating havoc but it remained scoreless into the break.

The deadlock broke late in the third quarter when a tackling-evading Michelle Carey delivered a diagonal pass into the circle for the students finish with a touch from Naughton.

Another excellent run from Carey was snuffed out by Norton while Railway’s big chance came when Alex Gallagher tore into the circle but the pass fell just behind Emma Smyth.

In the closing moments of the fourth quarter, Railway pulled their goalkeeper. Despite the outfield player number advantage, the game ended 1-0 with UCD clinching victory.

Muckross 0 Pegasus 3 (A Speers 2, N McIvor)
Pegasus made it two wins in a row with a 3-0 success at Grange Road to keep themselves in the chase for a top two finish in the league. In an energetic first half, Pegasus went in front following a sustained wave of attacks with Alex Speers on the mark.

Muckross started Q2 well but they were pegged back once again with Niamh McIvor making it 2-0 at half-time. And the win was complete in the third quarter with an effortless strike from Speers, driving into the left corner from a sharp angle.

Sunday: Muckross 3 (S Quill, S Barnwell, E Mathews) Belfast Harlequins 1 (J Watt)
Muckross came back from a goal down to beat an understrength Belfast Harlequins and keep alive their hopes of staying in the top tier of the EYHL. The victory cuts the gap between the teams to two points on either side of the relegatiion line.

Quins were without Jane Kilpatrick who was travelling with the Irish team and had another pair of players out due to Covid but they went on front nonetheless via Jenna Watt.

Muckross equalised quickly from a penalty corner with Sarah Quill getting the goal, 1-1 at the end of Q1.

Sophie Barnwell put them in front for the first time when she found herself in plenty of space don’t a channel on the right and she drove on before sliding home a nice finish.

Before half-time, Quins had a number of good chances to get back on terms with Sophie Hunter and Katie Larmour at the heart of their big moments.

But the game was out of reach in the third quarter when Quill lashed a shot at Suzanne Taylor who saved well but the ball popped to Emma Mathews who reacted quickly to return the ball with interest to the top corner.

The Belfast side piled on the pressure in the last quarter with Emma Uprichard to the fore while Watt hit the base of the post from a corner. Next on the agenda for Harlequins are home dates with Railway Union and Catholic Institute while Muckross host Loreto and go to Pembroke.