Pembroke take women’s EYHL title as playoff and relegation places confirmed

Women’s EY Hockey League – day 18 round-up
Pembroke 1 (A Naughton) Muckross 0

Aisling Naughton’s spectacular second minute goal was enough to get Pembroke the 1-0 win against Muckross they needed win the women’s EY Hockey League for the first time.

Earlier in the day, Catholic Institute beat Belfast Harlequins 2-1 at Deramore Park to take the league down to the last fixture to determine the destination of the title.

It meant Pembroke had to get a victory against a side fighting for their lives to try and escape relegation. And the Serpentine Avenue hosts got off to a dream start when Naughton dove full length at the left post to turn in Ellen Curran’s excellent ball.

From there, Pembroke dominated the play in the first half but a tough of over-eagerness meant an insurance goal proved elusive with Rachel O’Brien hitting the post and a number of other chances bouncing across the face of goal.

That ratcheted up the tension in the second half as any Muckross break-out had the potential to scupper the celebrations and, with lots on the line, the green and whites found some rhythm.

But Pembroke finished strong, controlling the final quarter as Aoife Glennon – an immense talent between the posts – kept out a range of shots from different angles.

“It’s just phenomenal to be able to finish it off like this, at home, in front of our crowd; absolutely buzzing,” Naughton said afterwards with the club landing the title for the first time having never breached the top four before in the EYHL.

“It is quite momentous. When a few of us joined a few years ago, we had a goal to bring the club to this level and we have a built a squad of not just 18; there’s 26 or so. And this is testament to that because we only played two matches at full fitness.

“We were delighted to get that early goal; we had plenty of chances and Muckross made it really difficult for ourselves. But we did have too many chances and we really do need to make sure of it if we are here again! But one’s enough!”

It also brings with it a guaranteed European ticket while for Muckross it means a drop back to EYHL Division 2.

Belfast Harlequins 1 (K Larmour) Catholic Institute 2 (R Upton, L Clery)
Catholic Institute can console themselves with a direct ticket to the EY Champions Trophy semi-final after a break-out performance in the regular season, finishing second overall.

Their win was built around goals from Roisin Upton and Leah Clery but they were also left with jangled nerves as Katie Larmour getting one back for Belfast Quins.

Needing a win to keep their title hopes alive, they started off brilliantly with Upton nailing a penalty corner drag-flick for her 13th of the competition this season.

But Quins, needing a win to secure their own fate at the time, were in no mood to lie down and they played their part in a corner exchange of an end-to-end first quarter. Clery doubled the advantage off the back of an outstanding run from Naomi Carroll but Larmour made sure there was no room for comfort with a corner goal; 2-1 at half-time.

And that was how it remained throughout the second half with Quins going closest to nicking one, hitting the post in the fourth quarter while they had two corners on the final whistle.

Insta, however, held on for a nervy win which meant Pembroke had to win their last game while Quins had to wait to see how Muckross fared. In the end, Quins stayed up on nine points.

UCD 0 Pegasus 2 (A Speers, L McKee)
Pegasus earned a home EY Champions Trophy quarter-final berth with two first half goals giving them the points against UCD.

Pegs were up and running nice and early. They had already gone close from a couple of corners before Lucy McKee broke the deadlock in the sixth minute – Shirley McCay’s ball up the middle was controlled on the 23-metre line and the forward weaved in and out of a couple of tackles before thumping home.

They moved two clear midway through the second quarter from their fourth penalty corner, a sweet move with McCay’s slap deflected in by Alex Speers.

Pegasus’s Emma Quinn. Pic: Adrian Boehm

UCD had a huge amount of pressure in the second half, running up five penalty corners, but each one was well dealt with by Megan Todd and her corner team while they also kept out a number of shots from the edge of the D to maintain their clean sheet and the three points.

For UCD, the result was just about enough to see them make it into the playoffs and a quarter-final rematch against Pegasus, edging out Railway Union on goal difference.

Old Alex 1 (S Robinson) Railway Union 1 (Z Delany)
Old Alex got enough from this tie to secure their place in the EY Champions Trophy quarter-finals at the expense of Railway Union who could have potentially overhauled them with a victory at Milltown.

It was an incredibly tight match, befitting how close things have been in mid-table all the way through the campaign. Railway had the early pressure with a high press working well before Alex broke out with Nikki Evans almost linking up with Mikayla Power.

Kate Dillon’s touch was well dealt with by Holly Micklem as Q1 ended scoreless and it remained that way through Q2 as Lena Tice’s corner slap was cleared and Evans had an effort snuffed out.

Into the second half, Kate Lloyd’s volley was repelled by Micklem’s left boot but it was Alex’s turn to camp in Railway territory and when Power won a corner, they went in front with Sarah Robinson deflecting in a Tice slap from the top.

Needing a win, Railway got their lifeline before the end of the third quarter when a bouncing past made it to Zara Delany at the far post to finish off.

Alex looked the more likely in the early staged of Q4 to score next with Evans and Abbie Russell firing shots but Railway remained a threat and had the big moments in the last few minutes. The Milltown side survived, though, and finish in fifth place and a date with Loreto in the playoffs.

Cork Harlequins 1 (M Barry) Loreto 5 (C Hamill 3, S O’Brien, Y Pratt)
Cork Harlequins welcomed Loreto to Cork for the final match of their 2021/22 EHYL 1 season with the Dublin team prevailing in a hard fought and enjoyable encounter.

Loreto were without Hannah Matthews, but otherwise had a full strength side for Paul Fitzpatrick to choose from. Joy O’Kelly replaced the injured Lorna Bateman in goal for Harlequins.

The halftime score of 0-0 resulted from an even game in which neither side found their composure in the circle.

The first goal was all important, and it was Loreto made the breakthrough with a skillful individual finish on the reverse from the dangerous Chrintina Hamill.

Harlequins had a chance to pull level from the flick spot in the 42nd minute, however Elizabeth Murphy’s strong stick save kept Loreto ahead. In fact, Hamill increased the Dublin side’s lead with a stroke in the 48th minute and completed her hat-trick a minute later to move the tie beyond Cork Harlequins.

Two further strikes for Loreto in the final quarter and a Michelle Barry consolation at the death meant a final score line of 5-1 to the visitors.Cork Harlequins finish the season at the bottom of the EYHL while Loreto have a quarter-final to prepare for.