Women’s EYHL title race goes down to final day as Insta beat Pembroke

Women’s EY Hockey League – day 17 round-up
Catholic Institute 4 (L Foley 2, R Upton, H Kelly) Pembroke 1 (G Pinder)

Catholic Institute ensured the women’s EYHL title chase will go down to the wire as the Limerick beat the league leaders with something to spare, cutting the gap to two points with one game to go.

It was their eighth successive home league win and completes an unbeaten home campaign, picking up 25 out of 27 points on offer. For Pembroke, they came into the tie needing a draw or better to win the title for the first time but they struggled without the services of Sinead Loughran, Emily Beatty, Isy Delamer, Amy-Kate Trevor, Hayley O’Donnell and Leah McGuire with their backline overhauled.

They fell behind in the eighth minute when Naomi Carroll slipped a lovely through ball to Laura Foley and her intended cross took a big deflection in off the shoe of a back-pedaling defender.

Hannah Kelly made it 2-0 following an exquisite move down the left wing with Leah Clery picking out the pass and the Kilkenny woman slammed home a backhand shot for 2-0.

Pembroke, though, fought back well before the end of the first half with Gillian Pinder and Orla Macken to the fore with Ellen Curran twisting and turning in midfield. From a series of penalty corners, Pinder flicked in from close range to cut the gap to 2-1.

And they carried that momentum into the early stages of the second half where they held a good volume of possession. Insta, though, always had a greater cohesion and were able to work the ball out of tight spots in neat style and they put daylight back between the sides from a penalty corner. Roisin Upton got the goal, picking up a rebound from a penalty corner from mid-circle.

Foley then crowned the win when she won the breaking ball from a long Upton pass forward and while she had options left and right, she took on the shot herself and picked out the bottom corner.

Insta now face eighth-placed Belfast Harlequins away while Pembroke go to Muckross on the last day of the season to determine the title.

Belfast Harlequins 1 (N Lyttle) Railway Union 4 (E Smyth 2, A Long, Z Delany)
Railway Union kept up their pursuit of an EY Champions Trophy quarter-final spot as three second half goals at Deramore Park saw them win 4-1 on a sunny springtime day.

Railway took a fourth minute lead when Sarah Hawkshaw peeled left around the edge of the D from a long corner move and picked out a perfect line to Emma Smyth to bat in her first of the day.

Quins recovered from their slow start to test Riona Norton down low almost immediately off the back of a Katie Larmour run while Emma Uprichard was also crowded out. They were back on terms when Jenna Watt’s surge down the right earned a corner which Natalie Lyttle powered home for 1-1.

It remained that way through the second quarter with Railway having the edge in play, winning a couple of corners while Zara Delany had a reverse cleared away off the line.

Quins looked dangerous on the counter in Q3 with Suzanne Taylor making an excellent block off Lily Lloyd while Rachel Johnston produced a knee-grazing sliding block to save brilliantly.

Railway retook the lead through Smyth on her reverse after a couple of strong tackles in the D opened up the chance and she found space well to chip in.

Although Quins battled hard to find the equaliser, Railway found some rhythm in their passing and moving and the key third goal was a beauty, Hawkshaw feeding Orla Patton’s whose first time touch against the grain invited Ailish Long to strike first time in the 57th minute for 3-1.

With five minutes to go, Delany added the fourth, a corner move back to the injector. Railway remain in seventh place going into their final game against Old Alex where a win would see them secure a quarter-final spot.

For Harlequins, they stay two points above the relegation line but need a win next week against Catholic Institute to be sure of staying above Muckross.

Muckross 0 Loreto 2 (C Hamill, H Matthews)
Loreto all-but assured themselves a place in the EY Champions Trophy quarter-finals with a hard-won three points at Grange Road against Muckross with Christina Hamill and Hannah Matthews getting the goals in the second half.

The first half was one of few chances with both defences holding up well. Yasmin Pratt twisted and turned before testing Aoife Glennon while two Loreto corners were snuffed out, Jane O’Brien charging down the second one which almost led to a big chance at the far end.

Christina Hamill celebrates her goal for Loreto. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Twice, Loreto had to clear their lines in front of Lizzie Murphy while Siofra O’Brien’s reverse went inches wide to close out the half.

The goal, though, did not take long to arrive after the big break as a corner move initially broke down but the fell to the right where Hamill was on hand to crack home from the right of the D.

The second also came from a corner, a scrappy affair as the injection was a little off course but, after a few bites of the cherry, Matthews slammed in the chance.

Muckross replied with a corner chance which Julia Balcerzak fired at goal but Murphy did well to palm away. That was as close as they came to getting one back as Loreto defended their 23-metre zone well for the remainder of the contest to secure a precious three points.

UCD 2 (S McAuley, K Egan) Old Alex 0
UCD beat Old Alex for the second time in three days, backing up their Jacqui Potter Cup final success with an important league win which keeps them in the top six and an EY Champions Trophy berth.

UCD raced out of the blocks with Holly Micklem forced to make three big stops, the first from point-blank range from Katherine Egan on the volley, next from Michelle Carey and then from Egan again on the reverse.

Next she blocked Rachel Kelly sliding out after Carey’s driving run. Alex’s best chances came from a pair of corners but Ellie McLoughlin did well to block both. It was UCD who were largely on top, camping in Alex territory for much of the second quarter but to no avail on the scoreboard.

The deadlock was broken in the third quarter when Sarah McAuley – one of a string of players returning from international duty – picked out the unguarded bottom right of the backboard from her side’s third set piece.

Alex – who were without Deirdre Duke and Nikki Evans – came on strong in the closing quarter with Jess McGirr a powerful presence; she drew a low block from McLoughlin while there were a number of other scrambles that were repelled.

UCD’s clincher, however, came with six minutes to go when Egan claimed a touch on a long ball into the middle by Katie-Jane Marshall. It was initially given as a free out but a consultation saw the goal awarded.

Pegasus 11 (A Speers 4, N McIvor 3, L McKee 2, L Paul, E Armstrong) Cork Harlequins 0
Pegasus ran up a facile 11-0 win over already relegated Cork Harlequins to stay very much in the hunt for an automatic EY Champions Trophy semi-final spot.

The game was as good as done by the fifth minute with Alex Speers netting the first two of her four goals on the day either side of a Niamh McIvor effort.

Speers had her hat trick by the 10th minute and it was up to 7-0 by half-time of a hugely one-sided affair as McIvor also landed a treble. That win keeps them two points off second placed Catholic Institute as they look to try and secure a bypass through the first round of the playoffs for the big prize.