Friday, March 6, 2009

Women's IHL preview: Round Four

The business end of the IHL kicks into full effect this weekend with the process of elimination and qualification begins in earnest. The best placed side in the competition is Loreto who have saved their best form for Irish hockey's main event while faltering elsewhere.

The Beaufort side holds sway in what would appear to be the stronger group, heading both Leinster and Ulster league leaders - Railway Union and Pegasus respectively. Should they pick up a bonus point win over Pool A's bottom side, Randalstown, a semi-final berth will be all but assured before they visit Railway in April.

They do so with a full bill of health with Hannah Matthews - yet to play a full senior game yet this term - working her way back to full fitness after a long-term injury. She did, however, rack up 135 minutes of pitch time for her school in the last six days.

Second place is less clear-cut with the aforementioned Pegs and Railway duelling it out. Both face tricky away trips against sides needing results to maintain any remote chance of progression. Railway go down to the Duff Bowl to face Cork C of I while Belfast Harlequins welcome their city rivals.

Pool B is less clear-cut with any of five sides within striking distance of a semi-final berth. UCD will hope to overturn a 3-1 defeat to Armagh two years ago in the Irish Senior Cup. The students are hopeful Megan Tennant-Humphreys will be back in the fray.

The current top two in the group is likely to be changed after Sunday's battle between Hermes and Cork Harlequins. Hermes give Emma Grey a late chance to prove her fitness but have an able deputy between the posts in Yvonne Kenny. The winner is assured a clear gap at the top. If either side loses, Ballymoney could snatch second place, though Pembroke stand firmly in their way at the Joey Dunlop centre.

IHL Schedule
POOL A: Cork C of I vs Railway Union, 2pm, Garryduff Sports Centre; Randalstown vs Loreto, 4pm, Antrim Forum
POOL B: Ballymoney vs Pembroke Wanderers, 1.30pm, Joey Dunlop Centre; Armagh vs UCD, 2.30pm, Ardmore Leisure Centre

POOL A: Belfast Harlequins vs Pegasus, 2.30pm, Deramore Park;
POOL B: Hermes vs Cork Harlequins, 1.30pm, Belfield

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