Something has to give at the top of the women’s Irish Hockey League Pool A as the group’s two perfect records go head-to-head at Park Avenue, Railway Union hosting Cork Harlequins. Both have perfect records in their domestic league, Irish Senior Cup and the IHL, making it a potential cracker.
Quins enjoyed a comfortable home win in their derby tie with Cork C of I, 4-1; a scoreline matched by Railway against tournament newcomers Ards. Emer Dillon will return after work commitments kept her out of last week’s win over Bray to play her hometown club.
Her side laboured that day but, having conceded just three times in seven games, their defensive solidity with skipper Isobel Joyce backed up by Helen Stevenson, usually just one goal suffices.
One threat their side will not have to deal with is Irish skipper Eimear Cregan who remains on the injury list but Quins’ experience of the big occasion could be key.Rachel Kohler, Ireland’s most capped player, continues to drive the team.
Pembroke, meanwhile, have another Munster woman facing her former colleagues as Karen Hales is set to battle sister Jennifer at Serpentine Avenue with Cork C of I coming to town.
Player coach Natalie Fulton is in bullish mood ahead of the game, promising: "the girls will be coming out fighting on Saturday and are ready for the challenge”. Form has been erratic for the ’Broke but they will look to summon the spirit of the draws against Ballymoney and Hermes to stay in the hunt for a semi-final berth.
’Money visit Ards in Pool A’s other fixture.
Pool B features the tie of the round as Leinster leaders, Loreto, travel to Pegasus needing a result to stay in the mix for a semi-final place and retention of their IHL crown. The Beaufort club surprisingly dropped points at home against Alex.
The signs have been good of late. Nicci Daly has settled in well and Nikki Symmons is a class apart in the domestic league. Their combination-work with Niamh Small and Nikki Keegan and goalmouth poaching of Cathy McKean will mean Pegasus’ Michell Harvey will need to be on top form in what promises to be a high quality affair.
At Belfield on Sunday, Hermes are another side who need to get back on track after a home setback. They are again without the services of Chloe Watkins (ankle) and Niamh Atcheler (wrist) for the visit of UCC. Aine Connery, though, should return to face her alma mater while Emma Gray will need to be alert to Audrey O’Flynn – one of the country’s premier drag-flickers.
Old Alex face a trip to Randalstown on Saturday but three games unbeaten in the league has the developing side in a good place and they face a Randalstown-side without a win since early October.
Two games are up for decision in the Leinster league. Both UCD and Corinthian can move second should they win on the road against Bray and Glenanne, respectively. However, if either of the latter pairing earn full points, it would catapult them off the bottom rung of the standings.
Elsewhere, ten Leinster league clubs will be gunning for a place in the last 16 of the Irish Hockey Trophy. Ashton have already advanced as Priorians have pulled out of the long trip south.
ESB Irish Hockey League (all Saturday unless stated): Group A: Ards Hockey Club vs Ballymoney, 6pm, CIYMS; Railway Union vs Cork Harlequins, 4pm, Park Avenue; Pembroke Wanderers vs Church of Ireland, 5pm, Serpentine Avenue Group B: Pegasus vs Loreto Hockey Club, 5.30pm, Queens; Randalstown vs Old Alexandra, 2.30pm, Randalstown; (Sunday) Hermes vs UCC, 2pm, Belfield
Leinster Women's Division One
Glens vs UCD, 12.30pm, St Mark's; Bray vs Corinthian, 1.15pm, Loreto, Bray
ESB Irish Hockey Trophy Round Two: Knock vs Naas, 1pm, St Colmans School; Dromore vs North Kildare, 2.30pm, Ferris Park; Diocesan vs Muckross, 1pm, High School; Queens vs Waterford, 1pm, Queens; Wexford vs Ballymena, 2pm, Enniscorthy; Three Rock Ladies vs Yeat's County, 1pm, Grange Road; Omagh vs NICS, 2.30pm, Youth Sport Omagh; Galway vs Cookstown, 2.15pm, Dangan; Fingal vs Greenisland, 2.15pm, ALSAA; Bandon vs North Down, 1.30pm, Bandon GS; Suttonians vs Portadown, 3.30pm, Sutton Park; Greenfields vs Our Lady's, Terenure, 1.15pm, Mervue; Catholic Institute vs Skerries, 12.30pm, Rosbrien; Clontarf vs Parkview, 2.30pm, Mount Temple; Banbridge vs Carrickfergus, 4pm, Havelock Park Result: Ashton w/o Priorians scr