Hermes 0 Railway Union 1 (Jean McDonnell) Jean McDonnell’s strike ten minutes from time handed Railway Union back-to-back women’s Leinster division one crowns as she struck a brilliant winner to end Hermes title aspirations.
She took her chance brilliantly, latching onto a crash ball on the 25, drifting from right to left to round Emma Gray for the decisive moment in a pulsating 70 minutes of hockey, played a really high tempo.
Speaking on his side’s second ever league title, Mick McKinnon was delighted with how his side performed on the occasion at St Andrew’s but is hopeful this is a stepping stone to further success this term.
“I thought they dealt with the occasion very well. Having secured our first league title last year, we weren’t as frantic, we weren’t as nervous. But we’ve got our eyes on bigger things, we want to win an All-Ireland competition. The Leinster league is great for us and it’s exciting but we really won’t be content unless we win an All-Ireland.”
As a spectacle, he was also pleased the title was decided on the original closing date for the women’s season
“It’s much more exciting for us than last year because it came down to the wire as we had to play one winner-takes-all game. I’m pleased, one way or the other, that the league got decided today – and it may be something the Leinster Branch could address in futures that all games should finish on the same day. It’s nothing to do with Hermes, whatsoever, it’s just it could be anti-climatic. Today was a good climax.”
His side edged the tie in terms of chances though their corner routine was scuppered by two push-outs sticking to the turf, partly due to the high sun drying out the water-based pitch.
Helen Stevenson marshalled her circle expertly, notably when shutting out Aine Connery with her back to goal as, even with Chloe Watkins in flying form, Hermes struggled to get a clear sight of the target.
Emma Smyth and Nikki Evans continued their fine form from midweek, the latter seeing a couple of reverse-stick efforts denied while keeping the impressive Aoife McCarthy’s hands full.
Cecelia Joyce almost completed the win with a second in the final minute with a steal on the 25 but Gray was out smartly to guide her wide but it mattered little as McDonnell’s proved the only strike necessary to return the title to Park Avenue.
They now prepare for the Irish Senior Cup final in May against Loreto while Hermes have their chance to exact revenge on May 15 in the IHL semi-finals.
Pembroke 1 (Jill Collins) Loreto 3 (Hannah Matthews 2, Niamh Small) A three-goal blitz early in the second half gave Loreto the spoils from a sprightly affair at Serpentine Avenue, Leinster U-21 Hannah Matthews pocketing a stroke and a corner goal to hand the Beaufort sides the points to keep alive a shot at second place in the rankings.
Nikki Symmons, Clodagh Greally and Cathy McKean were all unavailable for a tie which started in lively, end-to-end fashion with both sides counter-attacking to make for a decent specatacle. Neither, though, could break the deadlock until the second period but, buoyed a half-time team talk from new coach Graham Shaw, Loreto came out all guns blazing.
Nikki Keegan’s excellent run, drifting left across the Pembroke circle found Niamh Small to tap a fine opener. Within minutes, Matthews added the stroke, again from Keegan’s good work, and bagged her second – and her side’s third in ten minutes – from a short corner, second phase.
Pembroke fought back to grab a corner rebound through Jill Collins with 60 minutes gone but were unable to close the gap further. Both sides finish their season’s next weekend.
UCD 0 Old Alex 0
UCD and Old Alex played out a low-key, end of season affair on a beautiful Belfield morning, sharing the spoils, changing little in the league standings. Pamela Smithwick enjoyed a decent game between the posts, saving well with her thigh from Rachel Burke’s deflection while Rosie Carrigan slipped one effort just wide. Alex edged the corner count four to one with Grace O’Flanagan keeping all at bay to keep the status quo. The students finish the season back in the top four and the IHL after a year’s absence while Alex play Pembroke next week before preparing for the IHL playoffs.
* For more of Deryck Vincent's photos from Hermes vs Railway Union, click here