Pegasus and Ards are through to the semi-finals of the women’s Denman Ulster Shield after midweek results went their way.
Pegasus crushed Banbridge 9-2 while Ards qualified without hitting a ball after Dungannon tossed away a 2-0 lead in drawing 2-2 with Randalstown – a result that ended both teams’ chances of progressing.
Ards co-captain Becky Weir is delighted with her team’s progress in recent weeks and believes her team have turned the corner. She insists they will go into the second half of the EYHL campaign with the aim of being upwardly mobile, helped in part by a great run in the Shield which has also boosted confidence. The North Down outfit have just two points from nine games going into the EYHL winter break but they have found their goal scoring touch in recent weeks, with eight in their last three games against top-flight opposition.
On Saturday, Ards beat Belfast Harlequins 3-2 to reach the quarter finals of the Irish Senior Cup and that result has only added to the renewed sense of self-belief in the camp.
Weir said: “It’s great to be in the last eight after a deserved win for the team. We went out with the belief we could win following our extremely tight league fixture a few weeks previously.”
“We dominated the game and had expected Quins to take their keeper off again when we went 3-1 up so we prepared for that in training. The win had been a long time coming and I couldn’t be happier for the squad to have got it against a great team with World Cup players in it. It’s great to finish our Irish competitions with a win, to give us the boost for after the Christmas break.”
“As far as the league goes, our games, bar a couple, have been tight with close scorelines and week by week our performances have been improving in a league full of talent. I can appreciate that, as an outsider looking in, it may appear to be a torrid season at Ards but I can assure you that couldn’t be further from the feeling in the camp. Whilst this may not be reflected favourably in the table, our improvement as a squad cannot be questioned and our more recent performances have shown we are scoring goals and can compete with the best. We have an aim for this season which doesn’t centre on avoiding the bottom two but more on reaching a target we fully believe we can achieve after the Christmas break.”
Ards won the Denman Shield two years in a row before the EYHL teams were excluded three seasons ago, only to be readmitted.
Weir added: “It’s great to be back involved in the Shield as it holds so many great memories for us as a club.”
Belfast Harlequins and Ulster Elks can join Ards and Pegasus in the last four if they avoid defeat against Lisnagarvey and Ballymena respectively on Saturday. Pegasus romped to an easy win over Banbridge to top Pool A while Ards were awaiting the result in Pool B as Dungannon and Randalstown fought out that draw. Taite Doherty and Alex Speers each scored twice for Pegasus, who led 5-1 at the break, with the other goals coming from Lucy McKee, Michelle Harvey, Steph Thompson, Caitlin Harvey and Hannah Craig.
In Pool D, Belfast Harlequins need a point from Saturday’s final game with Garvey to progress after coming from behind to beat Lurgan 2-1 at Deramore. Jo-Anne Reid put last year’s beaten finalists ahead before the break but Quins responded with second-half strikes from Abigail Edwards and Amy Graham to put themselves on the brink of qualification.
Ireland World Cup star Katie Mullan was on target for Ballymoney in a 5-3 win over Garvey at the Joey Dunlop Centre to keep her team’s slim hopes of a last four spot alive. But Harlequins will be expected to at least secure the point they need against a Garvey side that has slipped back a little after also losing to NUIG in the IHT last weekend. Pool C is the only group without an EY Irish Hockey League team and Ulster Elks look favourites to progress after a 3-1 away win over Mossley on Wednesday left them in pole position. A draw or better against Ballymena on Saturday will be enough and with Ireland World Cup star Megan Frazer in the Jordanstown side, not many would bet against them.
Lurgan and Dungannon have long trips in EYHL2 to Galway and Limerick respectively, needing wins to keep their slim chances of progression alive.
Meanwhile on the men’s front, Cookstown and Annadale meet on Sunday at Stormont to determine who will face Banbridge in the Boxing Day final. Annadale are perhaps worthy of the marginal favourites tag following a superb 3-2 away EYHL win over Cork C of I last weekend. Ryan Burgess will need carefully watching after the former Bangor man hit a penalty corner hat-trick in Cork.
In the Ulster Premier, champions Kilkeel are away to South Antrim while Instonians face a long trip to Donegal to play Raphoe in two of the top games. Finally best of luck to the six Ulster teams representing the province in the second round of the Irish Junior Cup. However, two will make their exit after being drawn to face each other as Inst face Mossley and Garvey take on North Down.
Denman Ulster Shield Pool A: Pegasus 9 (L McKee, T Doherty 2, A Speers 2, M Harvey, S Thompson, C Harvey, H Craig) Banbridge 2 (P Haugh, S McCullough)
Denman Ulster Shield Pool B: Dungannon 2 (L Cassells, L White) Randalstown 2 (K Doherty, E Clyde)
Denman Ulster Shield Pool C: Mossley 1 (R McCullough) Ulster Elks 3 (J Allen, H Irwin, L Paul)
Denman Ulster Shield Pool D: Belfast Harlequins 2 (A Edwards, A Graham) Lurgan 1 (J-A Reid); Ballymoney 5 (O Mullan, K Minihan 2, K Mullan, N Parke) Lisnagarvey 3 (R Chambers, K McIlwaine, C Gillard)
Men – Ulster Premier League
14:30 Antrim v Belfast Harlequins @Antrim Forum
13:00 N.I. Civil Service v Bangor @ NICS,
14:45 Newry v Queens University @ Newry H.C.
16:00 North Down v Portadown @ Comber LC
14:30 Raphoe v Instonians @ Royal and Prior Sch.
15:00 South Antrim v Kilkeel @ Friends Sch.
Ulster Intermediate League
13:00 Ballymena v Ballynahinch @ Ballymena Academy
14:30 Parkview v CI @ Ballyclare H.S.
14:30 PSNI v Saintfield @ NICS, Stormont
Irish Junior Cup – Round 2
13:00 Instonians 2 v Mossley 2 @ Shaw’s Bridge
16:00 Kilkeel 2 v YMCA 2 @ Kilkeel High Sch
14:30 Lisnagarvey 2 v North Down 2 @ Lisnagarvey HC
14:00 Monkstown 2 v Cookstown 2 @ The Merrion Fleet Arena,
13:00 Railway Union 2 v Glenanne 2 @ Railway Union HC
Kirk Cup Semi-final
13:30 Annadale v Cookstown @ Stormont
EYHL 2 – Round 5 – Pool 1
13:30 Trinity v Greenfields @ Trinity
15:00 University College Cork v Corinthians @ Mardyke
EYHL 2 – Round 5 – Pool 2
15:00 Catholic Institute v Dungannon @ Rosbrien
13:20 NUIG v Lurgan @ Dangan
Ulster Denman Shield (Pool A)
13:00 Queens University v Banbridge @ Malone Playing Fields
Ulster Denman Shield (Pool B)
14:30 Ards v Rainey @ Londonderry Park
Ulster Denman Shield (Pool C)
14:30 Ballymena v Ulster Elks @ Ballymena Showgrounds
Ulster Denman Shield (Pool D)
Belfast Harlequins v Lisnagarvey @Deramore
Ulster Senior 1
14:30 Armagh v Portadown @Ardmore
13:00 CI v Omagh @ CIYMS
16:00 Club KV v Castle @ Malone Playing Fields
14:30 Coleraine v North Down @ Coleraine Rugby Club
13:00 Raphoe v Priorians @ Royal and Prior Sch.