Pegasus will lift the regulation season EY Irish Hockey League title on Saturday if they can secure the point they need against bottom club Muckross at the Dub.
The Belfast side will be hoping to bounce back from a 1-0 loss to Cork Harlequins in the semi-finals of the Irish Senior Cup last Sunday. However, they should be capable of securing the point they need, if not all three, against the Dublin side, whose EYHL game with UCD was abandoned on Thursday night due to a waterlogged pitch.
Pegasus will welcome back Shirley McCay, who had to attend Irish training last weekend and her ability at penalty corners is likely to be pivotal.
Ards, who lost to Muckross at the weekend, will be hoping for a Pegasus win to keep their noses in front of the Dubliners. And, if Ards can pick up something from their game away to Railway Union, it would almost certainly secure their place in the relegation play-off spot.
Belfast Harlequins, who are out of contention for a place in the top-four, are away to Old Alex and hope to welcome back World Cup star Zoe Wilson, who is recovering from a foot injury.
In the Ulster Premier League, Lurgan are one win away from retaining the trophy following a 2-0 victory over Mossley. In the other games on Wednesday, Queen’s beat Dungannon 3-2 and Banbridge were 2-0 winners at Ballymena.
Sarah McClure and Jo-Anne Reid scored in the first half for Lurgan and a home win over Banbridge next Wednesday will clinch them the title again.
A late winner from Jessica McMaster gave Queen’s their victory over Dungannon as the students notionally kept their title hopes alive. Koren Ferguson gave Queen’s a first half lead after great work by McMaster but an excellent strike from Karen Elliott and another goal from Jill Elliott made it 2-1 for the home side.Irish international McMaster came to the rescue, scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to secure a hard fought win for the visitors.
Ballymena stay bottom after goals from Stef McCullough and Nadia Benallal gave Bann the win.
On Thursday night, Ulster Elks beat Lisnagarvey 3-0 to keep their hopes of a top three finish intact and, at the same time, deal the Hillsborough side’s chances of joining them a blow. Elks scored the opening goal with a straight strike penalty corner by team captain Emma Quinn in the first half. Leah Paul broke free 10 minutes into the second period and rounded the keeper to score and make it 2-0. Seven minutes later, an Elks counter attack after a Garvey corner, saw the ball eventually played to the back post for Lucy McKimm to tap in.
In Senior One, Raphoe finished unbeaten but it was a close run thing against Portadown in a 2-2 draw at Edenvilla. Goals from Lucy Craig and Stacey Livingstone, the latter scoring with 40 seconds left, put the Ports 2-1 up after Lyndsey Tinney had put the champions ahead. However, Raphoe rescued a point with just 10 seconds remaining when Sabrina Barnett scored from the penalty spot.
Meanwhile, local hockey fans will have a belated chance to salute Ireland’s World Cup heroines before they embark on their Olympic qualifying campaign in June. Three of the team’s build up matches against Canada have been switched from Dublin to Banbridge which will also stage the World Hockey Series event.
Ireland will play their first home game since their unprecedented silver medal finish in London last August against the north Americans at Serpentine Avenue in Dublin on Friday May 24. The squad will then move to Banbridge for the remaining three matches in the series to be staged at Havelock Park the next day and the following Monday and Tuesday.
Ireland will also play Korea, who are in the other group in the Olympic qualifier, in a warm-up match behind closed doors at the tournament venue on Wednesday June 5 – three days before the event kicks off. The venue switch makes perfect sense as it will allow the players to familiarise themselves with the pitch and general infrastructure at the Co Down venue.
Six Ulster players, including team captain Katie Mullan, were in the squad that exceeded all expectations in London by reaching the final.
“We are very excited about Banbridge hosting the tournament and, as a squad, we are solely focused on qualification for the Tokyo Olympics,” said Mullan, who is now playing her hockey in Germany with Bundesliga champions Club an der Alster.
Assuming a successor to Graham Shaw isn’t appointed by then, interim Ireland head coach Arlene Boyles is expected to reduce her extended squad to 18 plus reserves by mid-May before the Canada games.
Meanwhile, the men’s EYHL Irish Hockey League title race is hotting with Lisnagarvey and Banbridge, Glenanne and Three Rock Rovers all in the mix.
Garvey take on third-placed Glenanne for the second time in six days at Comber Road, having beaten them 3-1 in the Irish Senior Cup semi-final last Sunday. Banbridge, who are second, are at Pembroke Wanderers looking to stay in the title hunt and the frame for end-of-season play-offs.
Struggling Cookstown have a tough one against Three Rock Rovers, needing points from their last three games to stay clear of the drop zone. Annadale can guarantee safety if they can avoid defeat at second-bottom YMCA as they bid to get back on track after a 8-0 thumping by Banbridge a week ago.
Meanwhile, the IHL 2 Pool B game between newly crowned Ulster Premier champions Instonians and Kilkeel has been brought forward to Friday night at Shaw’s Bridge as Kilkeel player Mark Stevenson is getting married on Saturday.
The various junior cup finals, men’s and women’s, take place at Stormont on Saturday.
IHL 2 Pool B: Instonians v Kilkeel (8.15pm).
EYHL: Lisnagarvey v Glenanne (3pm); Pembroke v Banbridge (2pm); YMCA v Annadale (3.15pm); Cookstown v Three Rock (2.30pm); Cork C of I v Monkstown (2.30pm).
IHL 2 Pool A: Bangor v UCD (2.30pm); Bandon v Railway (2pm).
IHL 2 Pool B: Corinthian v UCC (1pm)
Cup Finals (Stormont)
McClements Cup Final: Portadown 2 v Queen’s 2 (12.30pm)
Junior Cup Final: Kilkeel 3 v Mossley 3 (2pm)
Minor Cup Final: South Antrim 4 v Portrush 2(11am).
EYHL: Monkstown v Cork C of I (2.30pm).
Ulster Premier: Ballymena v Mossley (7.45pm)
EYHL: Old Alex v Belfast Harlequins (3.30pm); Pegasus v Muckross (2.30pm); Railway v Ards (2.30pm); Cork Harlequins v UCD; Pembroke v Loreto
IHL 2: Pool 1: Greenfields v Trinity; Corinthian v UCC
IHL 2 Pool 2: Dungannon v Catholic Insitute (1pm); Lurgan v NUIG (1pm)
Ulster Premier: Banbridge v Ballymoney (2.30pm); Queen’s v Rainey (1pm); Randalstown v Ulster Elks (2.30pm)
Cup finals (Stormont)
Intermediate Cup Final: Pegasus 3 v Rainey 2 (4.15pm)
Junior Cup Final: Ulster Elks 3 v Ballymoney 3 11.30am
Minor Cup Final: Lurgan 4 v Limavady 2 (4pm)
McConnell Shield Final: Belfast HQ 2 v Queen’s 2 (2.30pm)