Ulster Hockey looks set to have two regulation season EYHL champions for the first time in the competition’s expanded format after Pegasus started the ball rolling by lifting the women’s crown on Saturday with a 6-0 win over Muckross at the Dub.
Lisnagarvey are on the brink of joining them on the winner’s rostrum following a superb 5-1 win over Glenanne at Comber Road on Saturday. Now a point from their last two games – both against Annadale – will see the Hillsborough team take the title for the second time.
Ireland’s most capped player, Shirley McCay, will add a missing piece to the jigsaw next year when she makes her first appearance in a European club tournament with the newly crowned champions. Shirley rated the Pegasus title triumph as her biggest achievement in club hockey to date, despite having won back-to-back Irish Senior Cups with Ulster Elks in 2015 and 2016.
However, she missed out on playing in Europe with the Jordanstown team in Prague in 2017 due to a broken finger, before joining Pegasus a couple of months later. The 278-times capped Ireland defender is now looking forward to making her Pegasus debut on the continent, having played in four European Championships with Ireland.
Shirley said: “To play in a Pegasus team that has won the league and qualified for European hockey is a huge moment for me and probably the biggest I’ve had in my club career so far.”
“Pegasus are a fantastic club and have made me feel so welcome in the two years I’ve been with them so I’m absolutely delighted. It’s huge to be playing in Europe and we’ve a fantastic squad so, hopefully, we can continue to build on this season.”
“Pegasus have a good youth structure with lot of good young players coming up mixed in with a nice blend of experience, so the future is bright. For the younger girls, just being able to train with some of the more experienced players is beneficial and going to Europe next year will be massive for their development as well.”
Pegasus will now go on to compete for the Irish Champions Trophy, contested by the top four EYIHL finishers in Banbridge at the start of May. As things stand, Pegasus will be up against Cork Harlequins in the semi-finals, with Loreto meeting UCD in the other tie.
Team captain Michelle Harvey said: “We’ll go into the tournament with no pressure, having already guaranteed ourselves European hockey next season.”
“We have a break now and we then play Belfast Harlequins in our final match of the regulation season which will be good preparation for the Champions Trophy.”
Pegasus needed only a point from the Muckross game to make sure the trophy would be heading to Ulster but they turned on the style to crush the youthful Dublin side. Once Stephanie Thompson broke the deadlock in the 29th minute from a penalty corner, the floodgates opened, with Lucy McKee (2), Alex Speers, Caitlyn Harvey and Claire McKane adding further goals after the break.
After the game, Hockey Ireland vice-president Ann Rosa presented the trophy to Pegasus captain Harvey and Muckross deserve a special mention for their sportswomanship. The young Dublin squad, who could easily have made an early exit, stayed on the pitch for some 15 minutes while the celebrations were getting under way and applauded their opponents’ achievement in a lovely gesture.
Elsewhere, Ards remain a point ahead of Muckross at the bottom of the table but with a much better goal difference after losing 2-0 to Railway Union in Dublin. Belfast Harlequins, fielding a weakened side with nothing more than pride to play for, lost 2-1 away to Old Alex, Clare Stone with the consolation goal.
At domestic level, Lurgan can win the Ulster Premier League for the fourth year in a row on Wednesday night if they beat Banbridge following the latter’s 5-1 victory over Ballymoney.
Queen’s are now the only team who can stop Lurgan after Irish international Jessica McMaster scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 comeback win over Rainey at the Dub. The Magherafelt side were unlucky not to secure at least a point from the game after twice going ahead through Andrea Heggarty and Honor Graham before McMaster’s late winner got the under-par students out of jail.
There is no change at the other end of the table, with Randalstown just ahead of Ballymena following draws with Ulster Elks and Mossley respectively as the bottom two prepare for a crucial showdown on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Queen’s II lifted the McConnell Shield with a 3-1 win over their Belfast Harlequins counterparts at Stormont. Beth Ravey and Julie Morrow, who got two, were on target for Queen’s with Olivia Blundell replying for the Deramore side. Quins were 2-0 down early in the first half and, shortly after reducing the arrears, conceded a third goal and were unable to respond again as the Queen’s defence stood firm.
On the men’s front, Lisnagarvey produced a fine display to ease past Glenanne. Daniel Nelson opened the scoring in the first quarter and his brother Matthew added a second. An unselfish assist from Troy Chambers created a third for Andy Williamson and then Jonny Lynch made it 4-0 before the long break.
Kidd added number five before the Glens got off the mark through Eddie O’Malley as Garvey repeated their Irish Senior Cup semi-final win over the Dubliners with two goals extra to spare.
Banbridge’s title hopes are all but over following a disappointing 5-2 defeat to Pembroke Wanderers at Serpentine Avenue. The hosts started well on top, winning a number of corners with one ending in a stroke which Stephen Sweetnam converted. Luke Roleston made a number of key saves but Bann fell further behind when Patrick Good got on the board just before half-time.
A Harry Spain penalty corner made it 3-0 in the second half before Eugene Magee got one back, reducing the arrears at three-quarter time to 3-1. Bann went to a kicking back with 10 minutes to go but it backfired spectacularly as Good and Jack Ryan both scored, countering Magee’s second of the day for a 5-2 win. It was Pembroke’s ninth win of the campaign and means they can still overhaul both Bann and Glenanne if they win both their games and that duo lose both.
Cookstown are in big trouble after losing 3-0 to Three Rock Rovers, who made it seven wins in a row to rise up to second in the table but with four points to make up on Lisnagarvey in the last two rounds of matches. Three Rock captain, Jody Hosking, got his team on their way in quarter one, getting the slightest of touches off a low Luke Madeley drag at short corner time, to take the ball past Josh McCabe. Three Rock Rovers made it seven wins in a row to rise up to second in the table but with four points to make up on Lisnagarvey in the last two rounds of matches.
Jody Hosking, got Rovers on their way in quarter one, getting the slightest of touches off a low Luke Madeley drag at short corner time, to take the ball past Josh McCabe. Kevin Mullins added a second and then got another after being set up by Mark English to seal Cookstown’s fate as they remain in relegation trouble especially after Cork C of I beat Monkstown 3-1 on Sunday.
The Tyrone team’s cause wasn’t helped by the fact YMCA got a point from a 1-1 draw with Annadale who are now mathematically safe from the drop zone. The Dubliners hit the front when Grant Glutz’s drag-flick from a corner hit a foot on the line and he stepped up to slot home for 1-0. It remained that way until seven minutes from the end before David Tremlett ghosted in at the back post to equalise. It was just Dale’s third point in eight games but was enough to keep their heads above water.
EYHL: Monkstown 0 Cork C of I 3 (J Jermyn 2, P Brownlow)
EYHL: Lisnagarvey 5 (D Nelson, M Nelson, A Williamson, J Lynch, O Kidd) Glenanne 1 (E O’Malley); Pembroke Wanderers 5 (P Good 2, H Spain, S Sweetnam, J Ryan) Banbridge (E Magee 2); Cookstown 0 Three Rock Rovers 3 (K Mullins 2, J Hosking); Dublin YMCA 1 (G Glutz) Annadale 1 (D Tremlett); Cork C of I 0 Monkstown (G Sarratt, G Cole)
EYHL 2 Pool A: Bangor 3 (S Cox, C Walker, J Easlea); UCD 6 (A Meates 2, P Lynch, E Ramsey, A Keane, A Tutty); Bandon 0 Railway Union 2
EYHL 2 Pool B: Instonians 1 (B Palmer) Kilkeel 0; Corinthian 4 (I Stewart, D Howard, M Wright, G Dagg) UCC 0
McClements Cup Final: Portadown II 3 Queen’s II 4 (after penalty runs)
Junior Cup Final: Kilkeel III 8 Mossley III 7 (after penalty runs)
Minor Cup Final: South Antrim IV 3 Portrush II 2.
EYHL: Cork Harlequins 2 (E Barber, R Barry) UCD 3 (M Carey, N Carey, A Russell); Old Alex 2 (A Connery 2) Belfast Harlequins 1 (C Stone); Pegasus 6 (L McKee 2, S Thompson, A Speers, C Harvey, C McKane) Muckross 0; Pembroke 1 (C Foley) Loreto 1 (S Twomey); Railway Union 2 (K Fearson, S Hawkshaw) Ards 0
EYHL 2 Pool A: Corinthian 1 (I Maleady) UCC 2 (S O’Leary, A Bourke); Greenfields 0 Trinity 1 (I Delamer); Pool B: Dungannon 0 Catholic Institute 2 (E Ryan, R Pratt); Lurgan 2 (S McClure, E Lindsay) NUIG 2 (K Codyre, K Langan).
Ulster Premier League: Ballymena 1 (R McCluggage) Mossley 1 (R McCullough); Banbridge 5 (S Mount, S McCullough, P Haugh, O Magee 2) Ballymoney 1 (R Sutherland); Queen’s 3 (J McMaster 3) Rainey 2 (A Heggarty, H Graham); Randalstown 0 Ulster Elks 0.
McConnell Shield: Queen’s II 3 Belfast Harlequins II 1
Junior Cup: Ulster Elks III 1 Ballymoney III 3
Minor Cup: Lurgan IV 0 Limavady II 1
Intermediate Cup: Pegasus III 5 Rainey II 1.