Alex Speers increased her goal-tally to seven in nine games as Pegasus moved to the Christmas number one spot in the EY Irish Hockey League with a 3-1 win over Muckross in Dublin on Saturday.
However, it took a late, late show as two goals in the last 10 minutes denied the Leinster side only their second point of the season as the campaign reached the half-way stage. Pegasus were on top for most of the 70 minutes but found Muckross goalkeeper Rachel Barnett in inspired form. Team captain Michelle Harvey was delighted at her team’s overall effort as they now turn their attention to other competitions.
The former international said: “Muckross put up a real fight and put it up to us right until the end. We created a lot of chances but could not capitalise until the fourth quarter which was probably our strongest.”
“It’s great to be in the position we are in at the Christmas break and we can focus now on the Irish Cup and Denman Ulster Shield before resuming our league campaign in the new year. I think it will be good to have a short break to refresh, train and continue setting targets for the second-half of the season.”
Speers broke the deadlock in the 11th minute when she converted a one-on-one with the keeper after a swift counter attack which had followed a penalty corner at the other end. But Muckross levelled matters when Sarah O’Loughlin scored against the run of play in the 26th minute.
Pegasus continued to dominate after the break but they had to wait until the 60th minute to add to their tally as Speers got her second from a penalty corner. Two minutes later, Harvey sealed the win when she turned in a Taite Doherty cross as her team overhauled Loreto, who were held to a 2-2 draw by Pembroke and are now two points off the pace.
Pegasus did Ards a favour as their Ulster rivals moved a point ahead of Muckross at the foot of the table after securing a much needed point from a 1-1 with Railway Union at Londonderry Park. Caroline Adams gave the home team the lead from a penalty corner early in the second half but Kate McKenna equalised in the final quarter.
At Deramore, a second half equaliser from Gemma Frazer secured Belfast Harlequins a 1-1 draw with Old Alex but the result leaves Davy Frazer’s side still outside the play-off places.
Frazer said: “Unfortunately our penalty-corners didn’t function which could have made a difference and we had to rely on some great saves from Marianne Fox and a moment of brilliance from Gemma to get us a point.”
Former Ireland player Aine Connery put the Dublin side in front in the 29th minute but Frazer rescued Quins a point when she scored a terrific individual goal in the 44th minute.
In the IHL’s second tier, Queen’s dropped their first points when they drew 1-1 with Corinthian in Dublin, Rebecca Quinn with the students’ go-ahead goal. Dungannon kept their slim play-off hopes alive as goals from Leanne Cassells and Karen Elliott gave them an impressive 2-0 home win over Ulster champions Lurgan.
In the Premier League, Ulster Elks continue to climb the table after a 4-0 win over Rainey while in the Denman Ulster Shield, Ballymena and Mossley fought out a 2-2 draw. In Senior One, Kate Caithness had a superb four goal haul as Coleraine continued their impressive start following their promotion with a 5-1 away win over CI. Meanwhile, this year’s Senior Cup final will be contested by Raphoe and Omagh, who won through Sunday’s semi-finals in Cookstown.
Raphoe beat Club KV 5-4 in a penalty shootout after a 3-3 draw with Club KV while Omagh were 4-0 winners over Portadown. Sabrina Barnett hit two of the goals for Raphoe, including a late equaliser which forced the penalty decider. After a scoreless first half in the second semi, Omagh scored three times in as many minutes after the break, before adding a fourth, with Amy Sproule, who got two, Dani Darragh and Lisa Long all on the mark.
On the men’s scene, the Irish Senior Cup took centre stage, Lisnagarvey, Banbridge and Cookstown all progressed to the quarter finals where they will be joined by Kilkeel.
The Mourne side are the odd ones out in that they are the only Ulster team from outside the EYHL to have qualified after goals from Neil Stevenson and Ashton Graham enabled them to beat Dublin YMCS, from the top tier 2-1.
Daniel Nelson and Oliver Kidd hit two apiece for Garvey in their 8-0 win over Kilkenny while Johnny Mckee also hit a brace in Bann’s 3-1 away win over Corinthian. Cookstown got their name into the hat for the next round with a 5-0 win over Harlequins at Deramore.
“It was a good run out,” said Reds’ defender Keith Black. “We were forced into a fairly significant reshuffle just before push-back when Godfrey Irwin pulled up in the warm-up.”
“Harlequins made it hard and we put ourselves in a pretty tough spot when we had two men in the sin bin early on. That we were able to come to terms with those circumstances and also play some decent hockey was pretty encouraging. That shows the character of this young team.”
While down to nine men Cookstown went a goal ahead; a long aerial out of the back from Keith Black sent Callum Anderson through on goal and he expertly rounded the ‘keeper to make it 1-0. Stu Smyth put the Reds two goals up when his run was picked out by Mattie Rollins’ excellent pass. Smyth beat two defenders before smashing into the bottom corner on the reverse. Cookstown were down to 10 men again when an altercation with a Harlequins player saw birthday boy Greg Allen yellowed.
The Reds extended their lead just after half-time when Andy Barbour deftly deflected a long ball into the goal. Stewart Wylie did the hard work for number four, winning the ball and then playing in Smyth who found the back of the net with a great strike from the top of the circle. Cookstown were again down to 10 when Smyth was yellow-carded for a heavy challenge and then Dan Crooks converted at the back post to wrap things up.
Mossley have gone to the top of the Ulster Premier League following a comfortable 3-1 win over Queen’s at the Glade. New coach Ali McNeill has certainly made a successful transition to the men’s game after her move from Pegasus. Neal Glassey has also had a positive impact since returning home for the indoor break in Germany where the Irish international is playing his outdoor hockey. On Saturday, he got one of the goals with Ryan Lyall and Ross McIvor also on target and David Reid replying for Queen’s.
South Antrim are also going well and they pulled off a surprise when they beat Bangor 2-0, Adam Glass and Max Taylor getting the goals in an enjoyable trip to the seaside. Keith McWilliams, meanwhile, hit a treble as Newry defeated struggling Antrim 6-1 while North Down and NICS progressed to the Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals.
Irish Senior Cup Third Round: Kilkeel 2 (N Stevenson, A Graham) Dublin YMCA 1 (T Ritchie); Lisnagarvey 8 (D Nelson 2, O Kidd 2, T Cockram, H Morris, T Chambers, A Williamson) Kilkenny 0; Corinthian 1 (D Howard) Banbridge 3 (J McKee 2, J Moffatt); Belfast Harlequins 0 Cookstown 5 (S Smyth 2, C Anderson, A Barbour, D Crooks); Three Rock Rovers 3 (H Morris 2, M English) Annadale 1 (R Capper); Pembroke Wanderers 7 (K O’Hare 2, T Hill, M Treacy, S Sullivan, P Shanahan, C Murphy) Clontarf 0; Cork C of I 1 (J Bruton) UCD 1 (D Nolan) Cork won 5-4 on penalties.
IHT Quarter-Finals: North Down 4 (J Gilmore, G McKeown, J Moore, J Clarke) Portadown 2 (R Scott, G Croft); Civil Service 5 Catholic Institute 2; Waterford 4 UCC 3; Ashton 1 Rathgar 1 Ashton won 3-0 on pemalties
Ulster Premier League: Mossley 3 (R McIvor, R Lyall, N Glassey) Queen’s 1 (D Reid); Newry 6 (K McWilliams 3, N McKnight, J Taylor) Antrim 1 (D Wilson); Bangor 0 South Antrim 2 (M Taylor, A Glass)
EYHL: Ards 1 (C Adams) Railway Union 1 (K McKenna); Belfast Harlequins 1 (G Frazer) Old Alex 1 (A Connery); Loreto 2 (S Clarke, S O’Brien) Pembroke 2 (L Noble, H O’Donnell); Muckross 1 (S O’Loughlin) Pegasus 3 (A Speers 2, M Harvey); UCD 0 Cork Harlequins 2 (M Barry, Y O’Byrne).
EYHL 2 Pool 1: Corinthian 1 (L Pomeroy) Queen’s 1 (R Quinn); Trinity 3 (A Long 2, S Osborne) UCC 1 (A Collins); Pool 2: Dungannon 2 (L Cassells, K Elliott) Lurgan 0; Monkstown 0 Catholic Institute 1 (C O’Shea)
Ulster Premier League: Ulster Elks 4 (J Allen, E Quinn, L Paul, B Kretzmann) Rainey 0.
Denman Ulster Shield: Ballymena 2 (C Gillespie, K Young) Mossley 2 (R McCullough, K Dixon).
Senior One: CI 1 (L Mercer) Coleraine 5 (K Caithness 4, C McNickle).
Senior Cup Semi-Finals: Raphoe 3 (S Barnett 2, A Wauchope) Club KV 3 (R Hewitt, A Hill, L Kelly) Raphoe won 5-4 on pens; Omagh 4 (A Sproule 2, D Darragh, L Long) Portadown 0.