Ireland’s World Cup heroines made an immediate impact when they returned to club hockey on Saturday as two of the three Ulster-based players who lifted silver medals in London, got on the score sheet in opening EY Irish Hockey League wins for Pegasus and Belfast Harlequins.
Zoe Wilson scored for Quins and provided an assist in their 2-0 success over Pembroke at Deramore while Shirley McCay got one of the goals as Pegasus inflicted a rare defeat on UCD in a 3-2 win at Belfast High School.
It was only the second loss that the Dublin students have suffered in 37 matches in the top-flight regulation season although, in mitigation, they have been depleted by the departure of several players, including Katie Mullan and Deirdre Duke. Ireland captain Mullan is now playing her hockey in Germany with An der Alster while her fellow international Duke has joined their Bundesliga rivals Dusseldorf. Nonetheless, it was a great win for Pegasus, who finished third in the regulation season last time around and lost to UCD in the final of the Irish Senior Cup.
So, revenge was sweet for the Belfast team, who have aspirations of bettering last season’s achievements, having been boosted by the signature of international Kerri McDonald from Ards.
Co-captain Ruth Maguire, who shares the duties with Michelle Harvey, who was unavailable on Saturday due to a wedding, was delighted with the result which augurs well for the rest of the season. She said: “We have still a lot to work on but it was great to get the first win under our belts and getting off to a good start is always important.” “We want to progress and achieve our goals this season which are reaching the final four weekend in the league and the Irish Senior Cup final once again. “We did that last season, of course, which was great but just fell short so we want to build on that this year and do even better.”
In Saturday’s game, McCay broke the deadlock early on with a penalty corner conversion and then Hannah Craig marked her return from maternity leave when she scored from an acute angle. However, UCD his back later in the first quarter when Niamh Carey reduced the margin and it was game on in the last 15 minutes after Suzie Kelly levelled from a set-piece. But Pegasus had the final say when Stephanie Thompson hammered in the winner with five minute left when she converted a penalty corner switch.
At Deramore, Belfast Harlequins had to weather a second half storm as Pembroke threatened a comeback after trailing 2-0 at the break. Wilson cracked in a penalty corner for the opener in the 32nd minute and then, after a terrific run, found Jenna Watt whose pass was fired home by Abigail Edwards two minutes later. But the Dubliners, with World Cup player Gill Pinder in their line up, were in no mood to lie down as they forced home goalkeeper Marianne Fox into a string of fine saves. However, Quins weathered the storm and, indeed, could have added to their tally near the end when Ireland star Lizzie Colvin was twice denied by the visitors’ keeper.
In Sunday’s game, Ards and Muckross were involved in an evenly-contested affair in Dublin where both teams had their chances but had to settle for a point apiece.
Meanwhile, Queen’s opened their account in the second-tier of the IHL with a thumping 6-0 home win over Greenfields, scoring five times in the second half. They could have won by an even bigger margin had it not been for the heroics of Galway keeper Sinead Collins, who produced several outstanding saves. Yet another of Ireland’s World Cup contingent, Chloe Watkins, grabbed the winner from a 55th minute penalty corner as Monkstown scored a 1-0 win at Lurgan. Leanne Cassells’ late equaliser earned Dungannon a 1-1 draw with NUIG in Galway while Ballymoney made it three from three in the Ulster Premier League.
Ballymoney remain at the summit of the women’s Ulster Premier League following a 4-1 win over Mossley at the Joey Dunlop Centre on Saturday. Former Ireland striker Nikki Parke made it five goals in two games as she hit a double as the Co Antrim girls made it three wins from three. Katherine Minihan and Ruth Sutherland were also on target with Molly Dougan replying for Mossley.
Lisnagarvey made it two on the bounce after an opening loss as they defeated Ulster Elks 3-0 at Jordanstown with goals from Robyn Chambers, Jenna McQueen and Jenna Flynn.
In the other top flight encounter, Banbridge were 4-1 winners over Randalstown, helped by a double strike from Stefanie McCullough.
In the Senior Cup, the semi-finalists have now been determined with only the precise line-up undecided with one relevant game to come. Raphoe made sure of topping pool B with a 4-1 win over Castle in which Leanne Patterson scored twice while Portadown are guaranteed second place.
In the other section, Omagh, who have a game still to play against North Down, can topple Club KV if they win that. The newly-amalgamate former clubs Knock and Victorians are safely through to the last four after a 3-1 win over Coleraine on Saturday.
Cork Harlequins 0 Loreto 2 (N Small, S Clarke); Old Alex 0 Railway Union 3 (S Hawkshaw, H de Burgh Whyte, A-M Whelan); Belfast Harlequins 2 (Z Wilson, A Edwards) Pembroke 0; Pegasus 3 (S McCay, H Craig, S Thompson) UCD 2 (N Carey, S Kelly)
Sunday: Muckross 0 Ards 0
Pool A: Queen’s 6 (E Getty, A Boland, T Hastings, E McStea, C Whiteside, K Ferguson) Greenfields 0; Trinity 1 (S Osborne) Corinthian 2 (J Douglas, J McGrane)
Pool B: Lurgan 0 Monkstown, 1 (C Watkins); NUIG 1 (R Heskin) Dungannon 1 (L Cassells)
Banbridge 4 (R Kerr, P Haugh, S McCullough 2) Randalstown 1 (R Neill); Ballymoney 4 (K Minihan, N Parke 2, R Sutherland) Mossley 1 (M Dougan); Ulster Elks 0 Lisnagarvey 3 (R Chambers, J McQueen, J Flynn).
Pool A: Club KV 3 (R Hewitt, E Cutrona, C Little) Coleraine 1; Omagh 1 (A Buchanan) North Down 0;
Pool B: CI 12 (L Mercer 4, S Houston 2, C Leeman 2, B Young, R Haley, G Stewart, L Ternahan) Armagh 1 (K Reynolds); Raphoe 4 (L Patterson 2, W Patterson, E Harpur) Castle 1 (K McIlroy)