Women’s EY Hockey League: Belfast Harlequins Inch Away From Relegation Zone

Belfast Harlequins edged clearer of the EYHYL relegation zone with this hard-fought 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Muckross at a bitterly cold Deramore. The hosts were 2-0 up in the second half but the Dubliners set up a grandstand finish after pulling a goal back with 20 minutes to go.

Women’s EY Hockey League: Belfast Harlequins Inch Away From Relegation Zone Women’s EY Hockey League: Belfast Harlequins Inch Away From Relegation Zone
HerSport Editor

Division One round-up

Belfast Harlequins edged clearer of the EYHYL relegation zone with this hard-fought 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Muckross at a bitterly cold Deramore. The hosts were 2-0 up in the second half but the Dubliners set up a grandstand finish after pulling a goal back with 20 minutes to go. 

The result ended a six-game losing streak for Quins and, more importantly, saw them open up a five-point gap over their opponents. The Ulster side have six points from 10 matches, Muckross have one as do basement side Cork Harlequins, with the bottom two having played a game less. 

However, with several top-line players due to return after the Christmas break and that cushion, the south Belfast side will be confident of avoiding the drop. Irish international twins Beth and Serena Barr will be back in action after suffering cruciate ligament injuries while Julie Dennison is due to return after maternity leave. 

In this season's new signing, Jane Kirkpatrick, Harlequins have compensated for the loss of those key players and the newly-capped Irish international stole the show on Saturday.  

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Although a defender in name, the former Lisnagarvey and Ards player made a rich contribution all over the pitch. 

She set up numerous attacks with her accurate passing causing Muckross problems at the back. Kirkpatrick had a shot blocked in the 25th minute which was the only real chance of a cagey first half. 

Quins broke the deadlock three minutes after the break, Katherine Welshman firing home from a penalty corner. Five minutes later, it was 2-0, Jenna Watt scoring from a narrow angle after Kirkpatrick had seen her shot blocked. 

In the 50th minute, Muckross pulled one back when Leila O'Byrne finished clinically from mid-circle. Play swung from end to end after that with Quins holding on for a crucial three points. 

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Pembroke will take a seven-point lead into the new year to put themselves very much in the driving seat for a maiden EY Hockey League title as they ran up a 7-0 win over bottom side Cork Harlequins. 

Gillian Pinder broke the deadlock in the 11th minute following a composed attack, Ellen Curran dodging into space and then picking a super pass to the high forward behind the last defender who a simple finish. Ciara Moroney made it 2-0 in the second quarter from Pinder’s assist, a smart backhand strike. 

Cliodhna Sargent blocked a heavily deflected Orla Macken corner shot off the line but just before half-time, Ali Griffin thumped in from the right of the D from a long corner move. 

Eanna Horan cracked in the fourth from a rebound in the third quarter and Rachel O’Brien got the next in the closing period from close range. Macken got her goal from Martha McCready’s cross following a smart run by O’Brien and the tally was complete when Griffin cleaned up a corner rebound. 

EYHL2 - Day Three Round-Up

Ards saw off Trinity 4-0 in their final EYHL2 game of 2021 at Londonderry Park, making it 12 points from a possible 15 to head the Pool A table after week three of the competition. Frankie Brown opened the scoreline early on for Ards with youngster Erin McKinley making it 2-0 before the end of the first half.

Trinity looked stronger in the second half, finding some success with aerials from their defensive line and winning a series of short corners, but the Trinity strikers were unable to get anything past the Ards goalkeeper Naomi McKnight.

In the final quarter, after missing a stroke, Brown got her second of the game after showing off some nice 3D skills along the byline and managing to get the final touch on a rebound in front of goal.

The final Ards goal came from Ellen Robinson who deflected a shot from Ards midfielder Amy Benson, over the Trinity goalkeeper to make the score 4-0 in favour of the Oranges. 

Elsewhere in the group, UCC landed an important 3-0 win over debutantes Galway in front of a healthy crowd at Dangan. Abi O’Mahony put the Cork side in front in the 20th minute from play before Emma O’Sullivan added another on the half-hour.  

Caoimhe Perdue stretched out the lead to three to lift UCC to seven points and second spot going into the winter pause. 

In Pool B, Monkstown are very much proving the team to beat as they came back from a goal down to beat Queen’s 4-1 at Rathdown with Anna O’Flanagan adding another double to her tally for the season with Emily Kealy in outstanding form. 

After waves of Town attacks, they were caught cold when Alyssa Jebb intercepted a free in her own half and set Jessica McMaster off on a run. She fed the ball back to Jebb who had time to wind up a shot as the ball crossed the circle line and then smacked into the bottom corner. 

Despite plenty of chaos in the Queen’s circle and a plethora of chances for Monkstown, it remained that way to half-time. Chloe Watkins then saw a corner chance tipped off the line while Rebecca Spence made an amazing block from Anna O’Flanagan. 

Queen’s were denied a potential stroke for a back-stick at the far end and, within a minute, Town were level with an incredible goal when O’Flanagan put Emily Kealy through on the right. She flipped it onto her reverse and cracked home a tomahawk. 

Claire O’Reilly batted in O’Flanagan’s looping shot for 2-1 as Monkstown finally made their pressure pay. Kealy had played an integreal role in that build-up and she did so again for 3-1 in the fourth quarter, dancing through a series of tackles before crossing for O’Flanagan a couple of feet out of goal to turn home. 

O’Flanagan then poached another from close range as she showed the most determination to scramble home amid a pile-on on the Queen’s goal line. With five points for a win, the result has Monkstown 10 points clear of second placed Queen’s in the group. 

Lurgan, meanwhile, are on two draws from two outings after they were held to a 0-0 draw by a stubborn NUIG who could not be broken down in the second half. It has them in third place on four points with Cork C of I and NUIG on two points. 

EYHL Division 1:

Belfast Harlequins 2 (K Welshman, J Watt) Muckross 1 (L O’Byrne); Pembroke 7 (A Griffin 2, G Pinder, E Horan, R O’Brien, O Macken, C Moroney) Cork Harlequins 0 

EYHL Division 2:

Pool 1: Ards 4 (F Brown 2, E McKinley, E Robinson) Trinity 0; Galway 0 UCC 3 (A O’Mahony, E O’Sullivan, C Perdue) 

Pool 2: Lurgan 0 NUIG 0; Monkstown 4 (A O’Flanagan 2, E Kealy, C O’Reilly) Queens University 1 (A Jebb) 

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