After a season when the scrap to fill the top spot in the EY Hockey League turned in to a game of musical chairs, there’s no surprise that the battle for the title will go down to the final day. Three teams will be in contention next weekend, all of them having won their penultimate fixtures on Saturday: Loreto (35 points), UCD (33 points) and Catholic Institute (32 points).
Advantage to Loreto but their final fixture is on defending champions Pembroke Wanderers’s home turf, a team they lost to back in December, so they won’t be ordering the champagne just yet.
Institute are the least likely to prevail, even if they finish level on points with Loreto; an inferior goal difference (by eight) leaves them needing to rout Monkstown while hoping Pembroke do them a considerable favour.
UCD are the more serious threat to Loreto’s ambitions of winning their first Hockey League title since 2009, although their final fixture is hardly a gimme – they’re away to Pegasus.
Rachel Kelly kept Loreto on course with the double that gave her side a 2-1 win over Railway Union on Saturday, while UCD eased to a 5-1 win away to already relegated Belfast Harlequins. And a quick-fire third-quarter hat-trick from Róisín Upton sent Institute on their way to a 4-2 win over Pegasus at Rosbrien.
At the other end of the table, Monkstown gave their hopes of avoiding relegation a huge boost by coming back from a goal down to beat Ards 2-1; Sophie Moore’s late winner sending her side three points clear of Ards with one game to go.
There was added joy for Monkstown come Sunday when they came from a goal down again to beat Avoca in the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals. They will meet Institute in the final, the holders beating Railway in a shoot-out after their game ended 0-0.
Hockey League – Saturday: Belfast Harlequins 1 (S McCollum), UCD 5 (E Lavelle, L O’Shea, A Naughton 2, S Cole); Loreto 2 (R Kelly 2), Railway Union 1 (K Mullan); Catholic Institute 4 (R Upton 3, N Carroll), Pegasus 2 (S Ferris, R McConnell); Ards 1 (Z Malseed), Monkstown 2 (S Twomey, S Moore); Pembroke Wanderers 1, Old Alexandra 2.
Irish Senior Cup semi-finals – Sunday: Avoca 1, Monkstown 2; Catholic Institute 0, Railway 0. Institute won 4-2 in a shoot-out.