Irish teams face tough play-offs


WOMENS HOCKEY: A fiery second-half performance still left Cork Harlequins with a 2-1 defeat by the Canny Scottish side, Kelburne, in their third match in the B division of the European Cup Winners Cup in Vienna's vibrant Prater Park yesterday.

So, in taking only the runners-up position in their pool, the Munster men must face the accomplished Belgian team Royal Dragons of Antwerp today in a play-off for joint first place overall and a berth for Lisnagarvey or Instonians in the A division next year.

Similarly, Pegasus, flying the Ulster flag in the women's competition, finished second in their pool by beating Lorenzoni of Italy 6-0 and now meet Real Polo of Spain in their ultimate match, seeking promotion for Hermes or Ballymoney.

It will need to be a total effort by both Irish sides, for Harlequins find themselves up against fellow countrymen Steven Butler and Justin Sherriff in a rampant Dragons team, while Pegasus take on a talented Spanish outfit which, for example, overwhelmed Penarth of Wales 11-0.

Although Conor Harte was most alert at the back, Harlequins yesterday allowed Kelburne to exert the greater first-half pressure and to seize the lead through Mark Ralph from a short corner in the 35th minute.

When Ralph increased the margin just after the interval, it was only then that Harlequins roused themselves fully, mainly through Mark Black and Paul Lombard. They forced six short corners, from the fifth of which David Eakins set the net quivering.

This was in sharp contrast to the 9-0 trouncing of Collegians of Gibraltar on Saturday which Eakins helped himself to five goals. Richie Gash (2) , David Egner and John Hobbs also contributed to the tally.

Pegasus meanwhile, surcumbed to an unexpected defeat by the athletic and robust Smolevichi side from Belaruss, who, though reduced to eight players at one stage, stunned the Irish team with two late goals.

But after this rude awakening, Pegasus overpowered Lorenzoni, who conceded three penalty strokes int he first 10 minutes. Karen Humphreys and Arlene Boyles (2) carried out the conversions and further goals came from Joanna Campbell, Julie McKnight and Boyles.

Today: Men's play-offs for joint first place (and promotion): Dragons v Harlequins; Kelburne v Akademischer; Women's play-offs for joint first place (and promotion): Real Polo v Pegasus; Smolevichi v Meteor.