IHL top three open up a formidable gap on chasing pack

Fourth-placed Loreto are 10 points adrift of Cork Harlequins in third

Karen Bateman of Cork Harlequins in action against Pegasus. Photograph: Rowland White/Presseye/Inpho

Karen Bateman of Cork Harlequins in action against Pegasus. Photograph: Rowland White/Presseye/Inpho

 

The chasing pack can be thankful that fourth place in the Irish Hockey League is likely to be enough to qualify for the Champions Trophy because a 10-point gap has now opened up between third and fourth in the table following the weekend’s results.

With UCD and Cork Harlequins having reached the Irish Senior Cup final, with a place in the Champions Trophy going to the winners, should they hold on to a top-three spot in the IHL then the fourth-placed team – currently Loreto – will join them in the end-of-season tournament.

UCD remain top after trouncing Ulster Elks 8-1, sisters Emma and Abbie Russell scoring two apiece, while Hermes-Monkstown, who have a game in hand, are just a point behind after a solid 4-2 win away to Loreto. They were 3-0 up midway through the third quarter before Ali Meeke and Hannah Mathews pulled two goals back, but Anna O’Flanagan scored her second of the game to seal the win.

Cork Harlequins’ trip north, meanwhile, proved profitable, as they took six points from their two games in Belfast. On Saturday, Olivia Roycroft and Karen Bateman got the goals that gave them a 2-1 win over Pegasus, and both players scored again, along with Naomi Carroll, in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat of Belfast Harlequins.

At the other end of the table, Pembroke Wanderers’ 2-1 home defeat by Belfast Harlequins on Saturday has dragged them back in to the relegation battle, the Leinster side now just a point clear of Elks at the bottom.

Over in Lithuania a fifth-placed finish by Ards in the EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy maintained Ireland’s place in the competition, a draw with France’s Lille and a win over Partille of Sweden proving enough to keep them above both sides in the table.

Hockey League – Saturday: Loreto 2 (A Meeke, H Matthews), Hermes-Monkstown 4 (C Watkins, E Curran, A O’Flanagan 2); Pembroke Wanderers 1 (E Horan), Belfast Harlequins 2 (L Johnston 2); Ulster Elks 1 (S McCay), UCD 8 (M ODonnell, D Duke, A Russell 2, E Russell 2, L Tice, K Mullan); Pegasus 1 (M Harvey), Cork Harlequins 2 (O Roycroft, K Bateman). Sunday: Belfast Harlequins 1, Cork Harlequins 3 (K Bateman N Carroll, O Roycroft).

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