At this stage last season in the EY Hockey League three of the top four spots already looked decided, UCD, Cork Harlequins and Pegasus putting some distance between themselves and the chasing pack. This time around, however, it's looking a whole lot more competitive, just four points separating first and sixth after the weekend's games.
Pegasus losing for the first time in the new campaign and the teams in third and fourth, UCD and Belfast Harlequins, drawing on Sunday has tightened the contest, Loreto taking over as leaders on goal difference from Pegasus after a fine 2-0 win over the Belfast side at Queens.
Until Sunday Pegasus had been scoring goals for fun, putting away 14 in their previous four Hockey League games, but they could find no way through the tightest defence in the competition, Loreto registering their fourth clean sheet in five games, while their internationals Hannah Matthews and Ali Meeke scored the goals, one in each half, that sealed the points.
UCD and Belfast Harlequins, meanwhile, drew 1-1 at Belfield, goalkeepers Clodagh Cassin and Marianne Fox both in outstanding form. Ireland's Zoe Wilson converted a stroke to give Harlequins a half-time lead, but Ellen Curran levelled after the break when she turned home a Niamh Carey cross.
Old Alexandra moved up to fourth after a 2-1 win at Ards, Aine Connery and Hannah McDermott getting their goals in the first quarter before Caroline Adams pulled one back for Ards, their first goal of the campaign.
Pembroke Wanderers are level on nine points with Alexandra, with an inferior goal difference, following their 2-1 win over Muckross, coming from behind with goals from Emily Beatty and Gillian Pinder after Sophie Barnwell had given Muckross the lead.
And on Saturday, Cork Harlequins picked up just their second win of the campaign when they beat Railway Union 3-1 at Park Avenue, Jane Murphy giving them a second-quarter lead before Sarah Hawkshaw equalised in the final quarter, after which two goals from Michelle Barry wrapped up the points.