Loreto on verge of Champions Trophy qualification

Rollercoaster campaign could end on a high note if they defeat struggling Ulster Elks

After picking up just a single victory from the opening five games of their Hockey League campaign, Loreto might have struggled to imagine being in the running for a place in the Champions Trophy come March.

Their form improved considerably after that poor start, but defeats to UCD, Hermes-Monkstown and Pegasus last month knocked them back again. Their rollercoaster trip could, though, finish on a high on Saturday when a win over bottom club Ulster Elks would secure them fourth place in the table and that Champions Trophy slot.

For their Champions Trophy-qualifying hopes to stay alive Railway Union and Pegasus, who meet at Jordanstown on Saturday, need Elks to get the better of Loreto, but with just one win from their 16 games so far that would seem an unlikely potential outcome.

The top three – UCD, Hermes and Cork Harlequins – are all at home to teams from the bottom four, so will expect to add another three points to their tallies. The battle for top spot, the reward for which is European qualification, will, most probably, go down to the final day – Hermes play Pegasus in their game in hand on UCD on April 1st, before they take on the students a week later.


Elks, four points adrift of second-from-bottom Pembroke Wanderers, look destined for automatic relegation, but Pembroke could still close the three point advantage held by Belfast Harlequins if they beat Elks in their final fixture of the campaign in a fortnight. Harlequins play Loreto in their final game.

Whatever team finishes second from bottom goes in to the promotion/relegation play-offs for which Lurgan, who retained their Ulster title earlier this week, Leinster champions Trinity and UCC, who won their first Munster Senior League title since 1992, have already qualified.

Hockey League – Saturday: Pegasus v Railway Union, UUJ, 11.30; Cork Harlequins v Ards, Farmers Cross, 1.0; Loreto v Ulster Elks, Beaufort, 2.30; UCD v Belfast Harlequins, Belfield, 2.50; Hermes-Monkstown v Pembroke Wanderers, Rathdown, 4.15.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times