Muckross hope to complete great escape at Ards’ expense

Pembroke aim to hold off Harlequins for fourth as Hockey League relegation goes to final day

There  is plenty left to play for in the final round of the women’s EY Hockey League. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

There is plenty left to play for in the final round of the women’s EY Hockey League. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

There are still two issues to be settled going into the final round of Hockey League matches on Saturday with Pembroke Wanderers and Cork Harlequins battling it out for fourth place and qualification for the Champions Trophy, while Muckross and Ards will be trying to avoid automatic relegation.

A run of just one defeat in their last seven games lifted Pembroke to fourth and one point clear of Harlequins, a position they will retain if they can beat Old Alexandra at Milltown. Anything less than a victory, though, would give Harlequins the chance of leapfrogging them at the death, the Cork side playing host to bottom club Ards who must win if they are to have any hope of overtaking Muckross.

After a run of 13 consecutive defeats Muckross had looked well and truly doomed to relegation until they picked up two wins from their last three games – the first away to Ards, the second a shock victory over reigning Hockey League champions UCD – to put themselves two points ahead of the Ulster side.

They play UCD again in their final game, this time on home turf, and while the odds might be against them repeating the winning feat, the students are unlikely to be at their freshest having competed in the EuroHockey Club Trophy tournament in Kent over Easter. Ards, though, are now the strong favourites to finish bottom and go down, their only encouragement as they head south the fact that Harlequins have had their struggles at home this season, losing five of their eight games.

Whichever club finishes second from bottom will go in to a play-off against the side that emerges from this weekend’s IHL 2 play-offs. Queen’s play Monkstown and Catholic Institute face Trinity in Saturday’s semi-finals at St Columba’s College, with the winners meeting in Sunday’s final – the victors in that game will contest the relegation/promotion play-off in Banbridge on May 5th.

Hockey League

Saturday: Belfast Harlequins v Pegasus, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Cork Harlequins v Ards, Farmers Cross, 2.30pm; Muckross v UCD, Muckross Park, 2.30pm; Old Alexandra v Pembroke Wanderers, Milltown, 2.30pm; Railway Union v Loreto, Park Avenue, 2.30pm.

Hockey League 2 Playoffs

Saturday (at St Columba’s College): Queen’s University v Monkstown, 3pm; Catholic Institute v Trinity College, 5pm.

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