It proved to be a highly profitable weekend for UCD and Pembroke Wanderers who were the only clubs to take maximum points from their two Hockey League fixtures. Those victories allow them to narrow the gap between themselves and the top three, all of whom won one and lost one of their games.
The battle for the title had already been the tightest of affairs, but come the end of Saturday’s games there was nothing between Loreto, Pegasus and Old Alexandra, the trio all tied on 28 points at the top of the table.
Loreto had suffered just their second defeat of the campaign when goals from Ruth Maguire and Alex Speers overturned the early lead Hayley Mulcahy had given them against Pegasus in Belfast, while Alexandra came back from a goal down to take the points from Catholic Institute, Emily Ryan Doyle and Sarah Robinson their scorers.
Yet come Sunday, both Pegasus and Alexandra suffered defeats, while Loreto got back to winning ways.
Pegasus, on home turf again, couldn’t find a way through a UCD defence that has the best record in the Hockey League so far this season, which meant Katherine Egan’s first-quarter goal for the students proved enough to take the points.
Meanwhile, an Ali Meeke score right at the death gave Loreto a 2-1 victory over Alexandra, for whom Millie O'Donnell had equalised just two minutes before.
That win gave Loreto sole ownership of top spot again, three points clear of Pegasus and Alexandra but with an extra game played.
And UCD are now just a point further adrift, their weekend starting with a 4-1 win over Belfast Harlequins, while Pembroke are another four behind but with a game to spare. They got the better of both Harlequins in their double-header, beating Cork 3-1 on Saturday and Belfast 4-3 the day after.
At the other end of the table Railway Union stretched their lead over bottom club Belfast Harlequins to five points after beating Muckross 2-1 in the first of their games, although Muckross finished their weekend on a high when Susie Cannon's goal gave them victory at Cork Harlequins.
And Institute’s fine second half of the season continued with a 3-0 win over Railway on Sunday, lifting them to sixth in the table.
HOCKEY LEAGUE - Saturday: Pegasus 2 (R Maguire, A Speers), Loreto 1 (H Mulcahy); Old Alexandra 2 (E Ryan Doyle, S Robinson), Catholic Institute 1 (R Upton pen); Pembroke Wanderers 3 (E Beatty 2, J Ringwood), Cork Harlequins 1 (E O'Leary); Railway Union 2 (Z Delany, S Hawkshaw), Muckross 1 (S Barnwell); UCD 4 (E Curran, N Carey, A Russell, KJ Marshall), Belfast Harlequins 1 (L Colvin).
Sunday: Cork Harlequins 0, Muckross 1 (S Cannon); Catholic Institute 3 (L Foley, R Upton pen, R Pratt), Railway Union 0; Pegasus 0, UCD 1 (K Egan); Belfast Harlequins 3 (L Geddes, J Dennison 2), Pembroke Wanderers 4 (S Loughran, G Pinder, H O'Donnell, J Ringwood); Loreto 2 (H Matthews, A Meeke), Old Alexandra 1 (M O'Donnell).