Understrength Hermes scrape draw

 

Hermes and Old Alexandra finally played their much disputed league fixture at Belfield yesterday evening and the reigning Senior A champions gave some indication of just how determined they are to retain their title by drawing 1-1 with Alexandra, the league leaders, despite playing without their five internationals. In what was a virtual repeat of the teams' recent Leinster Senior Cup semi-final meeting, when Alexandra dominated the first half and Hermes took control of the second, Alexandra led 1-0 at half-time after a powerful display featuring some superb hockey.

They took the lead through Orla Bell in the 18th minute, following the breakdown of a corner, but would have led by more if it wasn't for some fine goalkeeping from Sarah Hilliard, her best save denying Hazel Agar a score.

Hilliard's opposite number Jenny King was called in to action just the once before half-time, when Aisling Keane fired Hermes's only short corner of the half straight at the goalkeeper, but the match changed dramatically after the break, with Hermes stepping up a gear in search of an equaliser.

The goal came in the 43rd minute, when Keane found her range with another corner strike, and Hermes came close to taking the lead when Bell cleared off her own line. They looked the more likely to score in the closing stages but both teams had to settle for a point, a result that keeps the title race, with just two games remaining, very much alive.

Hermes and Alexandra won their matches on Saturday - Hermes beating Muckross 2-1 and Alexandra beating UCD 4-2 - but third placed Loreto kept up the pressure on the top two with a 5-1 win over Genesis.

Loreto's appeal against the LLHU's decision to dock them three points for allegedly fielding an ineligible player against UCD in January will be heard by the branch's disciplinary committee this evening with the verdict likely to have a considerable impact on the club's title hopes.

If Loreto's appeal is successful they would be just one point behind Alexandra who they still have to play - Hermes also have to play Alexandra again, making the leaders' final two games, on paper at least, look by the far the most difficult of the top three. Meanwhile Harlequins and Church of Ireland won through to the final of the Munster Senior Cup on Saturday, with the Chapple sisters, Hillary and Jane, scoring two apiece in holders Harlequins 6-1 win over Church of Ireland II. Church of Ireland's first team beat Belvedere 5-0 in the other semifinal.

LEINSTER LEAGUE - Senior A: Muckross 1 (A Wade), Hermes 2 (A Byrne 2); Glenanne 0, Pembroke Wanderers 0; Railway Union 0, Trinity 1 (R Reilly); Loreto 5 (M Barnwell 2, S Scott, C McKean, O Ryan), Genesis 1 (L Spillane); UCD 2 (E Richmond, L Cotter), Old Alexandra 4 (T Conway 2, O Bell, Z Dahl). Yesterday: Hermes 1 (A Keane), Old Alexandra (O Bell). Senior B: Avoca 0, Clontarf 0; Loreto II 3, Aer Lingus 2; Corinthian 3, Pembroke Wanderers II 1; Old Alexandra II 2, Railway Union II 2; Hermes II 6, Muckross II 1.

MUNSTER SENIOR CUP - Semi-finals: Harlequins 6 (H Chapple 2, J Chapple 2, H Costello, K O'Sullivan), Church of Ireland II 1 (A Roberts); Belvedere 0, Church of Ireland I 5 (E Moloney 2, S Canning, C Walsh, J Kennefick). ULSTER LEAGUE - Section One: Ballymoney 1, Collegians 3; Pegasus 4, Coleraine 0; Victorians 4, Omagh 0; Knock 0, Portadown 5; Randalstown 1, Ards 0.