Pembroke moved within touching distance of the women’s EY Hockey League title as they bided their time before beating Belfast Harlequins on Saturday to move five points clear at the top.
That 3-0 success combined with Catholic Institute’s 4-2 defeat to Loreto puts them in prime position with two rounds of fixtures to go to win the title for the first time.
The first half was scoreless with both sides having corners blocked while Pembroke had the edge in terms of general play but could not break through.
They did get on the board in Q3 when Ellen Curran turned over possession to earn a corner which was scored by Amy-Kate Trevor, her shot ballooning in via a deflection.
It was not a comfortable lead, though, as Quins – powered by an awesome performance from Jane Kilpatrick – made a number of strong chances on the counter and had a couple of corners.
But the game was made safe in the closing five minutes when Rachel O’Brien got to the left baseline and laid the ball on a plate for Sinead Loughran to tap in at the back post.
And Orla Macken finished off the victory with a flourish, shooting in a backhand shot from a final second corner for 3-0.
After three draws in their previous four outings, the victory put paid to thoughts of a wobble and they can win the title next Saturday with a draw or better in Limerick against Insta.
For Institute, they were undone by a cracking performance from Loreto whose frontline of Aoife Taaffe, Siofra O’Brien and Yasmin Pratt were a real handful.
Aisling Murray and Taaffe had the Beaufort side 2-1 up at half-time and Taaffe then put distance between the teams with a goal of the season contender with a rocket backhand shot.
Hannah Matthews’ deflected corner extended the advantage, rendering Naomi Carroll’s camogie-style finish a consolation. The Limerick side did bounce back on Sunday to reach the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals for the first time when they beat Banbridge 5-0.
At the bottom of the EYHL, Cork Harlequins were formally relegated as they lost 4-1 at home to Old Alex.
But the other spot remains very much a live issue following Muckross’s 3-1 Sunday win over Belfast Harlequins with Sarah Quill, Sophie Barnwell and Emma Mathews making the difference.
Both sides had lost on Saturday with Muckross falling 3-0 to Pegasus but they bounced back to move up to seven points and within two of Belfast Quins.
The Ulster side were shy on personnel for this key tie with Jane Kilpatrick away on Irish duty and a number of other players unavailable due to Covid.
UCD, meanwhile, edged out Railway Union 1-0 as the contest for the playoff places continues to twist and turn. By the end of the weekend, Railway – despite last week’s heroics – are on the outside in seventh place, a point behind UCD and three back from Loreto.
In EYHL2, Monkstown confirmed their place in the promotion playoff semi-finals with a 4-1 away win over Queen’s in Pool 2 while Lurgan jumped into third place with a 3-1 success over NUIG.
In Pool 1, Ards took a big step toward topping the group with a 5-0 away win over Trinity with Zara Malseed getting a hat trick. UCC strengthened their hold a playoff place with a 7-2 success over under-strength Galway.
EYHL Division 1
Saturday: Cork Harlequins 1 (L O’Shea) Old Alex 4 (J McGirr 2, A Russell, M O’Donnell); Loreto 4 (A Taaffe 2, A Murray, H Matthews) Catholic Institute 2 (L Clery, N Carroll); Muckross 0 Pegasus 3 (A Speers 2, N McIvor); Pembroke 3 (A-K Trevor, S Loughran, O Macken) Belfast Harlequins 0; Railway Union 0 UCD 1 (A Naughton)
Sunday: Muckross 3 (S Quill, S Barnwell, E Mathews) Belfast Harlequins 1 (J Watt)
Irish Senior Cup, quarter-final: Banbridge 0 Catholic Institute 5 (N Carroll, L Clery, H Kelly, J Clein, C O’Shea)
EYHL Division 2
Pool 1: Trinity 0 Ards 5 (Z Malseed 3, E Robinson, C Adams); UCC 7 (C Dring 2, L Ryan 2, A O’Mahony, E O’Sullivan, N Barry) Galway 2 (A Manley, A McDonnell)
Pool 2: NUIG 1 (F Timmins) Lurgan 3 (J-A Reid, C McBride, L Thompson); Queens University 1 (S McDowell) Monkstown 4 (E Kealy 2, R Carthy, C Watkins)
Irish Junior Cup – Semi-Finals: Corinthian II 4 Railway Union II 2; Pembroke II 3 Queens University II 0