Classy Cregan fires Institute back into title contention

Catholic Institute stormed back into title contention as they shattered Cork Harlequins’ 100% record with a 5-1 win at Rosbrien on Saturday.

Ireland U18 starlet Abby Oakes had cancelled out Eimear Cregan’s opener to leave the game finely poised at half-time. But Insta blew Quins away in the second half with Cregan in irresistible form against her old club, setting up Katie Campbell for a goal before scoring a cracker herself. Ali English and Christine O’Shea were also on target.

Institute can go level on points with Quins if they win their games in hand, while the result also reignites the hopes of second-placed UCC, with the three sides having to play each other once more.

Fermoy were disappointed not to take all three points away to Limerick, as Aoife Williams finished off a swift late counter-attack to rescue a 1-1 draw for the hosts.

Maeve Murphy’s short corner bash had put Fermoy ahead but the two points secured moves them five clear of basement side UL, who have a battle on their hands now to avoid the wooden spoon.

The students, meanwhile, ousted Muckross on penalty strokes in round three of the Irish Hockey Trophy after a thrilling 3-3 draw.

UL seemed comfortable at 3-1 up thanks to goals from Sorcha Carey and sisters Laura and Steph Peters, but Muckross came roaring back through two lovely Orla Ryan strikes. Ryan was subsequently hospitalised after a raised ball lacerated her elbow, and although the Dubliners pushed hardest in extra-time, UL keeper Elaine O’Flynn came up trumps with two shootout saves to send her side through.

They were joined in the quarter-finals by Cork C of I, who had too much for Bray and won 4-0 in Co Wicklow with Pam Wolfe, Jen Barry and Mel Ryan on target before an Ali O’Regan gem finished it off.

Belfast Harlequins underlined their credentials as title favourites with a 5-1 demolition of Bandon, another successful visit to Cork for them following a 6-0 defeat of Ashton in round two.

Meanwhile, UCC’s men missed a glorious chance to upset Cork Harlequins again, a 1-0 defeat at the Mardyke all but ending their hopes of automatic Irish Hockey League qualification.

David Eakins’ early drag-flick highlighted a quiet first half but College dominated the second period, with Greg Chambers and Stuart O’Grady failing to convert their best opportunities.

Bandon eked out a morale-boosting 1-0 win away to Quins B while Cork C of I defeated their own seconds 4-0 to stay top of the pile. UCC’s second team came from behind three times to defeat Limerick 4-3 at Villiers, to book a rare Munster Junior Cup final appearance for the students. College’s Kenyan talisman Felix Opola provided the game’s highlight with a wonderful reverse-stick strike to the far top corner from an acute angle. They await the winner of the Garryduff derby between C of I’s seconds and thirds.

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