The second and third rounds of the newly condensed competition were completed on consecutive days, with Munster teams ultimately the biggest losers.
Cork C of I’s last-four hopes suffered after a rough weekend in Ulster. A second-quarter collapse saw them thumped 7-1 by Banbridge before Lisnagarvey’s goal led a charmed life in a 1-0 win over the unlucky Garryduff men in front of watching Ireland coach Andrew Meredith.
Bann followed up with a 5-2 defeat of YMCA to take control of Pool B as the only side with three wins from three.
Monkstown have a similarly high stock in Pool A, beating Instonians 3-0 on Saturday before a rough ride from Cork Harlequins on Sunday, scoring twice late on to win 4-1. Having conceded six in hammerings by Cookstown and C of I in recent weeks, Phil Oakley’s Quins were much improved this weekend and pushed Pembroke hard before losing 4-2 on Saturday.
Munster U16 starlet Julian Dale is recovering after a knee injury and celebrated his return with fine individual goals in each game. Ultimately though, their injury-ravaged squad lacks depth and they will be fighting to avoid the pool wooden spoon.
Cookstown are tied for top spot with Monkstown after dispatching Annadale (2-1) and Instonians (7-3).
Catholic Institute and Cork Harlequins’ women both endured miserable weekends in Dublin as their qualification hopes were left hanging by a thread. Two early goals did the damage for Ards in their 2-1 win over Quins. Acacia Taylor’s deflection did claim a bonus point for Quins there but they had no such luck against a rampant UCD, who ran out 4-0 winners with Irish international striker Nikki Evans on target twice.
Their pool has no clear contender however so the Leesiders could still rally to make the top two.
Institute faced the other two best sides in Ireland — aside from UCD — going down 3-0 to Railway Union before succumbing 5-2 to Loreto. Former Irish captain Eimear Cregan played no part against Railway but did strike twice against Loreto. The Beaufort girls hold the balance of power in Pool A with three wins from three.
The domestic top flight came to a close in Munster as UCC confirmed third place with wins over Bandon (2-0) and Limerick (6-0) while Cork C of I weathered an Ashton comeback to win 3-2. Fermoy finished the season on a high, overturning a 3-1 deficit against UL to draw 4-4.