Irish coach Graham Shaw rang the changes as they drew their first game since the World Cup - a scoreless tie against Chile.
Shaw handed debuts to Lurgan twins Bethany and Serena Barr as well as Sarah Hawkshaw and 17-year-old midfielder Amy Elliott as well as welcoming back Gemma Frazer to the fold after a couple of years. Shaw felt his much-changed side performed well but could not find the final touch to undo the world number 16 ranked side.
“We started the game very well but needed to score after being so dominant in the first half,” he said. “The four debutants played well for their first game. Chile came into the game in the second half but we still had enough chances to win it.”
Elsewhere, Limerick’s Laura Foley got on the end of a cracking team move for the Irish U21 side who ended their warm-weather training camp with a 1-1 draw against Great Britain U23s.
She finished off after an excellent move, set in motion by Erin Getty and Holly Taggert before Katie Fearon picked out Foley.
The draw saw them finish on a high after 2-1 and 3-0 losses to the same opposition in Alicante.
Domestically, Catholic Institute had few issues despite the absence of both Roisín Upton and Foley to international duty as they ran up two wins and 11 goals over the weekend.
On Saturday, they overcame city rivals Limerick’s staunch defensive effort. Christine O’Shea gave them an early lead but Heather Hourigan’s corner equaliser in the 23rd minute suggested it could be a tough afternoon at the office for Institute.
But a trio of goals in a five-minute spell before half-time changed the complexion completely as Ciara Moloney, Kym Daly and Rosie Pratt put the game out of reach at 4-1. Pratt completed the win in the second half with her second goal.
They followed up with a 6-1 Sunday success against Belvedere with Clodagh Moloney – back after a spell at the University of Massachusetts – scoring twice.
It leaves them with seven wins from seven, level on points with Ashton with a game in hand, setting up a mouthwatering meeting between the sides on January 26th.
Ashton beat Waterford 3-0 on Saturday with Emma O’Sullivan’s cool slip pass to Tracey Johnson putting them in pole position after just 10 minutes. Kate Harvey assisted her sister Ann for their second before Emily Alice Daly completed the victory.
In the men’s competition, Harlequins moved eight points clear thanks to Julian Dale’s hat-trick in a 5-2 defeat of Catholic Institute.
Nearest rivals prior to the weekend, Ashton, lost 3-1 to Cork C of I B. Darragh Bateman and Clyde Buttimer traded first-half goals but an excellent interchange between young guns Andrew Salter and Tony Brophy set up Pat McCarthy’s key goal.
Quickly after, Conor McCormack’s drag-flick sealed the deal.