Cork Harlequins, Catholic Institute and Cork C of I all grabbed the results they wanted to make it a perfect weekend for Munster hockey on the national stage.
Quins were in search of an EY Champions Trophy place, Insta promotion and C of I survival with all going through the wringer but ultimately enjoying the fruits of their labour.
For Harlequins, they needed a home win and a favour from Old Alex in Dublin to jump into fourth spot ahead of Pembroke on the final day of the regular season.
And they got their date with Ards off to a dream start as Michelle Barry’s waltzing run through the heart of the defence unlocked the door and Olivia Roycroft mopped up the pieces for 1-0 in the first minute.
Yvonne O’Byrne doubled up before half-time following a typically forceful attacking drive, 2-0 against the bottom side and seemingly on their way to fulfilling their half of the bargain with something to spare.
But Ards were going down with anything other than a victory and summoned a huge performance in the second half. They got one back via Amy Benson with 20 minutes still to go and they caused plenty of anxiety to the Quins’ faithful before eventually getting over the line 2-1.
Then it was a matter of checking on the scores from Old Alex and they were delighted to see former UCC player Aine Connery was running amok. Pembroke did lead early through Claire Foley and then again in the second half 2-1 but Connery was producing some moments of divine 3D skills.
She levelled with her second goal from a penalty corner and then went full camogie style to make it 3-2 to Old Alex. Former Cork C of I and UCC defender Amy-Kate Trevor got Pembroke level with 10 minutes to go from Gillian Pinder’s cross-shot.
But a winner proved elusive and Harlequins had both sides of their equation complete. It means a repeat of last year’s EY Champions Trophy final as they take on league champions Pegasus while Loreto face UCD in the final four for the second year running.
Harlequins will be joined next season in the national division by a second Munster side as EYHL hockey comes to Limerick for the first time in the form of Catholic Institute.
Roisin Upton put in a virtuoso performance to drag them back into contention in the EYHL2 final, scoring twice to earn a 3-3 draw against Queen’s University in normal time.
They trailed 2-0 at half-time before Upton started and finished the comeback either side of a Laura Foley goal – which Upton played a big role in creating – with an equaliser five minutes from the end.
Upton also scored twice in the shoot-out, including the winner in sudden death. It marks a special year for Limerick hockey with Crescent having also won the Kate Russell All-Ireland Schools title and just one of this panel – goalkeeper Miriam O’Callaghan – does not hail from the locality.
On the men’s side, C of I’s fight to avoid automatic relegation was completed with a 2-2 draw against Three Rock Rovers in tandem with Cookstown’s 5-1 defeat to Banbridge.
Six points adrift a month ago, they finished with seven points from their last 12 available but are not out of the woods just yet. They face a promotion/relegation playoff against UCD who lost the EYHL2 final to Corinthian in a shoot-out.
For C of I, they led early via David Lynch against a Rovers side resting several key men ahead of the playoffs, briefly lifting the Garryduff men up to eighth as it stood.
But they were pegged back when Kevin Mullins – nephew of Dublin football legend Brian – equalised. Jonny Bruton restored the lead against his former club but a Conor Empey drag-flick gave Rovers the draw.
Elsewhere, YMCA beat Pembroke 2-0 to hang on to eighth place, leaving C of I in the playoff place, an outcome they would have bitten your hand off for a month ago.