Cork’s two leading lights C of I and Harlequins have set about their task of restoring a Munster presence in the EY Hockey League’s top tier in the best possible fashion.
Both sit top of their respective groups in Division 2 of the national competition at the halfway stage following respective wins over Avoca and Cookstown on Saturday.
For C of I, it was relatively straightforward as Jonny Bruton was in typically powerful form, running up a first-half hat trick before the prolific Eoin Finnegan chipped in for a 4-0 lead.
Richard Couse did nick one back for the Dubliners but John Jermyn completed the scoring for a 5-1 win.
With Instonians and Railway Union drawing (0-0), the result leaves Denis Pritchard’s side five points clear at the top of Pool A with two teams out of four advancing to the promotion play-offs.
Harlequins’ success was far more dramatic. Down and almost out at 2-0 down with 12 minutes to go, they produced a glorious comeback to beat Cookstown 3-2.
Ross Bailey did most of the damage, cracking home from mid-circle following a pitch-length move to give them some hope.
He then cleaned up after Richie Gash’s tame flick was only half-cleared, making it 2-2 with six minutes to go.
Not content to settle for a draw, Quins earned a last-minute penalty corner with Julian Dale applying a sublime finish.
With the injection a few centimetres off course, he decided to skip the trap element of the routine, controlling the ball himself and, in the same movement, unleashed a ripper of a drag-flick.
That memorable winner has them three points ahead of Cookstown and Clontarf in their group, raising the possibility of two Munster sides in the end of season play-offs.
On the women’s side, fortunes were not quite so favourable for Harlequins and Catholic Institute on their travels to Dublin with penalty strokes – one scored, one missed — costing them dear.
For the Cork side, Emma Barber twice fired home penalty corners to equalise at 2-2 against Muckross until late in the game. But a Sophie Barnwell stroke handed the Dublin 4 side the advantage with five minutes left and Nikki Keegan killed off any lingering hope when she made it 4-2.
Insta, meanwhile, were denied a draw when Railway Union’s Riona Norton saved Rosie Pratt’s stroke in the closing minutes — as Railway secured a 2-1 win.
Those results leave the Limerick side in eighth place with Cork Harlequins in ninth while Belfast Harlequins are bottom.
It has raised concerns once more that the EY Hockey League — like the men’s competition — could be becoming too Dublin-centric with six teams currently hailing from the capital and non-Dublin sides currently closest to the trap-door.
In a shortened weekend of local action, UCC’s first team beat Limerick 4-0 in the Munster Senior Cup while their second string beat Bandon 1-0 in the Irish Junior Cup.