International stars set to return for Harlequins

Following the cancellation of the Irish women’s series against Scotland in midweek, Cork Harlequins hope to have a quintet of internationals back for the visit of Hermes-Monkstown in the EY Hockey League.

The Dubliners were finalists last year but a glut of departures — including Nikki Evans, Anna O’Flanagan and Chloe Watkins to pro teams in Europe — has seen them fall to the bottom of the table.

They are, however, an improved outfit from the first half of the season with South African Natalie Esteves giving them a corner threat while Sinead Loughran should be back after injury.

Whether they can contain Stephen Dale’s outfit, however, is another matter with Naomi Carroll, the EYHL’s top scorer, hungry for goals against her former club.

Quins need the win to keep pressure on UCD who face Pegasus in a crunch match at the top at Queen’s. A win for the students would keep them at least four points clear of Harlequins with most of their major rivals already having played twice.

At schools level, a high octane encounter is on the cards as Mount Mercy will look to get the better of Crescent Comprehensive in the Munster Schoolgirls Senior Cup final in Loreto Fermoy this afternoon (2pm).

Mercy reached the final on Wednesday with a 3-0 win over Ursuline Thurles.

Kate O’Halloran put them one up in the first half before Ann O’Farrell and Leah O’Shea made the game safe in the second half though they did require Ciara Bukcley — younger sister of senior international Emma — to save an Ursuline penalty stroke.

They meet a Crescent Comprehensive side that won a dramatic semi-final before the half-term break, seeing off Ashton School after extra time.

Irish U18 trialist Saoirse Griffin will be key to making Mercy tick while Crescent have a quintet of Munster interpros — Leah Clery, Lauren Ryan, Aoife Hickey, Robyn Leahy and Anna Horan — who can make a difference.

On the Munster club front, Catholic Institute can afford no slip-ups in their final league tie against Bandon to keep the pressure on UCC. Level on points but Insta have played a game more and so are hopeful UCC will drop points against either Waterford on Saturday or Belvedere later this month.

On the men’s side, Ireland complete the group stages of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia looking to get something from their game with India before facing a fifth-sixth place play-off game on Saturday.

It has been a tough week for the Irish, taking on four sides in final preparations for the Commonwealth Games as well as the Olympic gold medalists Argentina.

Coach Craig Fulton, meanwhile, has used the competition to blood a number of new players with Cork man Julian Dale scoring his first goal in a major tournament.

Goalkeepers Jamie Carr and Mark Ingram have swapped the role in the absence of David Harte who remained in Europe on club duty in the Netherlands.

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