UCD showed the sharper touches in the key exchanges to forge four points clear of Cork Harlequins with a 2-0 win over their nearest women’s EY Hockey League rivals at Farmer’s Cross.
Quins’ coach Stephen Dale flagged his side’s lack of match practice ahead of the game and it looked to have cost his team dearly in their first competitive game of 2018.
“We were rusty and you could see we hadn’t had a match in a while,” he said. “UCD were by the far the sharper. We had a good start but it would have been an injustice if they didn’t win; they were the better team.”
Naomi Carroll had one taken off the line by Orla Patton in the first minute while Cliodhna Sargent had a corner first-up strike ruled out for being struck dangerously high for Quins.
But the students always looked sharper with two Leinster Cup games and a series of indoor ties under their belt while their counter-attacking style paid dividends in a high-quality affair featuring a dozen senior internationals. Emma Russell gave them the lead in the 26th minute when showing sharp reactions.
Lena Tice then played a delicious ball through to Deirdre Duke to finish off the second goal in the third quarter.
It was Quins’ first loss of the campaign and gives UCD the first bit of daylight in the title battle. Dale, though, says the race is far from over.
“We will play better than that, no doubt. Anybody can take points off anyone in this league but UCD are now very much the team to catch.” Elsewhere, Christine O’Shea grabbed the crucial winner for Catholic Institute as they knocked favourites UCC out of the Munster Senior Cup in with a 2-1 win at Rosbrien.
On the national stage, Bandon won at YMCA 2-1 and Belvedere prevailed in a shoot-out against Omagh but Waterford bowed out of the Irish Hockey Trophy at the last 16 stage.
On the men’s side, Bandon won the big match in the Senior Cup, holding on for a 3-2 win over UCC after Ross Smyth’s double and a David Jennings goal had them three clear.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved