Normal service resumed for Monkstown following their Irish Senior Cup exit as the EYHL top goalscorer Anna O'Flanagan brought her fine international form back to her club in a 4-0 win over Ards in the first ties of 2017. O'Flanagan, whose dozen goals in six games helped Ireland win World League 2 in Malaysia last month and saw her pass a half-century of international strikes, claimed three more in the first half against an Ards side who welcomed back their Irish international Chloe Brown form injury. Chloe Watkins completed the win from the penalty spot. It means Monkstown hold onto their two-point lead at the summit over UCD, who dumped them out of the ISC quarter-finals last week. The students had to work harder for their three points on Saturday, as Orla Patton's short corner strike in the final quarter helped them edge Loreto 1-0. The hosts, who currently occupy fourth spot, thought they had equalised late on through a Hannah McLoughlin penalty corner deflection, but it was ruled out due to a previous infringement. Elsewhere, third-placed Cork Harlequins kept up their title challenge with Michelle Barry getting the only goal of the game against basement side Ulster Elks. The northerners were unable to trouble Emma Buckley in the Quins goal, but the hosts struggled to put them away despite a dominant first-half performance. The crucial 16th-minute strike came when Yvonne O'Byrne's baseline raid saw her pick out Barry to finish, but Quins were unable to augment their advantage. They remain seven points behind Monkstown. Pegasus' hopes of igniting a push for the playoffs were dealt a blow as a resurgent Pembroke Wanderers held them to a 1-1 draw in Dublin. The hosts took a shock lead early on through Jilly Ringwood but then had to dig in defensively as Pegasus dominated. They eventually found a second-half equaliser through Michelle Harvey, from their 13th short corner. Railway Union served notice that they may be the ones to make a late charge for the playoffs, with a 6-0 dismantling of Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park. Kate Dillon's pair of goals bookended one from Anna May Whelan and an Orla Fox penalty stroke, before Zara Delany and Kate Orr put more gloss on the scoreline in the final three minutes.
Day 11 - extended reports
Monkstown 4 (Anna O'Flanagan 3, Chloe Watkins) Ards 0 Anna O'Flanagan again underlined her status as Ireland's top markswoman with a first-half treble to keep Monkstown top of the EYHL. O'Flanagan, whose dozen goals in six games helped Ireland win World League 2 in Malaysia last month, was on the mark in the 11th minute here with a neat close-range finish and had her second within a minute. She was then felled in the circle by her Irish international colleague Chloe Brown - playing a much deeper role than usual on her return from injury - and O'Flanagan dusted herself down to convert the ensuing penalty stroke. Monkstown's final strike came 20 minutes from time, again from the penalty spot but this time Chloe Watkins converted. Sinead Loughran had a shot taken off the line and while Ards pushed forward in the final quarter, this was a comfortable three points for the league leaders.
Loreto 0 UCD 1 (Orla Patton) UCD kept the pressure up on Monkstown at the EYHL summit with a hard-fought success at Loreto Beaufort. The students' sole reward for first-quarter pressure was a penalty corner that Louisa Healy repelled, the highlight of a first half mostly played between the 23s. Loreto came out fighting after the half-time interval with Ali Meeke's pace causing UCD problems, but the breakthrough came at the other end in the final quarter when Orla Patton converted their second penalty corner. The hosts pushed hard to claw back an equaliser and won a pair of corners, from which Hannah McLoughlin deflected the ball home. However, the goal was chalked off for an earlier infringement to leave Loreto empty-handed.
Cork Harlequins 1 (Michelle Barry) Ulster Elks 0 Cork Harlequins kept up their title push but only after struggling to put away basement side Ulster Elks at Farmer's Cross. Ireland U21 panellist Michelle Barry was busy in a dominant firts quarter for Quins, seeing her deflection well saved by Chrissie McKee eight minutes in before converting Yvonne O'Byrne's baseline cutback on 16 minutes to give her side the lead. Rebecca Barry had two chances in quick succession to augment Quins' advantage, seeing a half-volley flash wide before McKee repelled her next shot after she was played in by the lively Naomi Carroll. Carroll thought she'd done enough to score when arrowing a tracer to the bottom corner, but a Quins stick accidentally rerouted the ball wide. A first Elks corner led to nought while Karen Bateman and Carroll both went close and Elks survived a late goalmouth scramble to keep the score at 1-0. Quins stay third, five points from the summit, while Elks remain below Belfast Harlequins at the bottom of the table on goal difference.
Pembroke Wanderers 1 (Jilly Ringwood) Pegasus 1 (Michelle Harvey) Pegasus' hopes of mounting a late charge for the playoffs were dealt a blow as they failed to take maximum points from a dominant display in Dublin 4. Pembroke took a shock lead in the fifth minute as a neat passing interchange gave Jilly Ringwood an opening in the circle, and she didn't have to be asked twice. But Pembroke then had to steel themselves for a day of defensive duties as Pegasus took control of possession thereafter. Remarkably, they won 10 first-half penalty corners but Iseult Cambay, Rachel Scott and Erica Markey stood tall in the Pembroke rearguard to keep their lead intact at half-time. Things continued in the same vein after the break - bar one Pembroke penalty corner which went unconverted - and Pegasus eventually found an equaliser from their 13th corner through Michelle Harvey, coming with a hint of controversy for the initial corner award. Neither side could find a winner and Pegasus will now need to find their scoring sticks if they are to push for the playoffs while Pembroke face crucial clashes against fellow relegation candidates Belfast Harlequins and Ulster Elks in the coming weeks.
Belfast Harlequins 0 Railway Union 6 (Kate Dillon 2, Anna May Whelan, Orla Fox, Zara Delany, Kate Orr)
Photo Credit: Rowland White/PressEye
Railway Union began 2017 with a bang as they ignited their bid for a top four spot with a hugely impressive win in Belfast. They served early notice of their intent with Harlequins keeper Jade Lamont had to snuff out Zara Delany in a one-on-one, before Kate Dillon hoovered up a rebound from a Lamont block in the 10th minute. Laura Johnston gave Railway a scare when she was sent through all alone on Grace O'Flanagan who saved well, but it was one-way traffic thereafter. Anna May Whelan started and ended a move down the left for 2-0 before Orla Fox converted from the penalty spot when a goalbound strike his a defender on the goal-line. Railway kept up the pressure after the break, seeing one goal chalked off before Dillon tapped in at the back post for 4-0. Delany, setup by the influential Dillon, and Kate Orr put a late gloss on the scoreline with strikes in the final three minutes.