Brave Belfast Harlequins girls get second chance
Belfast Harlequins failed to secure the final automatic qualifying place in next season's EY Irish Hockey League when they went down 2-0 to Loreto in yesterday's promotion play-off final in Dublin.
However, the Deramore side will have a second chance to join the all-Ireland League next Sunday when they face UCC in a do-or-die contest in Banbridge.
If Quins win, they will replace the Cork students in the IHL after they finished ninth in the competition's inaugural season as an 18-match affair.
Loreto went into the weekend series as favourites to progress as they have a host of internationals in their squad, but Harlequins performed admirably in the first-half when they posed the Leinster champions problems without being able to translate their pressure into goals.
The Belfast side travelled with only three substitutes instead of the full complement of five and tired legs took their toll.
Claire Weir was denied by Loreto and former Ireland goalkeeper Louisa Healy early on and then Lucy Geddes shot wide from a Jenna Watt cross.
Those misses were made to look costly when, after a couple of saves from Jade Lamont, current international Ali Meeke fired home a rebound for the opening goal in the 43rd minute.
Eleven minutes later another Irish player, Lena Tice, was fortunate to escape with only two minutes in the sin-bin after earlier being shown a green and yellow card for separate incidents.
Quins were unable to capitalise and, in the 59th minute, Jessica McGirr set up Kate Crotty who made it 2-0 and sealed the win which will see Loreto take their place among the big guns.
On Saturday, two goals from Geddes after Watt's opener clinched Quins a 3-1 semi-final win over Randalstown but Ulster champions Lurgan crashed to a 3-1 loss to Loreto despite dominating the opening 30 minutes.
Results: Saturday: EYHL promotion play-off semi-finals: Loreto 3 Lurgan 1 (C Johnston); Belfast Harlequins 3 (J Watt, L Geddes 2) Randalstown 1 (M Quinn).
Ulster plate finals qualifying: Priorians 1 Mossley 2; intermediate: Kilkeel 0 Coleraine 1; junior: Priorians II 1 Belfast Harlequins V 3; minor: Owls II 0 North Down V 3.
Sunday: EYHL promotion play-off final: Loreto 2 Belfast Harlequins 0.