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Harlequins must win play-off to stay in top-flight

 

By John Flack

Neither Ballymoney nor Queen's will be playing in the EY Irish Hockey League next season and Belfast Harlequins have a battle on their hands if they are to stay in the all-Ireland competition.

Money and Queen's both failed to make it into the final stage of qualifying in Dublin yesterday as Old Alex took the one place available by winning the first of two provincial play-off series.

Harlequins lost 5-1 to Loreto at Deramore on Saturday and now must win a relegation play-off with the team that finishes runner up in the final qualifying event, if they are to preserve their place at the top table.

Quins needed a draw to avoid the one-off match or Ulster Elks to avoid defeat against Pembroke but neither scenario materialised as the Jordanstown side, who had already been relegated, lost 2-0 to the Dubliners, who stayed up by virtue of a superior goal difference.

The omens looked encouraging for Quins before the Loreto game as the Leinster side were without Irish internationals Lizzie Colvin and Ali Meeke and had little to play for having already secured a top-four place.

However things went badly wrong from the outset as Loreto raced into a 3-0 lead after only eight minutes, with Ireland U18 striker Sarah Torrans hitting a quick-fire hat-trick to leave Harlequins reeling..

She went on to score all five of her team's goals, with an eye-catching performance that won't have escaped the notice of the Ireland senior coaching team, with Quins' solitary reply coming from Gemma Frazer.

Harlequins co-captain Claire Weir said: "We are very disappointed with the result and how we didn't play to our full potential without taking away from Loreto who are a very talented side."

"But we'll go back to training on Monday fully focused on the task ahead and we have full faith that we can remain in this league and fully deserve to do so."

Meanwhile Queen's were left with too much to do in the play-offs after losing 2-1 to Muckross on Saturday and a similar defeat by Old Alex yesterday ended their slim chances of progressing.

Ballymoney lost all four of their matches and Ulster champions Lurgan will now carry the province's hopes in the final qualifying event in a fortnight's time.

EYHL: Ards 0 Pegasus 2 (R McMillan, H Craig); Belfast Harlequins 1 (G Frazer) Loreto 5; Hermes-Monkstown 1 UCD 2; Pembroke 2 Ulster Elks 0; Railway Union 1 Cork Harlequins 0; EYHL provincial play-offs: Sunday: Cork C of I 0 Queen's 5 (T Hastings 2, A Hutchinson, S McCullough, J McMaster); Muckross 1 Ballymoney 0; Old Alex 2 Queen's 1 (T Hastings); Cork C of I 2 Ballymoney 1 (L Henry); Saturday: Queen's 2 (C Whiteside, J McMaster) Ballymoney 1 (R Sutherland); Muckross 2 Queen's 1 (T Hastings); Old Alex 2 Ballymoney 0; Senior One: Rainey (R Burns) Mossley 0.

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