Pegasus favourites to sign Ireland star McCay
Pegasus are likely to be top of the queue in a bid to sign Shirley McCay from the Ulster Elks after the Jordanstown side's fall from grace culminated in relegation from the EY Irish Hockey League on Saturday.
A 6-1 defeat by Loreto in Dublin sealed the Elks' fate after they had won successive Irish Senior Cups and a European title last season, the fact they lost a dozen players undoubtedly contributing to their demise.
However, It seems extremely unlikely that player-coach McCay, who has amassed 231 Irish caps, will stay with the club next season when the Elks will be playing in the Ulster Premier League. Of the current crop of Ulster players in the extended Irish squad, only Queen's University striker Jessica McMaster plays at domestic level and, while there is no firm rule, playing at the top level of club hockey is the norm for the vast majority of senior internationals.
Only Ards and Pegasus are guaranteed top-flight status next season and the latter will be favourites to sign the hugely talented McCay, whose work commitments as an employee of Ulster Hockey, would make a move back south unlikely for the former Old Alex player.
Pegasus, meanwhile, cannot now reach the end-of-season play-offs despite a 2-1 win over Railway Union at the weekend as Loreto clinched the last place available following their win over the Elks.
Two second-half penalty-corner strikes from Hannah Craig sealed the win after Railway had taken the lead through Zara Delaney.
Ards, who were already out of contention for a play-off place lost 2-1 to Cork Harlequins, their consolation goal coming from Becky Weir.
Belfast Harlequins were just minutes away from getting the draw they needed to pull clear of the drop-zone but two late goals earned UCD a 2-0 win in Dublin.
That result, coupled with a 4-0 defeat for Pembroke at the hands of Hermes means the battle to avoid a relegation play-off will go down to the wire.
Harlequins can guarantee their survival if they secure a point at home to Loreto on Saturday week even if Pembroke, as expected, beat the Elks.
Meanwhile, Mossley need another point to guarantee promotion to the Ulster Premier League after a 1-1 draw at Ballymena.
EYHL: Cork Harlequins 2 Ards 1 (Weir); Loreto 6 Ulster Elks 1 (Mitchell); Pegasus 2 (Craig 2) Railway Union 1; UCD 2 Belfast Harlequins 0; Hermes 4 Pembroke 0;
Ulster Premier League: North Down 5 (Brittain 2, O Brown, Adams, Snoddy) Raphoe 0; Portadown 0 Dungannon 6 (L Elliott 2, White, Kelly, McKay, Elliott); Queen's 1 (Hutchinson) Ballymoney 1 (K Minihan); Senior One: Ballymena 1 (Smythe) Mossley 1 (Lorimer); Rainey 5 (Burns, Scott, Kelso, Nawn, Pegram) Victorians 0