Lurgan take the lead as rivals lose ground
LURGAN took full advantage of Queen's failure to beat Ards to move to the top of the Premier League table thanks to a 2-0 win over derby rivals Armagh.
They maintained their excellent 2013 form which included a terrific 4-1 win over Pegasus in their last outing and now sit a point ahead of Queen's.
Pegasus, however, were the main beneficiaries of the 1-1 draw between Queen's and Ards n a tremendous tussle at the Dub – a result that saw both teams drop two points.
Later on at the same venue Pegasus predictably defeated basement team Victorians 5-0 thanks to a hat trick from Stehanie Quinn and a Claire McMahon brace.
Queen's looked like they claim a narrow win over Ards, but Naomi Elliott's late equaliser earned her side a deserved point.
"Ards always give you a tough game and this one was no exception though obviously the disruption with the fixtures due to the weather wasn't ideal preparation," said Queen's captain Hannah McMillan.
"So we were looking for a positive result against Ards and that's what we got.
"We are in a position this year in the league that we have some freedom to enjoy our hockey and really see how far we have come.
"We showed against Ards that we can compete with the top sides in Ulster though obviously we would love to have won the game, but overall we were definitely happy with the result."
Hannah's opposite number Naomi Elliott had mixed emotions at the end as relief at her 62nd minute goal was tempered with frustration.
"We had nine penalty corners and enough chances to win the game, but at least a draw keeps us in the mix," she added.
McMillan opened the scoring in the 13th minute when she scored at the second attempt from close range after being set up by Rachel Mulligan.
The goal that Ards deserved arrived with eight minutes remaining as Elliott diverted Caroline Adam's reverse-stick shot into the net after Queen's had only partly cleared a penalty corner.
A goal in each half from Lucy McKee and Bethany Barr helped Lurgan see off Armagh 2-0 while Susie Martin hit a hat-trick for Ballymoney in their 6-0 win over Portadown.
At the Antrim Forum the Ulster Elks and Randalstown fought out a 1-1 draw with Zoe Wilson equalising for the home side after caroline Smith's first-half opener.
In the Irish Hockey Trophy Zara Thom scored twice in Harlequins 5-1 win over Bandon in Co Cork, Lisnagarvey were 2-0 winners over Avoca in Dublin while Civil Service also won on the road beating Botanic 4-0.
An extra-time winner from Laura White gave Omagh a 2-1 victory over Ballyclare while there were wins for Ballymena and Cookstown over North Down and Greenisland respectively.
At international level, Ireland fell to their second defeat in the friendly series against Spain in Valencia when they went down 2-1 after a 2-0 loss on Friday.
New Irish coach Darren Smith was satisfied at a better display in the second of the two games with one more to come this afternoon.
Aine Connery scored Ireland's consolation goal near the end and Nikki Evans came close to equalising shortly afterwards.