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Play-offs now fading dream as Ulster pair lose ground

Women's hockey

By Graham Hamilton

The chances of either Ards or Pegasus making the EY Irish Hockey League play-offs were dealt major blows over the weekend when both fell to defeat.

Yesterday Ards went down to a 2-0 defeat against Railway Union in Dublin and are now five points off fourth place with just three games left to play.

And Pegasus hopes were also left hanging by a thread after a comprehensive 4-0 defeat by UCD at The Dub on Saturday.

Railway scored a penalty corner in each half through Orla Fox and Emma Smyth to move to within a point off the play-off zone after Ards had beaten Belfast Harlequins 1-0 on Friday night with a last minute goal from Chloe Brown.

Ulster's Katie Mullan pulled most of the strings for the Dublin students, who had the game against Pegasus won by half-time by which stage they led 3-0.

The former Ballymoney striker scored the last goal of the game with a brilliant backhand shot after Abbie Russell, Deirdre Duke and Sorcha Clarke had been on target.

Another Ulster native, ex-Armagh boss Mick McKinnon, was delighted with the win which leaves UCD at the top.

"I thought we played well for 75 metres of the pitch but lacked precision in the final quarter and our midfield created a number of good opportunities, but we got narrow too early," said the students' assistant coach.

Pegasus captain Alex Speers knows her team must improve if they are to have a chance of joining UCD in the top-four.

Ards and Pegasus are level on points but Speers' side have a game in hand, albeit a tough one against reigning champions, Hermes-Monkstown.

She said: "UCD were the better team by some distance and their passing, decision-making, running off the ball and finishing was superior to ours.

"We played a bit better in the second half but, by that stage, we had too much to do and we were left chasing the game."

Ulster Elks went down 1-0 to Railway Union on Saturday and look destined to finish bottom of the table and drop back into the Ulster League.

At domestic level, Ballymoney stay top of the Premier League after goals from Ruth Sutherland, Katherine Gawn and Susie brown gave them a 3-0 win at Portadown.

Champions Lurgan are two points behind in third place, but with a game in hand, after a 7-0 win at Banbridge, who occupy the relegation play-off position.

Randalstown finished their programme with a 3-2 win over Lisnagarvey which keeps them second and now they must wait to see if Queen's, who have five games left and are eight points behind, can overhaul them.

Queen's, who play Dungannon tonight at Upper Malone (7.45pm) in the first of their games in hand, were 6-0 winners over North Down at Comber.

In Senior One, Larne and Cookstown will finish in the bottom two with only the order to be decided following 8-1 and 2-1 defeats by leaders Mossley and Victorians respectively.

However, Larne look favourites to be relegated automatically as they will have to beat promotion-chasing Rainey by a big margin in their final game to avoid finishing bottom.

EY Irish Hockey League: Railway Union 2 Ards 0; Pegasus 0 UCD 4; Ulster Elks 0 Railway Union 1; Cork Harlequins 3 Monkstown 4; Pembroke 0 Loreto 3; Ards 1 (C Brown) Belfast Harlequins 0;

Ulster Premier League: Banbridge 0 Lurgan 7 (C McCann 2, E McStea, J Wilson, P Preston, S McClure, C Hull); Dungannon 7 (D Robb, L White 3, A McKay, R Bell, K Elliot) Raphoe 0; North Down 0 Queen's 6 (T Hastings 2, P Brown, J McMaster, S McCullough, L Hamilton); Portadown 0 Ballymoney 3 (R Sutherland, K Gawn, S Brown); Randalstown 3 (E Clyde, C McGrillen, C-J McDonald) Lisnagarvey 2 (J Kirkwood, B Walker)

Senior One: Ballyclare 1 (S Dickey) CI Ladies 2 (L Mercer 2); Cookstown 1 (K Stewart) Victorians 2 (H Walker 2); Mossley 8 (K Lorimer 3, Z McIlwaine 2, S McDowell 2, A Jones) Larne 1 (J Finch); Rainey 0 Knock 3 (L Elder, J Doak, S Webb).

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