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Quins' top flight return hit by loss of new signing

By John Flack

Belfast Harlequins have been dealt an early blow as they prepare for the new Premier League campaign having bounced straight back into the top flight.

Ulster defender Claire Buchanan, one of two new signings, has been ruled out until after Christmas with a dislocated knee.

Buchanan, who has made the short move to Deramore from Queen's along with Julie Marcus, sustained the injury during a pre-season friendly on what was her Quins debut.

"I had surgery on my knee last week, so hopefully I will make a better recovery in the long run but I am a bit gutted," Buchanan explains.

Harlequins have also lost former Ireland player Jenny McAuley to maternity leave and last season's leading scorer Zara Thom to university in England.

Meanwhile Lurgan will go into the new campaign without no fewer than SIX of last season's regulars for a variety of reasons – and their biggest loss is undoubtedly that of Lucy McKee, who has moved to Bristol to study.

McKee hit 27 goals last season and Lurgan will probably have to settle for a mid table slot rather than Irish Hockey League qualification this time around.

Ballymoney have been similarly hit with six departures including ex-Ireland midfielder Bridget Cleland, who is expecting a baby, Angie Huey who has retired and Irish Development squad goalkeeper Sammy Jo Greer who has gone to Queen's.

The Co Antrim club, runners-up to Pegasus last season, are also unsure as to whether Ireland striker Megan Frazer will return to the fold as she contemplates a move to England.

Ards can boast a similar squad to last season with no exits and the arrival of Amy Benson from North Down while the Ulster Elks will also be expected to mount a serious challenge to Pegasus after signing three Canadian internationals.

The Elks, who have Ricky Lee returning to the dug-out, sent out a warning when they warmed up by winning last weekend's Super Cup tournament at Three Rock Rovers, coming from behind to beat Pembroke 2-1 in the final with goals from Anne Hutchinson and Kirsty Lammey.

Two new coaches will be at the helm in the top flight this season, with Mossley's Harry McNeill taking over the reins at Randalstown while Colin Wilson will be in charge at Armagh.

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