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We can halt high-scoring Dubliners, says Speers

By John Flack

The name may have changed, but Hermes-Monkstown are still the team to beat in the EY Irish Hockey League and Pegasus will be out to do just that on Saturday in Dublin.

Since amalgamating with Dublin's men's team, last season's champions have won both their matches, scoring 15 goals in the process, with Ireland star Anna O'Flanagan helping herself to nine of them.

Pegasus opened with a 6-2 away win over the Ulster Elks and a 3-1 victory over Pembroke Wanderers on Sunday, but stopping the Dubliners' strikeforce - O'Flanagan, Nikki Evans and Chloe Watkins scored 63 between them in last season's campaign - will be the priority for the Ulster side, who were runners-up last year.

But Pegasus captain Alex Speers, who has scored three goals in two games already, reckons it is well within her team's capabilities after an encouraging start to the new season.

O'Flanagan cut through the Belfast Harlequins defence like a knife through butter in scoring her double hat-trick in last Saturday's 10-1 demolition, but is unlikely to have such an easy ride this weekend.

Speers said: "Obviously Hermes are a fantastic side with many current internationals and Anna in such good form, but we are confident we can go down there and get a positive result.

"We've got six points out of six so far and it took us until Christmas to reach that tally last season, so I've been happy with the way we've been playing so far.

"There is always room for improvement, but we've done well, and it was good to beat Pembroke on Sunday having lost the same game last time.

"Although Hermes won the league last season, the three games we played against them were all close, losing 1-0 in Dublin, drawing 3-3 in Belfast and losing 3-1 in the play-off final."

The three other Ulster teams haven't made such a good start - in fact, Belfast Harlequins, Ards and the Elks have yet to pick up a point after two matches.

The Elks and Harlequins clash head-on in a local derby at Jordanstown on Saturday which has taken on added significance even at this early stage.

Harlequins captain Claire Weir said: "I think we suffered from a lot of nerves in the Hermes game and before we knew it we were 4-0 down. But we know that every game is going to be tough."

Ards, who were missing Kerry Harvey through injury, have already shipped nine goals in two games, and will be aiming to stop the rot when they visit Loreto, who include Ulster-born Irish international Lizzie Colvin.

At domestic level the Premier League kicks off on Saturday, but tonight the Ulster Shield semi-final line-up will be known.

Ballymoney must beat Queen's to prevent Dungannon from joining the students in the last four and Lisnagarvey need to defeat Randalstown to stop the Co. Antrim team joining Lurgan in the knock-out stages.

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