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We've now got the depth to launch challenge: Kirkpatrick

 

By John Flack

Belfast Harlequins captain Claire Kirkpatrick has hailed the influence of internationals past and present in her squad ahead of this evening's rearranged EY Irish Hockey League clash with fellow Ulster club Pegasus at Upper Malone (8pm).

Quins made two marquee signings in current Ireland players Zoe Wilson and Lizzie Colvin, who joined over the summer from Randalstown and Loreto respectively.

Coach Davy Frazer's squad was further strengthened by the return of former international Jenny McAuley after maternity leave - and she has already scored three goals in her comeback season.

Last season, Quins only stayed up after beating Lurgan in a promotion-relegation play-off but they haven't given up on a top four finish in the current campaign.

Kirkpatrick said: "Everyone is really enjoying the season so far.

"It has been great to have a big squad to choose from.

"There is competition for starting places, and we have the depth to have good quality rolling subs.

"Everyone has adapted to that and Davy has been putting a lot of hard work into training and tactics. We have been playing each game to win, so have been more attacking than last year where we played more defensive hockey.

"Lizzie and Zoe, and the addition of Jenny, have been a massive help with this and as a result everyone has upped their performance.

"They are all very attacking players and their experience both in training and during matches has been great.

"The three of them do have very valid points to make in team talks but Davy has everything planned out and takes contributions from everyone." The Quins skipper is expecting a stern test tonight from a Pegasus side that currently sits in third place in the league table and has been boosted by the signing of 251-times capped Ireland defender Shirley McCay.

Kirkpatrick added: "Pegasus is always a big game as they are consistently in the running to win the league.

"They are always a tough opponent and have the experience of playing at a high level for so long.

"But we will be approaching the game like all others this season - playing to win." Meanwhile, in the Ulster Premier League, the stand-out fixture on Saturday afternoon is the meeting of leaders Ballymoney and second-placed Dungannon at the Joey Dunlop Centre.

Queen's should make it six victories in a row with an away win over struggling North Down while there's an important game at the bottom with basement side Portadown taking on Banbridge.

Champions Lurgan, who have games in hand over their rivals, travel to the Glade to face Mossley on Friday night.

And there's a second game on Friday with Ulster Elks hosting Rainey.

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