| 7.2°C Dublin

Alex face critical Pegasus challenge in Belfast

Old Alexandra travel to Queen's in Belfast on Sunday for a critical match against Pegasus in the Irish Women's Hockey League.

So far this season, Pegasus remain unbeaten in Pool B but they were pushed hard by Hermes in their first match.

Clare McMahon had put Pegasus into the lead midway through the first half, but Hermes never gave up and almost snatched a draw on the hooter from a penalty corner when Gillian Pinder's shot narrowly went wide.

Old Alexandra drew with Loreto in their opening match, and have a potent mix of youth and experience in their line-up. Key players include Irish international player Roisin Flinn, goalkeeper Pamela Smithwick and captain Ann Marie Cullen.

While they haven't accumulated as much silverware as Pegasus, they are well capable of causing a shock.

Loreto beat Hermes to win the inaugural Irish Hockey League last season, but with five of their top players on regular Ireland duty, they have not always been able to field their first choice team.

With the World Cup qualifiers looming, the Irish squad has been playing practice matches against Great Britain this week. On Saturday, Loreto travel to Cork to play a tricky match against Munster champions UCC.

Among the players UCC can call on are the vastly experienced Julia O'Halloran and Audrey O'Flynn, who has been knocking in the goals for the students.

Former Ireland U18 forward Olivia Roycroft and Munster U18 stars Kate Murphy, Rosie Shanahan and Shellie Fives are also part of the UCC squad.

Whatever happens this weekend, Loreto will hope to have their full complement of players for their vital final league round match against Hermes on March 14.

Just two teams will go through to the finals weekend and the defending champions will not want to lose out.

Current Leinster champions Railway Union top Pool A with three wins and three bonus points, thanks largely to the efforts of Cecilia Joyce who has scored five goals in the three league matches to date.

They travel to Garyduff to face Cork C of I in a match they should win. Key players for Railway include Irish Player of the Year Emma Smyth and Emer Dillon, who will be returning to home turf having won four camogie All-Irelands with Cork.