Hockey: Belfast Harlequins defeat Portadown to move top

Harlequins celebrate victory over Portadown on Saturday
Harlequins celebrate victory over Portadown on Saturday

Belfast Harlequins have undergone a massive transformation in fortunes this season illustrated by the fact they have moved to the top of the Ulster Premier League table thanks to a 5-2 win over Portadown at Deramore on Saturday.

Last time around they only avoided penultimate place in the table by the skin of their teeth but now they are looking good for a place in the top two rather than the bottom two when the honours are divided.

If they can secure that, then they will enter the IHL II competition and have a chance of playing in the EY League next season.

Some would say their position is a false one considering the Premier League is without last season’s top three, who are now in the all-Ireland competition.

But Quins, like their rivals, have to merely play what is in front of them and, on that score they are doing very nicely.

On Saturday they looked dangerous going forward, illustrated by their five-goal haul, but on their own admission they can do better.

“It was by no means our best performance against Portadown but we’ll take the win and it’s nice to be at the top of the table,” said coach Davy Frazer.

“We are aiming for a top two finish in the league and I think Lurgan will be our main rivals.

“We have lost quite a few players from last season but the ones we have brought in we have done well.”

Jenna Watt put Quins ahead in the seventh minute when she scored a fine individual effort, squeezing the ball home from an acute angle and added her second when she converted a loose ball in the circle.

Alex Usher pulled one back two minutes later but Watt completed her hat-trick in the 51st minute when her mishit shot found the net.

Abbie McCullough reduced the deficit to 3-2 from a set-piece but Ruth Miller and Claire Brown scored late on to seal the win.

Elsewhere, in the battle between the two newly-promoted teams North Down beat Dungannon 4-3 with a late winner from Katherine Hill.

Bridget Cleland got the only goal of the game at Ardmore as Ballymoney beat Armagh 1-0 and Randalstown had a comfortable 3-1 win over Lisnagarvey at the Antrim Forum.

In Senior One, there were wins for Rainey, Ballymena, Grosvenor, Raphoe and Knock with pride of place going to the Donegal side who beat Victorians 6-0.

Meanwhile, holders Ulster University are through to the semi-finals of the Irish Inter-Varsities Championship after a 3-1 win over UCC in Cork with goals from Chloe Brown, who got two, and Anna Kuznuik.

Queen’s lost 2-1 to UCD and then drew 0-0 with Trinity but the Belfast students will join UU in the last four if TCD lose by two goals or more to their Dublin rivals.