Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Men's Division One: Railway Union 2 Glenanne 4

Railway Union 2 (Paul O'Brien, Bruce Thompson) Glenanne 4 (Graham Shaw 2, Joe Brennan, Eddie O'Malley)

Railway gave Glenanne a fright in the sheeting rain tonight at Park Avenue, taking an early lead and drawing level with 15 minutes to go but the class of Graham Shaw grinded out the three points.

Paul O'Brien opened the scoring early on, sweeping into an open goal. Graham Shaw roofed a reverse in response before Alan Browne had a raised effort ruled out meaning the Glens had to wait until the stroke of half-time for Joe Brennan to drag in their second and a deserved lead.

But Railway are nothing if not dogged and - spurred on by Kenny Carroll's direct long passes through the heart of the Glenanne defence - their battling qualities forged an equaliser as Bruce Thompson tapped in Mark English's free.

Glenanne were down to ten at that stage, Clinton Murphy binned for a pair of physical challenges, but back to eleven, they finally made the game safe. Shaw's superb dribble and reverse made it 3-2 before Eddie O'Malley accurately converted from the top of the D.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Passmore clarifies domestic availability of internationals

High Performance Director, Dave Passmore has clarified the situation regarding how many games international players can take part in on the domestic season this week.

The restrictions have been introduced to prevent over-playing with the hope of keeping the countries top players in prime condition for the national team.

For the 2008/09 season, players could potentially play 84 matches this season amid IHL, ISC, Europe, domestic league and cup games.

With the European Championships, World Cup qualifiers and a potential Champions Challenge combined with warm-up matches, there is a potential for 35 international fixtures in the next 14 months.

With this in mind, senior panel athletes will be permitted – in addition to interprovincial tournaments – to play all the IHL and ISC matches as well as European competition both indoor and outdoor.

In addition, the men can play 14 domestic league and cup fixtures in total while the ladies can play ten games. Further to this, when teams have been knocked out of the ISC the players can play for their clubs on the corresponding ISC dates.

Athletes not playing for an AIL club are permitted to play club matches on the corresponding AIL dates.

National Coaches have the discretion to allow players to compete beyond this number of games if they have not been selected for specific camps/national matches, or to help with rehabilitation from injury.

Seventeen players were named on the men's side who will be covered by these stipulations. They are: Stephen Butler, Mitch Darling, Ronan Gormley, David Harte, Tim Lewis, Graham Shaw, Iain Walker, Mark Black, Karl Burns, David Hobbs, John Jermyn, Keith Black, Timmy Cockram, Mark Gleghorne, Eugene Magee, Geoff McCabe and Michael Watt

Indoor league to take on national flavour

The indoor league will continue its resurgence this season with the inclusion of four sides from Ulster as Cookstown, Banbridge, Mossley and Annadale have confirmed they will participate in the competition – revisiting the halcyon days of the competition in the 80s when Ulster’s finest locked horns with an all-conquering Avoca side for the title.

The Leinster Branch will continue to host and organise the event which will take place on the weekend of February 6-8 in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, or possible the week prior depending on Irish Senior Cup commitments.

The competition is one of the IHA’s three mens competitions which provides the opportunity to advance to European club competition and the winner of the league will represent Ireland in the European Club Championships in 2010.

Three Rock Rovers will look to retain the title which they won last year in a pulsating final which saw four goals in the final three minutes resulting in Three Rock edging out Monkstown by 5 goals to 4. The weekend sees the continuation of the development of youth indoor hockey with three exhibition youth indoor hockey matches on Sunday afternoon.

Over the weekend, the sides for the Tony Byrne Cup were drawn into four groups (2 groups of 4 and 2 groups of 3) with the top two teams in each group advancing to quarter finals and resulting winners to the semi-finals and finals.

They are:
Group 1: Three Rock Rovers, Corinthian, Mossley, Dublin University
Group 2: Railway Union, Cookstown, Annadale
Group 3: Glenanne, Pembroke Wanderers, Kilkenny, Banbridge
Group 4: Monkstown, YMCA, Avoca

Men's Division One: Week One results

Fingal 5 (Andrew Shekleton, Adrian Sweeney, David Bane 2, Mark Ryan) Corinthian 3 (Chris Pelow, John McInroy, Conor Motyer)

Fingal shaded a goalfest at the airport but John McInroy will wonder how his side managed to throw away a game that was there for the taking after a strong first-half showing saw Corinthian build up a 3-1 lead. Two goals from David Bane aided the northside outfit into the lead with six minutes remaining before 15-year-old Mark Ryan - in his first adult league match of any kind - added the fifth in the dying seconds.

Glenanne 4 (David Keogh, Shane O'Donoghue 2, Eddie O'Malley) Kilkenny 2 (Paul Maher, Hugh Kelly)
Glenanne - resting their international stars - recovered from an early deficit to score a solid opening win, highlighted by David Keogh's outstanding strike. The youngster netted with a reverse-stick lob on the run over the advancing keeper to leave St Mark's breathless. Paul Maher had the Cats in front after ten minutes but the Tallaght-side were 3-1 up by the break before Hugh Kelly pulled one back. Kilkenny, though, may feel this was an opportunity missed to pick up an away point, conceding softly just a minute after going ahead.

Three Rock Rovers 5 (Peter Blakeney 2, Peter McConnell ps, Tim Hill, Kyle Good) Railway Union 1 (Paul O'Brien)
In a scrappy encounter at Grange Road, Rovers struggled in the opening stages, falling behind to the timeless Paul O'Brien. Though seldom thoroughly convincing, the club champions responded with Blakeney netting a corner and from play and Peter McConnell scoring a stroke before Tim Hill and Kyle Good added the gloss.

YMCA 0 Monkstown 5 (Gareth Watkins, Ian Horsfield, Stephen Cole, Ian Allen, Alec Barrett)
Monkstown redressed the balance for a late-season 1-0 falter at Claremont Road last time out with a big win over YM. Watkins, Horsfield and a first senior goal for Stephen Cole had them cruising by the break and on course for a comfortable win.

Women's Division One: Week One results

Hermes 0 Railway Union 1 (Cecelia Joyce)

After a year unbeaten, last season's club champions lost out in their very first outing against a Railway side looking to go one place better this season. After a shaky first 15 minutes, Railway put together an impressive performance, capped by Cecelia Joyce's goal following Caitlin Friel's cross. Emma Smith looks set to return next week following her travels, too, as Mick McKinnon's side drew first blood in the title race. Hermes, meanwhile, could not recapture their rhythm from the back end of last season and may have to play catch-up again this season.

Bray 1 (Elaine Brommel) Glenanne 1 (Nikki Daly)
While newly-promoted Bray have drawn a lot of attention with some eye-catching signings, the Glens looked the more likely to claim all three points, denied only by an overtime penalty corner from Elaine Brommel. Dublin ladies footballer Nikki Daly - on her club debut - put Glenanne in front. Former Bray player, Leah Spillane was another to make her Glen's bow. Bray, who went into the game without Linda and Jenny O'Neill and Catherine Murray, pressed hard in the second half, rewarded by the late goal.

Pembroke 1 (Shona Doyle) Loreto 1 (Niamh Smith)
Honours were shared at Serpentine Avenue as a new look Pembroke battled back to earn a point against Orla Bell's Loreto. Louisa Moore made her first league appearance for the 'Broke since arriving on these shores last December while the club also has added youngsters Orla Fox, Hayley O'Donnell and Noelle Farrell to the squad with Orla Ryan and Jayne Coyne among the club's other new arrivals.

Old Alex 4 (Liane Costello, Leanne Ryan, Sylvia O'Mahoney, Anya Bowers) Corinthian 1 (D Bregazzi-Nevin)
A comfortable win for Old Alex had coach Arul Anthoni hoping his team this year will come together a lot quicker than last as returnees Liane Costello and Anya Bowers got their names on the scoresheet against Corinthian.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Men's weekend preview

After two weeks of sparring in the Neville Cup, the first major title in Leinster gets underway tomorrow with four Senior league matches tipping off.

Neville Cup semi-finalists Railway and Three Rock face-off at Grange Road at 1pm with the visitors hoping to avoid a double-figures trouncing they endured on the opening day of their last season in division one.

They seem better equipped this time out with Paul Cooke in charge and young talent emerging but Rovers would still be strong favourites.

Glenanne are another side who would be expected to win handily against Kilkenny (3pm, Glenanne Park) as Alan Browne returns though Stephen Butler may not be involved due to holidays.

Fingal and Corinthian (ALSAA, 1.30pm) and YMCA against Monkstown (Claremont Road, 2.45pm) are likely to be much more keenly contested battles.

Pembroke, meanwhile, must sit out the weekend as UCD get their annual two week's grace to the start of the season.

Elsewhere, Peter Agnew's propsal to return to the two up, two down promotion and relegation issue in division one was narrowly defeated at this week's Leinster Branch AGM.

Women's weekend preview

Both men's and women's Leinster Senior leagues get under way tomorrow after seismic changes in the transfer market.

The women's side would seem to offer the most interesting match-ups given a crazy summer with big moves across the board. Bray play their first ever senior league game since their inception in 1992 but will not want for talent and could well be involved in the race for IHL places come the end of the season.

Added to Irish internationals Linda O'Neill and Catherine Murray, Mary Goode, Elaine Brommell and Stephanie Hall -all from Pembroke - have been added with Loreto's Sarah Scott joining as a player-coach and Roy Horsefield taking overall charge.

They are due to get their season underway on Saturday (1.15pm) against Glenanne though the match may be moved following the passing of Pat McGinley. The Glens started with a surprise win over Pembroke last week in the cup and have brought in Nikki Daly from Diocesan and Valerie Sexton from Corinthian.

Pembroke - who have added Orla Ryan - will see how their squad measures up against Loreto (2pm). In addition to the three moves to Pembroke, Emer Harte will move to England to study for the season.

Loreto, meanwhile, start the season under new management with Orla Bell taking the reigns. She replaces Guy Garrett who brought the club to within just a few minutes of Club Championship glory last season.

Hermes look in great shape for the season with a couple of notable additions. Irish international Christine Quinlan returns from UCD, as does Sarah Jenkinson. U-16 international Deirdre Duke comes in from Three Rock while the young quartet Sarah Greene, Chloe Watkins, Gillian Pinder and Niamh Atchelor are available for their first full season.

Jill Hodgins will be away until January but Jenny Burke returns in October. Up front, though, Liz McInerney will be a big loss, going to UCD while Liane Costello moves to Old Alex.

Their tie with Railway Union (2pm) is likely to be the most high quality tie as the top two from last season. Railway, however, are without Emma Smyth and Kate Dillon - still on holidays - while last season's skipper Kathy Kenefick is travelling and Sinead Dooley will take no part in the season due to a cruciate ligament injury, sustained playing gaelic football.

Mick McKinnon's squad could be augmented, though, by Lizzie Colvin who will soon start in Trinty College with the University and Railway both hoping for the player's services.

The fourth match of the weekend sees Old Alex and Corinthian (1.15pm) hoping to break into the top five from thei mid-table perches. Alex have Liane Costello back in the fold while a number who missed last season will return after pregnancy. Zanya Dahl, however, does not look likely to figure due to injury.

Corinthian, meanwhile, have lost a couple of key players with Ali Meeke moving to Loreto, Irish U-18 goalkeeper Stella Davis going to UCD as has Leinster U-18 Leigh Pelow.

The two university sides, meanwhile, have the weekend off with both, once again, suffering overhauls. Apart from Quinlan, Pamela Smithwick, Fyona and Roisin Flynn are away for the first part of the season. Liz McInerney is a strong addition while Julie Garvey comes in from Three Rock and Irish U-18 Laura Wilson arrives from Belfast Harlequins.

Trinity, meanwhile, are still a few day away from freshers' week but will definitely be without Ciara Murphy, who will play in Belgium this season while it is unclear whether last year's captain Rebecca Murphy will be available in the longer term, if at all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lille to host Three Rock's EHL matches

The Euro Hockey League has announced Lille MHC of France as the host club for Round 1b of the 2008/09 season.

The Round, which features the teams drawn into Pools E, F, G and H, takes place between Friday 31st October and Sunday 2nd November.

Three Rock will play Atletic Terrassa on Friday, October 31 at 4.30pm and then face KHC Leuven on Saturday, November 1 at 12.30pm.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Neville Cup Quarter-finals

Three Rock Rovers 2 (Lucas Piccioli, Andy McConnell) Fingal 2 (David Bane, Andrew Shekleton) Rovers win 4-3 on penalties
Lucas Piccioli put a troublesome week behind him to put Rovers into an early lead on his debut for the club but Fingal provided a stern test, forcing the game to strokes. Dave Bane made it 1-1 from the flick spot before Andy McConnell restored the advantage. Under-16 international Andrew Shekleton though made it 2-2 before Rovers won on strokes.

Monkstown 2 (Gareth Watkins, Alec Barrett) Glenanne 3 (Joe Brennan, Shane O'Donoghue, Mark Lambe)
Glenanne got a second 3-2 win in a row to advance to the semi-finals thanks to goals from Joe Brennan (penalty stroke), underage international Shane O'Donoghue - his second in two games - and Mark Lambe in ahighly competitive game. Three yellow cards were dished out in a game where both sides were near full-strength. For Town, David Fitygerald sat out the game, along with Richie Beere and Ian Allen while Stephen Butler and Paul Fitzpatrick were the notable absentees for the Glens.

Suttonians 3 (Nasir Munir, Conor Gillett 2) Railway Union 4 (Paul O'Brien 2, Kenny Carroll, Eoin MacArthur)
Railway staved off a second-half fightback from Suttonians to advance to the semi-finals with a 4-3 win. They looked comfortable in the first half, leading 3-0 at the break but they posed a much stronger threat thereafter, with player-coach Nasir Munir and Conor Gillett closing the gap but unable to ever draw level.

UCD 0 YMCA 3 (Jamie Tobin, Andy Walker, Richie Miles)
YMCA broke the shackles in the second half to record a comfortable victory over UCD. The students - without skipper Ben Grogan - never truly threatened but held out YM for long periods until Andy Walker broke the deadlock from the spot. Kristian Fitzgerald made his debut between the sticks for YM, a second newcomer between the posts for the club in two games.

Semi-final draw
Railway Union vs Glenanne
Three Rock Rovers vs YMCA

Women's Leinster Senior Cup results:
Skerries scr Corinthians w/o
Hermes 2nds 0 Loreto 1sts 2 - apologies, originally billed as Hermes 1sts
Bray 1sts 4 1 Railway 2nds 1
Pembroke 1sts 1 Glenanne 1sts 2

Friday, September 19, 2008

Monkstown given walkover while Pegasus to play in Lille

Pembroke's appeal to have their first round match with Monkstown refixed was turned down by the Leinster Branch Management Committee and as such Monkstown advance to the second round of the Neville Cup.

They are now due to play Glenanne in the second round (1.15pm, Rathdown). Elsewhere, Suttonians will host Railway Union (1pm Sutton Park), UCD play YMCA (1pm, Belfield) and Three Rock face Fingal (2pm, Grange Road) in the quarter-finals.

The women's Leinster Senior Cup also tips off this weekend with the highlight definitely the meeting of last season's Club Championships finalists Loreto and Hermes (2pm, St Andrews). The other matches are Bray against Railway 2nds (1.30 pm , Loreto Bray), Pembroke v Glenanne (2pm, Serpentine Ave) and Skerries v Corinthian (11.30am)

Elsewhere, Pegasus have been drawn to play in Lille in the EuroHockey Cup Winner's Trophy from April 10 to 13. They have been drawn in a group with Penarth from Wales and Victorya Smolevichi from Belarus in the B division.

Meanwhile, Hermes have been drawn in a group with Belarus' Ritm Grodno, Scotland's Glasgow Western and Switzerland's Rotweiss Wettingen. The venue for the Club Champions Trophy has yet to be announced.

Neville Cup: UCD 5 Naas 1

UCD advanced to the Neville Cup second round, thanks to an impressive second half against Naas, winning in the end 5-1.

Robbie McFarlane scored a hat-trick, netting a penalty stroke, a drag-flick and a stylish deflection with Paddy O'Connor and Tadgh Walsh-Peelo getting the other goals.

UCD opened the scoing in the 10th minute and had much of the earl possession but veteran Peter Young levelled with a sublime lob over Stephen O'Keefe from the top of the D to ensure the sides went into the break at 1-1.

Naas rattled the students a little bit before UCD tunred on a bit of style and their superior pace and fitness won the game.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Corinthian release Piccioli

Corinthian HC have released Lucas Piccioli for the upcoming season, paving the way for the completion of his move to Three Rock Rovers for the upcoming season.

Piccioli had made it known to Corinthian that he intended to move across the Marlay Park during the close season but club president Sean Murtagh says that a full transfer request was not received by the club until last Friday.

Murtagh adds that an agreement was in place for Piccioli to take on the role of Corinthian ladies senior firsts coach and, as such, had outstanding commitments to the club

He said of the matter, "Lucas made it known to us during the closed season that he was going to join TRR.

"Naturally, we were disappointed with this turn of events as we believed we already had an agreement with him to take on the role of full-time coach to our ladies senior 1 team. But he informed us of his decision and there wasn’t much we could do about it.

"We did not hear from TRR until last Friday, the day before the Neville Cup match, when they requested a transfer for Lucas.

"The reply given was that as Lucas appeared to have outstanding commitments to CHC, we were unable to issue a transfer."

Murtagh also adds that similar situations arose last season with regard to transfers which led to their club captain having "to stump up cash to secure the release of two players from Leinster clubs and there was little or no adverse comment.

"When we tried to do what any other club would have done - and did to us - under the circumstances, we are treated like a spoiled child.

"In any event, following representations, we considered the matter and have decided to release Lucas without further delay and consider the whole sorry affair closed."

Neville Cup: Avoca 2 Fingal 3

Fingal held Avoca at bay to advance with a 3-2 win in Newpark and now face a second round match-up with Three Rock Rovers at Grange Road.

The Airport side enjoyed the majority of possession but found their best opportunities came on the counter-attack, Andy Quinn getting the only goal of the first half from a swift breakaway.

Stephen Brownlow leveled early in the second half but a corner goal from Ben Chillingworth and a counter strike from Chris Neville put Fingal two clear before Fergal McGuinness got a deserved second for the hosts, who battled strongly against the division one side.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The season starts here...

It's time, once again, for my preseason predictions for the Leinster Senior League. This season represents a huge step forward for Irish hockey with the introduction of the IHL, Pembroke hosting the EuroHockey Trophy and Three Rock on their way to the EHL.

Last September, The Hook produced a spectacularly off course set of predictions, correctly guessing just one of the end positions for the season. Much the same will probably follow this year and I guess I'll get a whole world of abuse about them in the comments.

By way of an excuse, this season will be incredibly hard to call given the amount of different competitions going around. Anyway, scroll down and enjoy...


Last Season: 6th

Record: Won 8 Drew 3 Lost 7 Pts 27 Goals For 48 Goals Against 40

Player/coach: John McInroy

Captain: Andrew Sutton

Players In: John McInroy (Pembroke), Sam Lopsey (Australia), Nate Coolidge (USA)

Players Out: Lucas Piccioli (TRR)

Summary: The additions will definitely strengthen a side that looked good in parts last year but lacked a cutting edge. American international Nate Coolidge looks handy from penalty corners while Sam Lopsey came on to decent effect at centre-midfield against Rovers.

McInroy’s bustling presence will get some good goals but can he combine this with his coaching commitments? Piccioli’s flair will be missed but their ambitions will be to try and oust either Monkstown or Fingal and get into the IHL.

Chris Pelow will be back after a couple of weeks to give some options at the corner. Their first match out at the airport will be one of the defining matches of the season.

First three games: Fingal (a); YMCA (h); Glenanne (h)

Prediction: 5th


Last Season: 5th

Record: Won 10 Drew 3 Lost 5 Pts 33 Goals For 61 Goals Against 31

Coach: John McInerney and Johnny Harte

Captain: David Bane

Players In: Richie Dore (Kilkenny), Emmett Hughes (Kilkenny)

Players Out: None

Summary: At times last year, Fingal’s squad was shown to be particularly threadbare with 40-something Tony Doyle making a division one debut between the sticks a case in point. They only brought 13 to the IHL qualifier, too.

To that end, Kilkenny pair Richie Dore and Emmett Hughes have been added while Jim Dunne and Eoin Connolly will return from their travels. Schoolboy international Andrew Shekleton will likely get more pitch-time too.

Derek O’Gorman remains the star player they hope will bolster the squad. The former Leinster player has indicated to John McInerney that he would like another shot at the big time after two years away and could make his reappearance early in November, though Kilkenny would be another side in the market for his services.

With him, the pressure for inspiration will ease off David Bane’s shoulders. The club will also be aiming to improve their home pitch conditions as they have stated their intentions to try and play their hockey on a top-quality surface.

A good Leinster Senior Cup draw should see them into their third semi-final in a row and that could be their best bet for a trophy. Their opening three matches of the season will be key to which end of mid-table they end with Corinthian and Monkstown in opposition in the first three weeks.

First three games: Corinthian (h); Kilkenny (a); Monkstown (a)

Prediction: 6th
IHL Prediction: 6th in group, will struggle to make an impact


Last Season: 3rd

Record: Won 12 Drew 1 Lost 5 Pts 37 Goals For 64 Goals Against 37

Coaches: Arul Anthoni and Frank Byrne

Captain: Joe Brennan

Players In: None

Players Out: None

Summary: Speaking about the new season, new coach Arul Anthoni could not contain his excitement about working with the Glenanne players, saying “the attitude here makes a lot of difference, coaching a team who never know they are beaten, it’s the type of team I really like to work with”.

His optimism would seem well-placed after he saw his side win 4-3 against Monkstown despite trailing 3-0 at one point. However, a struggle against Clontarf in the Neville Cup without the international duo may signal a difficult season if the new national coach makes players stick to the agreement that limits players to 14 domestic games in the season.

That said, this is the team that only lost out on penalty strokes in the club championships semi-finals – with a legitimate goal chalked off in normal time so they will definitely challenge.

A couple of handy enough early games may offset the fact that Gary Shaw, John Goulding and Devin Kehoe will take their time returning from holidays and weddings. Joe Brennan is back on the verges of the national squad while Shane O’Donoghue and David Keogh have been added to the first squad while Johnny Kane should be back after illness.

A domestic cup will probable go their way but the major titles may elude them.

First three games: Kilkenny (h); Railway Union (a); Corinthian (a)

Prediction: 3rd
IHL Prediction: Like Pembroke, very tough group. May struggle to advance


Last Season: 8th

Record: Won 5 Drew 1 Lost 12 Pts 16 Goals For 36 Goals Against 65

Captain: Hugh Kelly

Players In: Hugh Kelly (London)

Players Out: Richie Dore (Fingal), Emmett Hughes (Fingal)

Summary: Kilkenny came into 2007/08 with modest ambitions but targeted certain games to great effect and, to some extent, over-achieved.

A tricky second season may lie in wait for them as Railway will most certainly be a stronger opposition than Bray meaning a greater scrap to avoid the play-off and relegation spot.

Tom Manning will no longer be so much of an unknown source of goals and Richie Dore and Emmett Hughes move up to Dublin has led to the introduction of schools’ players Eoin Finnegan, Jack Kennedy and Evan Matthews into the main squad.

Stephen Thompson describes the side as being “slightly weaker this year but the extra season under our belt will stand to us”.

Focussing on the two UCD matches will be a good strategy and would guarantee ninth and the playoff place. Game three against Railway could get them off to a flyer in the relegation-race.

First three games: Glenanne (a); Fingal (h); Railway Union (h)

Prediction: 9th


Last Season: 4th

Record: Won 11 Drew 0 Lost 7 Pts 33 Goals For 48 Goals Against 33

Coach: Rory O’Donoghue

Captain: Gareth Watkins

Players In: Graham O’Neill (Trinity), Richie Beere

Players Out: Liam Walsh (USA), Ross Watkins (UCD), Alaistair Nolan (UCD), Dave Jenkins (Railway Union)

Summary: Not much transfer activity but the amount of youngsters coming through at the ’Town means Rory O’Donoghue has a slightly swelled squad to play with. Belief has been coursing through the club since the Irish Senior Cup run and they play some attractive stuff at times.

In some league matches, they struggled due to the lack of a genuine drag-flicker which cost them in encounters with Pembroke, though, they were totally outdone in the ISC final.

A good preseason has included a comfortable win over Kilkenny and a solid tour to Holland has them in fine fettle. They will expect two early wins to set them up nicely for the week three encounter with Fingal.

The pair were only separated by games won to make the top four and they could be in for an extended battle once again, though, neither look likely just yet to break the top three.

First three games: YMCA (a); UCD (h); Fingal (h)

Prediction: 4th
IHL Prediction: Will need a heroic effort to advance, fifth in group

Pembroke Wanderers

Last Season: 2nd

Record: Won 14 Drew 4 Lost 0 Pts 46 Goals For 83 Goals Against 17

Coach: Craig Fulton

Captain: Ronan Gormley

Players In: Michael O’Connor (UCD), Florian Richter (Germany)

Players Out: Stephen O’Keefe (UCD), Patrick Good (YMCA), John McInroy (Corinthian)

Summary: One of the biggest plusses for Pembroke this season could be Craig Fulton’s decision to spend more time in the dugout than on the pitch.

Undoubtedly one of the league’s top players, in key matches last season Pembroke looked in desperate need of some inspiration from the sideline. Furthermore, when games were tight, the regular substitution system seemed to stop with forwards spending long periods on the pitch and tiring out.

The return of Conor Harte will be another bonus, judging by impressive performances for Ireland in the summer. Ronan Gormley and Tim Lewis are the best two defenders in country and with the national keeper behind them, they look near impregnable.

Stuart Loughrey and Scott Lowrie are developing well while if Michael O’Connor stays focused then could be a perfect foil for Alan Sothern. Justin Sherriff misses the start of the season with injury while Paddy Conlon will miss a couple of early season games.

Pembroke were unbeaten in normal time throughout the league and All-Ireland’s and have a good record against Rovers and they will have big motivation for the EuroHockey Trophy, having been granted the hosting.

But with Europe and indoor concerns not as pressing, they could edge the league and will be a favourite for the IHL. Again, week two will be a massive at Serpentine Avenue.

First three games: UCD (a); Three Rock Rovers (h); YMCA (h)

Prediction: 1st
IHL Prediction: Tougher of two groups but should progress

Railway Union

Last Season: 1st (Division Two)

Record: Won 15 Drew 1 Lost 2 Pts 46 Goals For 78 Goals Against 23

Coach: Paul Cooke

Captain: Kevin O’Brien

Players In: Dave Jenkins (Monkstown)

Players Out: Stephen Jones (Bray), Reuben Holden (Suttonians)

Summary: A decent preseason thus far with a win over Belfast Harlequins (3-1) and a draw with YMCA (4-4) before the likes of Kevin O’Brien and Kenny Carroll are back in the fold due to cricket commitments would suggest Railway can win the battle with UCD and Kilkenny.

Having Paul Cooke on board – veteran of 92 caps for Ireland – as part of the coaching set-up is a huge bonus too. The former Instonian was in charge when YM reached the ISC final and is involved with a number of Ulster youth sides.

Dave ‘Shahbaz’ Jenkins is a good addition as well. Speaking about the season, Paul O’Brien suggests this year will be about consolidation and bringing through some of their talented youngsters into division one like Eoin McArthur and Peter English.

To that end, Cooke’s experience with the youth teams shows his value to a club that has attempted to tap into non-hockey playing schools to pick up new club members.

First three games: Three Rock Rovers (a); Glenanne (h); Kilkenny (a)

Prediction: 8th

Three Rock Rovers

Last Season: 1st

Record: Won 15 Drew 2 Lost 1 Pts 47 Goals For 68 Goals Against 20

Coach: Turloch O’Siochain

Captain: Peter McConnell

Players In: Lucas Piccioli (Corinthian), David Storey (UCD), Niall Denham (Almere, The Netherlands), Patrick Shanahan (Bandon), Peter Blakeney (WA Thundersticks, Australia)

Players Out: Richie Irvine (UCD), Maarten Sier (HIC, The Netherlands), Pierre Quesnel (travel)

Summary: Last season, Rovers achieved beyond their wildest preseason expectations, claiming four titles. This time out they go into the season as genuine contenders in all competitions but the amount of hockey will strain even their sizable squad with the IHL and two trips to Europe.

Focus is already on October’s first round of the IHL and the EHL, which looks set to be in Leuven in Belgium, and this could distract from their Leinster senior league ambitions while the indoor sides trip to Europe will sap the energy.

For a second successive year, they have delved into the transfer market with Lucas Piccioli – provided his transfer gets sorted – the most eye-catching. Peter Blakeney will need to replace Maarten Sier’s goals while Patrick Shanahan looks a tidy player with scope to develop.

Cover will be needed for Phelie Maguire who will be based in Belgium for the year, returning for the big games.

Preseason has seen them lose to Scottish EHL duo Western Wildcats and Azzurri Kelburne but an impressive burst against Corinthian means they will be in the mix in most competitions but Pembroke may pip them in the league.

Returning to the scene of one of their major triumphs in week two, Serpentine Avenue should be rammed for a firework display.

First three games: Railway Union (h); Pembroke Wanderers (a); UCD (a)

League Prediction: 2nd
IHL Prediction: Will qualify from group stage, after that, who knows!


Last Season: 9th

Record: Won 1 Drew 2 Lost 15 Pts 5 Goals For 24 Goals Against 84

Coach: Coen van Putten

Captain: Ben Grogan

Players In: Stephen O’Keefe (Pembroke), Richie Irvine (TRR), Alaistair Nolan (Monkstown), Ross Watkins (Monkstown), David Quinn (Erasmus year), Richie Jones (Corinthian)

Players Out: Richie Margetson (YMCA), David Storey (TRR), Mike Sleeman (YMCA), Glenn Holmes (Corinthian), Ross Wyse (Erasmus – China), Michael O’Connor (UCD)

Summary: Much of UCD’s side for the season is still up in the air but one confirmed arrival is coach Coen van Putten, who will double as Genesis’ leader.

At the moment, Stephen O’Keefe is their stand-out signing and will be needed in a side who shipped 84 last season. Holding on to Robbie McFarlane is another plus but losing the forwards Glenn Holmes and Michael O’Connor will be hard to replace while Neil Young's future is, as yet, unknown.

Such is the life of the university sides at the moment, there could be a number of moves in the next week or two which could change their fortunes but, right now, they could be on the way down.

First three games: Pembroke Wanderers (h); Monkstown (a); Three Rock Rovers (h)

Prediction: 10th


Last Season: 7th

Record: Won 5 Drew 1 Lost 12 Pts 16 Goals For 27 Goals Against 39

Coaches: Trevor Dagg and Ger Butler

Captain: Iain Walker

Players In: Patrick Good (Pembroke), Richie Margetson (UCD), Michael Sleeman (UCD), Richie Miles (Dublin University), Rob Pearson (Bray), Gary Ryan (unattached)

Players Out: None

Summary: With a team averaging in age around 19 or 20 toward the end of last season, it was clear YM needed some experience to go with their abundance of youth.

To that end, six players in their mid-20s have come in with Patrick Good looking the pick of the new arrivals with a host of senior medals under his belt but has a thumb injury to contend with. Richie Miles scored some good goals when working in tandem with Peter Blakeney in their Trinity days.

Whether it is enough to get them involved in a mid-table scrap remains to be seen but Ger Butler is hoping for a progression from last year as the second phase in a three-year plan. David Robinson is the star man but has his ongoing shoulder injury to contend with.

First three games: Monkstown (h); Corinthian (a); Pembroke Wanderers (a)
Prediction: 7th

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Neville Cup round-up

Monkstown – Pembroke
One game in and controversy reigns already. The Pembroke-Monkstown match will create an administrative headache for the Leinster Branch after the ‘Town turned up to Rathdown for their 1.30pm tip-off but Pembroke did not.

Pembroke sent in an appeal to the Branch management committee to postpone the game on Friday but, due to the short notice, a quorum was not able to be rustled up in time and so no action could be taken in advance of the game.

Pembroke are in England at the moment at Surbiton HC’s Centenary Challenge. Monkstown would be unable, at this point, to fulfill a refix midweek creating a difficulty with the second round due to take place next Saturday.

Three Rock Rovers 6 (Peter Blakeney 3, Mitch Darling 2, Tim Hill) Corinthian 1 (John McInroy)
A stunning fifteen minute spell before half-time yielded Rovers the tie as they turned an early deficit into a 5-1 lead. John McInroy got off his new job as player-coach off to a dream start as he netted at the second attempt in the eighth minute to put Three Rock on the back foot.

But some sharp-shooting from Peter Blakeney and Mitch Darling soon turned the game around, scoring three times between the 20th and 24th minute. Tim Hill got an absolute peach following build-up play from Andy McConnell and Darling and that was pretty much that.

Corinthian gave debuts to American international Nate Coolidge (pictured below right) and Australian Sam Lopsey but there was to be no face-off with former charge, Lucas Piccioli. His release from Corinthian has yet to be finalised.

Kilkenny 1 (Brian Gray) Suttonians 2 (Eoin O’Reilly, Conor Gillett)
Suttonians rode their luck but managed to cause an upset and show a few of their credentials as division two promotion hopefuls once again. Kilkenny hit the post on a couple of occasions and missed a penalty stroke in the game but were trailing in the first half to Eoin O’Reilly’s strike.

Conor Gillett added a second after the break before Brian Gray pulled one back with ten minutes to go but a late barrage did not yield an equaliser.

Clontarf 2 (Rob Abbott, Ciaran McNamara) Glenanne 3 (Eddie O’Malley, Shane O’Donoghue, David Keogh)
Glenanne came away from the bullring with the win but Clontarf came away feeling slightly disappointed not to force extra-time after a few late chances to equalise went abegging.

Glenanne enjoyed huge amounts of possession early on with Eddie O’Malley’s tap in as a reward. But ’Tarf equalised through Rob Abbott to make it 1-1 at half-time.

The youthful pair of Shane O’Donoghue and David Keogh built up a sturdy lead but Ciaran McNamara’s goal and some late chances gave the Leinster senior cup holders a real scare.

Weston 0 YMCA 7 (Mikey Fry 3, Andy Walker 3, Rob Whelan)
YM brought their division one skills to bear in the one major mismatch of the round as they looked untroubled in Griffeen. Mikey Fry and Andy Walker netted hat-tricks while underage international goalkeeper Rob Fitzgerald made his senior debut between the posts.

Second round draw: UCD's clash with Naas was postponed to Tuesday night as is Fingal's tie with Avoca at Newpark. Combined with the uncertainty over the Pembroke match, the second round has a very uncertain look but here is how it stands at this point:

Suttonians vs Railway Union
Monkstown/Pembroke vs Glenanne
UCD/Naas vs YMCA
TRR vs Avoca/Fingal
* Down in Cork, Railway performed well to draw with Cork C of I but Avoca struggled, losing out 8-0.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pembroke to host Euro Hockey Trophy

Pembroke Wanderers will stage the EuroHockey Men's Trophy over the Easter weekend, from April 10-13 2009.

The tournament, introduced last season for the first time, acts as the second tier of European competition for men below the EuroHockey League and provides qualifying points for the main event.

Last season, Glenanne won a thrilling competition in Paris, 5-4 against CA Montrouge in the final, to gain not only the title but a maximum 12 points for Irish clubs in the quest to gain an extra space in the EHL.

Playing on home turf will hopefully provide Pembroke with a huge advantage when they compete - as Irish Senior Cup holders.
Three Rock will find out later this week if they are to host a round of the EHL following an inspection of both Grange Road and UCD last week.

Elsewhere, it would appear that Pembroke's match with Monkstown in the first round of the Neville Cup will go ahead as scheduled despite Pembroke's application for a postponement back in June.
Pembroke had been invited a prestigious tournament by Surbiton in England but the application for a refixed Neville Cup match did not meet Leinster Branch criteria and so an agreement with Monkstown needed to be reached.

The 'Town, however, were not in a position to rearrange the match and so, as it stands this morning, the fixture will be played without Pembroke's main players taking part.

It adds to the club's frustrations in the competition last year when they reached the final only to have just three first team players available for the St Stephen's Day game due to international commitments, holidays and injury.
The match will tip off now at 1.30pm in Rathdown.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Neville Cup and Kirk Cup

The senior hockey season gets off to a leisurely start this weekend as the Neville Cup in Leinster and the Kirk Cup in Ulster get underway with most eyes turning to the clash at Grange Road where Lucas Piccioli has an instant match-up with his old club when Rovers play Corinthian.

Railway Union, though, are the first side to progress as Trinity have withdrawn from the competition.

Fingal face former member William Aylmer as he makes his Avoca debut in a match postponed to Wednesday night.
Clontarf will hope to continue their good preseason, following draws with YMCA and Kilkenny and a win over Newry. The Northside team has brought in Tom Noonan from Skerries and Derek Ledwidge - formerly of Aer Lingus, Portrane and PSBPP.

In Ulster, Banbridge and Instonians are drawn together in the most difficult Kirk Cup group with only one team to progress to the semi-final stages. Bann welcome Johnny Brown from Lisnagarvey to replace retired defender Stephen Pepper.

Neville Cup fixtures
Three Rock Rovers vs Corinthian (1pm, Grange Road)
Clontarf vs Glenanne (2.30pm, Mount Temple)
Kilkenny vs Suttonians (2pm, Kilkenny College)
UCD vs Naas (TBC, UCD)
Weston vs YMCA (3pm, Griffeen Valley Park)
Monkstown vs Pembroke Wanderers (1.30pm, Rathdown)
Avoca vs Fingal (TBC, Newpark)

Glenanne to host Hockey Ball

Glenanne have put together an outstanding line-up for their 'Hockey Ball' that takes place in November with Ireland's premier supergroup, Spring Break, one of the stand-out performers.

The band sold out Tripod within seven days of tickets going on release in August for a gig in late September and so are definitely not to be missed while comedian Patrick McDonnell - known to some as "the comic hobbit from Dundalk" - will be another top draw act to appear.

260 tickets are available for the event which takes place in the Hilton Hotel on Charlemount Place on November 8 and can be obtained from David Shaw (087 249 6755), Alison Geoffroy (087 120 8404) or Eddie O'Malley (086 880 3746).

Newbridge hope to find permanent home

Hopes for Newbridge hockey club's dream of having a home of its own came a huge step closer, according to the Leinster Leader this week, as they could avail of a 2.3 acre plot of land just outside the town.

Cllr Pat Black explained that, at the Kildare Area Committee meeting, he is set to formally propose the provision for the club.

At the moment, the 13-year-old club is forced to use facilities in Kilcullen and Naas Hockey Club.

Cllr Black, though, said he would endeavor to provide as much funding as possible for the club to build facilities at the site.

"Working together as an Area Committee I hope we'll be able to make some funds available."

Speaking to the Leinster Leader, the club's Elaine Cox said they were "absolutely ecstatic, but we don't want to count our chickens before we're certain. We understand it has to go to the full Council later in September.

"But all the signs are positive. If we won the lotto we wouldn't be as happy!"

The club – which caters for four senior teams with 80 registered members and 50 youth players in their recently formed youth section – will hope that the new facilities will, in turn, halt the run of players needing to travel to Dublin clubs in search of Astroturf hockey.

Girls and women from as far away as Carlow, Moone, Athy, Allen, Kilmeague travel on a weekly basis to train with the club.

"But there are a number of other girls, very strong players, who choose to play with Dublin clubs such as Muckross and Pembroke, because the facilities don't exist here," local Town Councillor Sinead Donagh had explained at the time.

"Basically it's hard to keep young women interested in sports and there's huge potential for growth." They also mention plans to introduce a men’s club should all things go to plan.

Agnew pushes for two promotion spots

With the introduction of the IHL, a number of questions have been raised about the structures which govern the domestic leagues and how this affects promotion and relegation.

In this regard, the upcoming Leinster Branch meeting's any other business could prove a forum for opinions on how the local league will adapt, if at all, to the extra games being played.

In a similar vein, former Irish international and Avoca club member, Peter Agnew (pictured with Mary Hanafin TD at the opening of the Newpark pitch) has put a proposal to the Leinster branch regarding promotion from division two to division one.

Last year saw two sides go up for the first time since the promotion/relegation playoff was introduced with UCD and Kilkenny going up. In May, Suttonians came within a couple of strokes of a first ever stint in the top-tier.

But should the second spot only be available via this system or should it be a right. Agnew belives that if two places were available, it would "give a huge lease of life to Division 2 teams.

"It will mean that at the beginning of the season at least six teams in Division 2 will be starting the season will realistic ambitions to playing senior hockey and give all the people involved a energy that can be sustained through out the season."

He further reasons that it will make it easier to attract players and build for the future, while creating more interest in the bottom half of division one, an area which is currently characterised by mediocrity and will be given a new lease of life.

Agnew hopes the issue will be debated at the upcoming Leinster Branch, September general meeting, which takes place in Three Rock Rovers on September 24.

Do you think it is a good idea? Have your say...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wales 4-5 Ireland Women's A

Ireland women's A team overturned a half-time deficit to win a nine-goal cracker in Cardiff against Wales. Katherine Elkin opened the floodgates after six minutes, set up by an on-form Aine Connery.

Goals from Dawn Mitchelle and Beth Fisher turned the game around by half-time and extended the lead through Carys Hopkins  with a stylish third.

Aine Connery's double and Megan Frazer - all within four minutes - put Ireland back into the lead in the 46th minute at 4-3. Sophia Robinson made it 4-4 with ten minutes to go but Michelle Harvey got the game's decisive goal in the 66th minute with a low drag-flick.

Gene Muller said after the game "It was a thrilling match and we did well to win from 3-1 down. We scored some very well worked goals from open play and the team were very excited with their performance." 

Men's International: Wales 2-2 Ireland

Ireland's men let  two goal lead slip in the second of their two-match series against Wales in Cardiff to draw 2-2.

Mitch Darling netted twice, once in the first half with a reverse, and a second with 13 minutes to go, in spite of a 14 minute sin-binning for Graham Shaw.

Huw Jones pulled one back during that time before David Ames followed Shaw to the bin but Ireland weathered the storm while down to nine men.

Oliver Cooper, though, equalised with three minutes to go. Commenting on the match, manager Peter Jackson said "Overall this was a positive weekend for this young squad. They proved themselves today when the odds were against them and were unfortunate not to come away with a more positive result."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Men's international: Wales 3 Ireland 2

In a strong physical contest, Ireland's men lost 3-2 to Wales in the first of two full internationals in Cardiff this weekend.

The home side shaded the opening half, hitting the bar in the 18th minute before opening their account in the 34th minute with a corner from Huw Jones - initially disallowed but awarded after consultation between the umpires.

Early in the second period, Mikey Watt and Andy McConnell combined for Jason Lynch to spin neatly and ping in a reverse into the corner of the net for 1-1. Lynch's second, coming four minutes into the half, was a superb effort, dribbling past a defender before flicking over the onrushing keeper. But two late Olly Cooper goals swung the game back into Welsh hands.

Speaking about the match, manager Peter Jackson said "This was a good peformance by Ireland considering the youthfulness of the squad and the short amount of time they have trained together, it was a good team performance and we look forward to tomorrow's match."

Wales 2-1 Ireland Women's A

Ireland Women's A team lost out 2-1 in the first of their two match series against Wales this weekend in Cardiff, Wales.

The hosts were quick off the mark forcing keeper Vicki Green into a good save in the eighth minute and was called upon to make a number of other blocks before Carys Hopkins' deflection gave Wales a one nil half-time lead. Zara Delaney and Chloe Watkins both had good chances but to no avail.

Michelle Harvey levelled soon after the restart and Lizzie Colvin and Katherine Elkin combined well to draw a fine save as the Irish responded well.

But it was the Welsh who finally found a way through to copperfasten their victory in the 23rd minute when a goal mouth scramble and numerous deflections eventually resulted in a goal for Alys Brooks for the 2 -1 lead.

Speaking after the game, coach Gene Muller said "We played really well today and created quality chances I was surprised at some of our play it was creative and flowing if we play like this again tomorrow we will have a chance at a result"

Passmore steps down

Dave Passmore stepped down as the Irish men's senior coach last Friday but will remain on in a more focussed role as the High Performance Director in an effort "to optimise the performance of all Irish National Hockey Teams".

Speaking about the move, IHA chief executive Angus Kirkland said "We have high ambitions for all our national teams; the splitting of these two roles is a very positive step in recognising that to achieve our goals high performance requires a full time director and the men’s national team requires a full time coach."

"We are delighted Dave Passmore has chosen the full time position of High Performance Director, he is very well placed for this and his experience will help ensure the national coaches have a constant pipeline of talent at their disposal as they plan for 2012 and beyond."

Passmore, who has held the dual role for two years, says he will miss the coaching side of the post but is looking forward to his new role. "If we are to be successful in achieving our ambitions for the international teams moving forward it is essential that I concentrate on putting in place the structures and processes to achieve these goals in my contracted position as High Performance Director.

"It has been difficult to break away from coaching as this is my passion, but fulfilling the two roles to full effect is not possible. I look forward to working with the new national coach to ensure this squad reaches it’s full potential. It is a young group with the perfect age profile to be successful in 2010 and 2012."

This change in structure means the IHA is seeking a new man for the top coaching job in the country. Details are available on www.hockey.ie/vacancies. Until the new appointment is made Dave Passmore will continue in his dual capacity with ongoing support from Craig Fulton and the existing management team.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

News in brief

* With the season under two weeks away, there has been a flurry of moves in both the men's and women's leagues in recent weeks.

Bray Ladies have been the busiest recuiters with Roy Horsfield taking over as coach, Sarah Scott coming in from Loreto as a player/assistant coach while Steph Hall and international goalkeeper have moved from Pembroke.
Hermes have picked up another promising youngster with Deirdre Duke moving from Three Rock Ladies.

Genesis, meanwhile, have brought in Dutch coach Coen van Putten - who will also take UCD's men this year - and will hope to keep Laura Barry and Hannah Leggett fit for the whole season as they aim for promotion back to division one.

Pembroke's men have brought in Michael O'Connor from UCD and have a German player trialling with the first team squad on their tour to Surbiton next week. Patrick Good, though, has left for YMCA though will sit out the early part of the season with David Robinson due to injury.

Three Rock's men, meanwhile, have brought in Patrick Shanahan from Bandon and David Storey from UCD.

I will be publishing a full list of movers next week as part of the preseason review.

* On his return to the States in June, Monkstown's Liam Walsh has just been selected on the USA under-21 squad for the PanAm games in Trinidad in October.

* Finally, a warning for all the facebook fiends out there, Olympic hockey player Nikki Hudson (pictured) has apologised over inappropriate comments she posted on the social networking site about the Spanish men's hockey team.

She wrote on the site about wanting to be "impaled'' by members of the Spanish men's hockey team. According to News Ltd papers, Ms Hudson said she did not realise her site was available for members of the public to see and blamed the comments on her sense of humour.

For the full story, click here.

Leinster to provide five All-Ireland schools entrants

Leinster will provide five teams for the All-Ireland schools competition this year which will be hosted by Villiers in Limerick on October 24-26.

Perennial title hopefuls St Andrews and Wesley both gained automatic qualification for the tournament while the other two places will come from a pair of playoff matches – Sutton Park will play King’s Hospital while last year’s cup finalists High School will play Kilkenny.

The two losing sides will subsequently play off against each other to decide the final place with all three fixtures set for September 17 in Grange Road, to be played back-to-back.

The tournament itself will see four Munster sides involved and seven from Ulster.

On the domestic scene, Leinster will hold a development league and cup this year in an effort to increase the base of schools playing and to bring some of those who have fallen back in recent years back into the fold.

Last year, Skerries and St Mark’s both fielded teams after a few years absence in a tournament of this kind, won by Drogheda Grammar in which Sandford Park also took part.

Elsewhere, there will be Junior A tournaments this year to try to get the up-and-coming schools like Mount Temple, St Columba’s, High School, Dundalk and Kilkenny back to A league hockey.

Last season, Kilkenny managed to reach the junior cup final without having played a league match and pushed a star-studded Wesley side all the way and it is hoped this can act as a catalyst.

In another new initiative, the Leinster schools committee, headed by Ronan Walsh, is currently working with Lucas Piccioli to appoint temporary coaches for struggling schools.

Three Rock find out EHL draw

Three Rock Rovers have been drawn in a tough group for the opening round of the Euro Hockey league, facing Spanish third place finishers Atletic Terassa (pictured in action against HGC) and Belgian champions KHC Leuven.

Whilst easy draws are scarce, Three Rock may have hoped for one of the perceived weaker sides in the first pot, namely the recent opponents Azzurri Kelburne or Polish champions WKS Grunwald.

The Irish representatives will feature in group H, a group which has yet to find a venue though representatives from the EHL were in Dublin this week looking at the viability of holding groups E, F, G and H in either Grange Road or UCD.

Elsewhere, the draw – held at Brasserie Paardenburg in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel – threw up some very interesting ties.

Round 1a will take place in The Netherlands at Amsterdam H&BC, and features the teams drawn into Pools A, B, C and D.

Poland’s KS Pocztowiec Poznan have been given a tough draw in Pool A, facing Germany’s Club an der Alster and last years’ semi finalists Club Egara from Spain.

Pool B sees St Germain of France, Germany’s Dusseldorfer HC and HC Bra of Italy.

In Pool C, Amsterdam H&BC will be hoping to make home advantage count when they face Poland’s WKS Grunwald Poznan and Ukraine’s Olimpia Kolos Sekvoia, while Dutch side HC Bloemendaal will play Cannock HC (England) and Dinamo Kazan (Russia) in Pool D.

In Round 1b, 2007/08 semi finalists HC Rotterdam will play English champions Reading HC and Western Wildcats of Scotland in what looks to be an exciting Pool E.

Scotland and England come together once again in Pool F, with Azzurri Kelburne and East Grinstead aiming to qualify ahead of Belgium’s Waterloo Ducks.

2007/08 EHL Champions UHC Hamburg – also known as Uhlenhorster – have been drawn against Spanish giants RC de Polo de Barcelona as well as Lille MHC of France.

In Round 1, each club will play the other two teams once over a three day period. The top two clubs in each Pool will progress to Round 2, which will be played 10 - 13 April 2008, at a venue yet to be decided.

The club finishing third in each pool will be eliminated from the competition. Pool winners from Round 1 will be seeded in the draw for the next round.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Belvedere drop out of Munster division one

Belvedere have dropped down from division one to division two for the upcoming season with captain Paul Hayes - in an interview with Southern Fried - saying that the club "may have ceased" if they stayed at the top level.

Catholic Institute (pictured), meanwhile, will remain in the top tier for the coming season following a meeting this evening

Spekaing about the voluntary drop, Hayes continued by saying: "It has probably been coming over the last couple of years - we’ve had dwindling resources on the player side, and in the last two years we’ve had a few people move away to Dublin and London.

“It hasn’t been great. We were quite lucky over the past couple of years, scraping results in the last two or three games of the season to keep us up.

“It is very disappointing, but we had to take stock. If we had stuck it out and been beaten 12-0 or 14-0 every week, even by the second teams, I think men’s hockey in Belvedere would probably have ceased.”

Catholic Institute, meanwhile, came back from the brink after a meeting this evening where the club's involvement at the top level was discussed.

If the Limerick side were to withdraw it would have left just the A and B sides of Cork Harlequins, C of I and Bandon left in the division.

To read the full story, click here