Corinthian’s win at Three Rock last week, allied to a resurgent YMCA, means the race for the five IHL places for 2010/11 may not be as clear-cut as two weeks ago.
YM have joined the group of current encumbents in what is set to be a gritty battle for points in a six-horse race. And they can put their feet up and watch at least one of their fellow contenders drop points this weekend as Monkstown and Rovers face off for the second time this term.
Rovers have struggled up front since their 5-4 win over the Town at Grange Road five weeks ago. Peter Blakeney’s injury-induced role as an unused substitute in the past two games and Kyle Good’s absence have been factors, especially in the draw with YM where a toothless attack failed to take one of many first half chances.
Rory O’Donoghue’s side, meanwhile, earned their first clean-sheet against Fingal after a concession rate of three per game in the first half dozen league games and will hope this is a sign of things to come rather than a flash in the pan.
Their meeting is the second fixture to be brought forward from the inhospitable January 2 round of Leinster league matches – YM and UCD was the other – as Rovers head for a mid-season tournament in Barcelona at that time.
Corinthian will aim to build on their rare appearance at the top of division one with a home tie against Clontarf. UCD’s win over Railway last week makes the scavenge for points all the more pressing for the bulls but a trip to Whitechurch Park is far from ideal.
The Belfielders, meanwhile, begin the second half of their league campaign looking up with more expectation off the back of that win. John McInroy’s charges showed plenty of vigour in their Neville Cup outing against Fingal and, with some added confidence in front of goal; they will be looking at possibly jumping two places with a win.
Railway’s fixture with YMCA is postponed as the Park Avenue club competes in an indoor competition in Prague.
For division two’s participants, the Irish Hockey Trophy takes centre stage. Two former Glenanne players will look to add further feathers in their coaching caps in a competition dominated in its inaugural season by Ulster clubs.
Alan Browne (pictured, below left) has brought an increased level of commitment to Weston with video analysis and regular match day squads of 16 becoming the norm rather than the exception to reinvigorate the Lucan club. They welcome Galway to Griffeen Valley Park following their feisty tie at Armagh earlier in the month.
Browne’s former team-mate, Frank Byrne, has been a bit more of a surprise package with Suttonians who were less feted at the season’s start.
However, the diminutive forward has forged a combative side with James Murtagh a quality keeper at the base of the team and Richie Wormold always a handful in division two.
They host Ulster Senior One’s basement side Down.
Avoca, meanwhile, have the toughest draw of the lot, playing an Aaron Gill-inspired NICS. Gill had been in rude-scoring form for the Stormont club, who currently occupy the position of Trophy favourites, and brings plenty of top level experience from his time with Instonians and the Irish U-21s.
Dublin Uni have produced some famous cup results in Ulster in the past decade for their trip to Antrim to not be a total write-off. Navan host a Cliftonville side with former Irish international Julian Stevenson in tow as player-coach.
Men's Division One: UCD vs Fingal, 1pm, Belfield; Corinthian vs Clontarf, 1pm, Whitechurch Park; Monkstown vs TRR, 1.30pm, Rathdown
Irish Hockey Trophy: Queens v Portadown, 2.30pm, Queens; Suttonians vs Down, 1pm, Sutton Park; Belfast Harlequins vs UCC, 1pm, Deramore Park; Antrim vs Dublin University, 1pm, Antrim Forum; Catholic Institute vs Newry, 2pm, Rosbrien; NICS vs Avoca, 2.30pm, Stormont; Navan vs Cliftonville, 12.30pm, King's Hospital; Weston vs Galway, 2.30pm, Griffeen Valley Park