How Pembroke and Glenanne react after their three-week, mid-season lay-off provides the major talking point in the men's division one this weekend. Neither side have been adversely affected by niggles in the camp but the volume of hockey in the legs of the international contingent ahead of double-weekends for both clubs means managing their players will be key.
None of their Irish players trained this week while the Irish Junior Cup throws a further spanner in the works for the 'Broke who will have to transport a couple of players across town if they are to optimise their chances against Corinthian II before taking on Clontarf in division one.
The Bulls will be without John Lennon but could introduce former Dublin University skipper Jonny Orr for the first time who has returned from his travels and moved to the northside club to link up with another Trinity captain, Ben Hewitt. Reducing the margin from the opening day demolition is paramount for 'Tarf.
Sunday sees what previously would be regarded as the highlight of the weekend as the 'Broke travel to Grange Road but it's difficult to tell how the injury-ravaged Three Rock will react to adversity.
Ali Haughton returned to the injury list with a new ailment just a week after returning while Alan Bothwell is out for between four to six weeks. Throw in Peter Blakeney and Gavin Bourke's continued absence and Stephen West's illness and it means Maarten Bos has had to scramble.
Wesley goalkeeper Conor Quinn has been called into Saturday's match day squad while there could be increased roles for Tom Samuel, Ross Canning and David McCrea.
In this light, Saturday's trip to Railway is a tricky one. Peter English will be a key man, especially after a mid-week hat-trick against Kilkenny College past the highly accomplished George Smyth.
Monkstown's game against YMCA is the pick of Saturday's action. Iain Walker and Stephen Barry return for the Y after their sojourn in Argentina and victory over the Town would tie them with the sky blues with a game in hand and place them firmly in the IHL mix.
But the Glenageary hosts have added a corner strike in the form of Matt Fairweather and Andy Ewington to the arsenal led by Gareth Watkins, meaning Walker could have a lively day if he steps into the pads vacated by Graham Woods who impressed in first team action.
Sunday is another test of Trevor Dagg's growing ambitions. A disappointing 3-1 loss to Corinthian a fortnight ago is the motivation in their bid to reach a second successive Neville Cup final. The reds had the measure of YM in last year's Mills Cup semi-final, too.
Glenanne return to action with plenty of ground to make up and face a bouyant UCD in search of a third successive league win. John McInroy always makes his presence known against the Glens while their sharp corner routine has made them a real threat with Rob Lynch in the set position.
Whether Graham Shaw and Stephen Butler come back will be key and whether Eddie O'Malley can transfer his predatory instincts from the past month with the twos - nine goals in four games - into first-team hockey could be key for the Tallaght club in shaking off any ring-rust. A Neville Cup trip to Monkstown on Sunday also awaits.
Finally, Fingal and Corinthian usually serve up thrillers with home advantage the deciding factor on the past three occasions. ALSAA-advantage, therefore, could be central in Fingal bouncing back as former Leinster player Derek O'Gorman gets back into his stride. But the current league leaders have an added zeal to their play under Andrew Cronje and will hope they can keep their neck in front of the chasing pack.
In the refixed Mills Cup first round game between division two hopefuls, Weston and Suttonians, Dean Maguire returns for the Lucan club following his IHT suspension though Brian Scully might be an absentee against one of his former clubs. They compete for the right to play Bray in the second round on December 13.
In the Irish Junior Cup, a number of big names will fall by the wayside. Leinster leaders Corinthian II play perennial challengers Pembroke II while holders Cork C of I II travel to Banbridge II. Glenanne II vs Annadale II is another tasty contest
Saturday: Railway Union vs Three Rock Rovers, 1pm, Park Avenue; Monkstown vs YMCA, 1.30pm, Rathdown; Glenanne vs UCD, 1pm, Glenanne Park; Clontarf vs Pembroke Wanderers, 2.45pm, Mount Temple; Fingal vs Corinthian, 1.30pm, ALSAA Sunday: Three Rock Rovers vs Pembroke Wanderers, 3pm, Grange Road
Neville Cup, semi-finals (both Sunday)
Monkstown vs Glenanne, 2.30pm, Rathdown; Corinthians vs YMCA, 2.30pm, Whitechurch Park
Mills Cup, first round (Sunday)
Suttonians vs Weston, 3.30pm, Sutton Park
Men's Irish Junior Cup, first round (Saturday):
Weston II vs Mossley II, 2.30pm, Griffeen; Portadown II vs Newry II, 1pm Edenvilla Park; Kilkeel II vs South Antrim II, 2.30pm, Maccauley Park; Banbridge II vs Cork C of I II, 4pm, Havelock Park; Clontarf II vs Cookstown II, 1pm, Mount Temple; Instonians II vs Three Rock Rovers II, 4pm, Shawsbridge; Bandon II vs NICS II, 3pm, Bandon GS; Belfast HQ II vs Cork HQ II, 1pm, Deramore Park; North Down II vs YMCA II, 1pm, Comber LC; Pembroke W II vs Corinthian II, 1pm, Serpentine Avenue; Fingal II vs Catholic Inst II, 3.15pm, ALSAA; Bangor II vs Raphoe II, 2.30pm, Ballykillaire; Glenanne II vs Annadale II, 3pm, Glennane Park; Monkstown II vs UCD II, 3pm, Rathdown; Railway Union II vs Antrim II, 3pm, Park Avenue; Lisnagarvey II vs Dublin Uni II, 2.30pm, Hillsborough * I'll be up North all day Saturday so if people can email me any scores and reports at firstname.lastname@example.org - or indeed email me to get my phone number so you can text in scores from any of the above game - it would be great!