Derby day in the IHL as four key ties remain within provincial boundaries sees all five Leinster sides stay within city limits on Saturday with Corinthian and Pembroke looking to strengthen their position after opening day wins in Group A.
For the ‘Broke, David Harte is again the major injury concern for the visit of his former club Cork Harlequins as the reigning champions get used to playing with teenager Antoine Bruneau between the posts. Pembroke were pushed all the way by a spirited UCD last Sunday, a performance which might open up a chink of optimism for Quins.
Such hope, though, is tempered by the absence of Jason Black due to a fractured collar-bone while Sean Nicholson is a long-term absentee and trips to Dublin have not borne much fruit in recent years. Last year, Pembroke won the corresponding fixture 2-1 while last weekend’s golden goal loss to YMCA may dent Harlequins appetite for another trip to the capital.
Corinthian, meanwhile, will aim to make it three from three on Saturday this term against Monkstown as Andrew Cronje’s side aim to continue their incredible pre-Christmas from which garnered 10 wins from their last 11 outings.
5-3 and 4-3 results suggest goals are in store with Chris Pelow finding his range last week, Darren Kimfley and Lucas Piccioli with the tricks and Brian Doherty an obvious corner threat.
For the Town, a loss would all but end their hopes of progression in the tournament after a sluggish start against Inst scuppered their opening tie at Shaw’s Bridge. Thus they need Andy Ewington to fire on all cylinders. Matt Fairweather’s aerial prowess with Gareth Watkins, Frank Ryan and Andy Ward in chase could be a fruitful avenue given Railway’s success via this method though would be anathema to the Town’s stylist instincts.
Table-toppers Instonians face a tough battle to maintain that place as they travel to Havelock Park for the late game in Co Down against Banbridge – a prelude to the Irish Senior Cup second round tie.
Former internationals Paddy Brown, Mark Irwin and Neil Cooke have all shaken off injuries over the lengthened winter break up north and will hope to prevent Ross McCandless from getting corner opportunities.
In Pool B, it’s do-or-die for Three Rock and Glenanne as a loss for either will make it nigh on impossible to return to the semi-finals. For the Glens, no side lost twice in the last season’s competition and progressed from the group stages and last month’s shock loss to Cookstown ups the ante.
For Rovers, the 2-2 draw with Cork C of I means the battle is not quite as acute but three Ulster away days to come make it a big ask.
The extent of Steven Doran’s injury sustained against Monkstown last Sunday is a key talking point. If he is unable to play through the pain barrier, High School man Gareth Carragher is waiting in the wings to don the pads.
Rovers are at relatively full strength, though Kyle Good has been confirmed as a non-runner for the rest of the season following surgery while Gavin Bourke has another niggle.
The two winners from round one, Cookstown and Lisnagarvey, battle at the new Coolnafranky water-base and while the Co Tyrone pitch has been frozen in recent times, Cookstown have made use of the Magherafelt indoor astro to keep training on track.
Their home form was rocked with back-to-back losses on home turf – a first for a number of years in Ulster league action – against Annadale and Banbridge and a lack of post-Christmas action means this could be a tricky tie to negotiate, even with Timmy Smyth, David Ames and Andy Barbour in tow.
Cork C of I and Annadale carries much of the same significance as the Rovers and Glenanne tie, especially after the Garryduff hosts threw away a two goal lead in Dublin last month. Karl Burns and Mark Ruddle are out again for CI with Billy Lynch deputising between the sticks.
In the Leinster league, YMCA have the chance to jump ahead of Monkstown into the IHL play-off place when they travel out of Fingal on Saturday afternoon.
The fifth and sixth playoff places for the National Indoor Trophy will be confirmed on Sunday with Railway Union and Monkstown the favourites to advance from a group featuring newcomers Suttonians and Glenanne II.
In division two, Weston will have revenge on their minds when they travel to Bray for the second week in a row. Last week’s cup loss to a Simon Cox-inspired Bray will rankle and if the Lucanites fancy chasing down Suttonians, three points are imperative.
Sutton, for their part, struggled at Navan earlier this season and the Badgers would welcome another 3-3 draw at King’s Hospital on Saturday. Avoca host Dublin Uni as the Blackrock side also aim to apply the pressure on Suttonians.
Irish Hockey League fixtures (all Saturday) Group A: Banbridge vs Instonians, 7pm, Havelock Park; Pembroke vs Cork Harlequins, 3pm, Serpentine Avenue; Monkstown vs Corinthian, 4.30pm, Rathdown Group B: Cork C of I vs Annadale, 2.30pm, Garryduff; Cookstown vs Lisnagarvey, 2.30pm, Coolnafranky; Three Rock Rovers vs Glenanne, 4pm, Grange Road
National Indoor Trophy, Group Three (Sunday, National Basketball Arena):
Glennane II, Railway Union, Suttonians, Monkstown.
Leinster Men’s Division One:
Fingal vs YMCA, 1pm, ALSAA
Men’s Division Two:
Avoca vs Dublin University, 1.45pm, Newpark; Navan vs Suttonians, 12.30pm, King's Hospital; Bray vs Weston, 2pm, Loreto Bray
Leinster Senior Mills Cup (Tuesday, January 26):
Pembroke vs YMCA, 7.45pm, Serpentine Avenue
Men’s Irish Hockey Challenge, round one:
Skerries vs Portrane, 2pm, Skerries; Mullingar vs St James Gate, 1pm, Loreto Mullingar