Irish Senior Cup shocks were in short supply last season but the recent blanket cancellations and the degrees of success clubs have had in scrambling for pitch time, indoors or outdoors, could heighten the potential for a surprise as the world's oldest national knock-out competition tips off with seven first round ties tomorrow.
As David Medcalf suggested out in his Independent column this week, the biggest potential upset is at Milltown where YMCA's rising outfit face an inconsistent Cork Harlequins. Quins have the experience, Black brothers Jason and Mark along with Dan Hobbs key elements in their armoury, and almost took the Munster league laurels against C of I.
But a return cup fixture saw seven goals zip past Reinhout Mensink and if Jacob Webber can find his range then it will make for an interesting afternoon.
UCD are another side looking to make a breakthrough against Monkstown. The Town nicked three league points with Gareth Watkins' last minute goal in October but UCD have learned how to win since with triumphs over Railway and Fingal and see this as the type of fixture to elevate their profile.
At Park Avenue, Paul O'Brien is set to appear in the Irish Senior Cup in a fourth different decade should he don the green and yellow against Corinthian on Saturday. He made his debut back in the 1980s and has never played outside the first team ever since. The former Leinster interpro is still as affective as ever, netting three times in December and bucks the trend of local hockey which has seen many players step off the division one scene at ever younger ages.
Railway's match with Corinthian has serious potential for goals - two encounters producing 16 strikes already this season. As with both previous ties, Corinthian enter as favourites especially with their southern hemisphere contingent back in town but Railway will fancy their chances with Kenny Carroll and Peter English key figures at the back.
Kevin O'Brien, though, is in preparations for the cricket World Cup qualifiers in Dubai in February and his increased contract, announced on Wednesday, means his involvement may become even rarer. He has been joined in the Irish senior cricket team for that tournament by Three Rock second teamer, George Dockrell, who, at 17, will make his international debut at the tournament should he make the starting eleven.
As for Rovers, whether their tie with Bandon will be played will be confirmed today as frost still bit at the Marlay end of Grange Road with three quarters of the pitch playable. They look set to lose another of their international players to foreign climes at the end of February as Peter Blakeney has tentatively accepted a professional offer from HC Roma where former Bray man Phil Marshall is now involved. Blakeney is likely to return to Australia for another stint over the summer months, too.
Rovers were one side to get some hockey played over the winter period, playing Club Campo de Madrid, RC Polo de Barcelona and Pedralbes last week in Barcelona.
A 2-2 draw against Pedralbes was the best result the side produced as they were unable to match the talents of Campo and Madrid at the "Torneo de Reyes". Spanish talisman Edi Tubau ripped them apart in a 6-2 win for Campo, though Pierre de Voux and Mike Maguire did pull the tie back to 3-2 in the 42nd minute.
The Polo match, though, was a missed opportunity as Tom Samuel and Alan Bothwell built a 2-0 half-time lead only for Olympic gold medalist Matthias Witthaus to earn a modicum of revenge over the Rathfarnham club.
He inspired a seven goal turnaround after the break. The German was part of the Atletic Terrassa side dumped out of last year's EHL by Rovers and Leuven. The Belgian side also competed in Barcelona with Phelie Maguire and Mitch Darling on target while Pembroke's Tim Lewis guested.
He returns for the Broke in what looks a gentle opener to their ISC retention plans against a fading Bangor squad. Justin Sherriff and Gordon Elliott both return while goalkeeping duties could return to David Harte after injury.
Clontarf, meanwhile, face a daunting trip to Cork C of I while Banbridge are in the box seat for the visit of an improving North Down.
In the Leinster league, Glenanne's endeavours to catch up on games played sees them face Fingal and Monkstown inside 24 hours. Potentially, the Glens have 24 fixtures - outside of indoor commitments - in the offing by May 16 and could have done without the snow break in which a back match against Railway must now find a new date along with their date against Three Rock.
Pembroke can close the gap on leaders Corinthian if they get past UCD's challenge.
In the Irish Hockey Trophy, Suttonians are on the precipice of a first ever national semi-final as the last Leinster team standing. Frank Byrne's division two leaders face Queen's on Saturday. In their absence from the league programme, Weston will hope to close the gap at the top of division two when they make the short hop to face Navan in King's Hospital.
The Lucanites then face Bray on Sunday in the battle to be the last div two side standing in the Mills Cup with a home tie against Monkstown up for grabs. Elsewhere, Trinity face Bray in league action on Saturday.
Weekend Schedule (Saturday) Men's Irish Senior Cup, Round One:
YMCA vs Cork Harlequins, 1.30pm, Milltown (Andrew Groves, Chris McConkey); Three Rock Rovers vs Bandon, 3pm, Grange Road (Graeme Caulwell, Gary Maguire); Pembroke vs Bangor, 3pm, Serpentine Avenue (Stuart Ferguson, Julian Girdham); UCD vs Monkstown, 1pm, Belfield (Eamon McFerran, Dan Clarke); Railway Union vs Corinthian, 2.45pm, Park Avenue (R Johnston, Neil Mackay); Cork C of I vs Clontarf, 2pm, Garryduff (D Shine, Finbar Kelleher); Banbridge vs North Down, 2.30pm, Havelock Park (L Allen, Colvin Beattie) Irish Hockey Trophy: Suttonians vs Queen's University, 1pm, Sutton Park; Catholic Institute vs Belfast Harlequins Leinster Division One: Fingal vs Glenanne, 1.30pm, ALSAA Leinster Division Two: Navan V Weston, 12.30pm, Kings Hospital; Dublin University vs Bray, 3.15pm, Grange Road
Sunday Leinster Division One: Pembroke Wanderers vs UCD, 2pm, Serpentine Avenue; Glenanne vs Monkstown, 11am, Glenanne Park Mills Cup, second round: Bray vs Weston, 3.30pm, Loreto Bray
* As you can see, there is a huge variety of fixtures this weekend. To help accurate and comprehensive, please email me on email@example.com with results, scorers and any other interesting info.