Reigning champions Pembroke stand with one foot already in the final four of the second edition of the Irish Hockey League and will become the first side to confirm that status with a pool game to spare if they garner a win on Saturday.
Standing in their way, though, is a Corinthian side that have caused them umpteen problems in Leinster’s top league, completing a home and away double, and with semi-final hopes of their own still very much alive and kicking.
They visit Serpentine Avenue off the back of three weeks solid training since the end of the domestic campaign with only Lucas Piccioli missing – due to a wedding in his native Venezuela.
Pembroke, meanwhile, will be hoping Tim Lewis will be back to full fitness. He featured in the purples last outing – the EHL defeat to Rot-Weiss Koln – but prior to that missed a number of local fixtures. Justin Sherriff is another nursing a slight injury.
Snapping at the Leinster duo’s heals at the top of Pool A are Ulster pairing Banbridge and Instonians.
Bann travel to Glenageary to face Monkstown who still have an outside shot at making the semis if they can bag back-to-back wins.
Gareth Watkins and Andy Ewington’s corner threat will hope to breach the 50 goal mark, having combined so far this season for 49 goals in all first eleven competitions this term.
A win for the Co Down side, allied to the fact that one or both of the sides ahead of them will drop points, makes this a key fixture in the play-off push.
And should young stars Stephen Dowds or the emerging Josh Moffett get a run this could be a fixture to savour. Ross McCandless’ drag-flick will be another key factor as Bann have struggled at times in his absence.
They look likely to end as Ulster’s bridesmaids once again as Cookstown hold the box seat.
Inst, meanwhile, welcome a Cork Harlequins’ side featuring Jason Black who made a scoring return last weekend against Catholic Institute in a remarkable 16-0 win after sitting out three months with injury.
Last year, the pair drew 4-4. This time around a loss for either side will end any semi-final prospects.
In Pool B, Glenanne Park plays host to game of the day as the bizarre fortunes of Lisnagarvey go to work in Tallaght. As David Medcalf delightfully described in his Independent column, ’Garvey will need to show their ‘Jekyll’ side after an inconsistent campaign in their domestic league.
When they click, though, they can be a match for anyone and they head the table with three wins from three, with a 7-0 win over Three Rock the highlight.
Glenanne are at close to full strength though Graham Shaw suffered a slight knock in training in midweek but should be fit to play a full part. Two bonus points means the Glens have over-hauled Cookstown in the table after their rare home defeat at the start of this year’s IHL campaign and should they get the win on Saturday, they will be in pole-position when the final round comes along.
Ulster’s top dog Cookstown and Munster champions Cork C of I will hope to pick up the slack created by the top two’s meeting.
Billy Lynch’s superb deputising role in the wake of Mark Ruddle’s ongoing absence has seen him included in the Irish training panel and if he can keep his sheet clean, a play-off place could beckon.
Sunday sees a virtual dead rubber at Jordanstown as Three Rock travel north looking to use their tie with Annadale to get in some match practice ahead of their Irish Senior Cup semi-final later this month.
Elsewhere, Railway Union and Avoca go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon at Park Avenue for the last remaining place in division one for 2010/11. Both are no stranger to the scenario in the past decade. Railway have had numerous final day altercations, the unlucky losers one year to Dublin University on sudden death penalty strokes while they also fell to UCD three years ago.
Nonetheless, their division one status means they are favourites. Peter English's overheads and drag-flicks will be a feature while the evergreen Paul O'Brien has still been a goal threat when he has been available.
Kenny Carroll and Mark English, too, provide real division one quality and it is the Blackrock side's brief to work their way away from them.
Mark Cullen's men finished their regular season on a high, unbeaten in six games including three wins by four goals on the spin. Stephen Brownlow has the chance to show what he can do against a top tier side and Avoca bring plenty of experience to the party. The challenge always is matching the step up in ball pace and lasting the pace, thereafter.
Sunday sees North Kildare host a pair of Leinster cup finals as Glenanne V play Fingal IV in the Minor Cup final while Avoca play Bray in the Neville Davin decider.
On the women's side, division one comes to a close in low-key fashion as Loreto play Glenanne without their quartet of Irish internationals, secure in third place. The Glens can hold on to sixth with a win. Pembroke can also move in sixth should Loreto win and they finish with a win over Old Alex.
Bray's fight to stay in division one, meanwhile, has been a very late addition to the weekend's calendar. They will face Three Rock Ladies on Saturday with Mary Goode being made available for the tie a day before Ireland head out to Chile for the World Cup Qualifiers.
Men's Irish Hockey League: Pool A Saturday: Pembroke vs Corinthian, 3pm, Serpentine Ave; Monkstown vs Banbridge, 4pm , Rathdown Sunday: Instonians vs Cork Harlequins, 1pm, Shawsbridge
Pool B Saturday: Cork C of I vs Cookstown, 3pm, Garryduff; Glenanne vs Lisnagarvey, 3pm, St Mark’s Sunday: Annadale vs Three Rock Rovers, 2.30pm, Jordanstown
Division One/Two Promotion-relegation playoff (Saturday): Railway Union vs Avoca, 2pm, Park Avenue
Minor Cup final: Glenanne V vs Fingal IV, 12pm, The Maws Neville Davin Cup final: Avoca vs Bray, 2pm, The Maws
Women's Division One (Saturday): Pembroke Wanderers vs Old Alexandra, 12.45pm, Serpentine Avenue; Loreto vs Glenanne, 2pm, Belfield
Women's Division One/Two Playoff: Three Rock Ladies vs Bray, 1pm, Wesley College
Division 7/8 Cup final: Railway Union IV vs Pembroke VI, 2.30pm, Grange Road Division 13/14 final: Navan II vs Monkstown II, 10.30am, Grange Road