With Saturday rivals Pegasus and Catholic Institute set to face off at Queen’s, the top of the women’s EY Hockey League is set for another shake-up once again.
The two sides share first place on eight points after four rounds with a gaggle of four waiting in the wings a point back on seven as the competition takes on a hugely competitive early form.
For Insta, back-to-back wins over Muckross and Harlequins has the Limerick side flying high, doing so off the back of a miserly defence that has conceded just twice to date with Pam Smithwick notching three clean sheets.
Youngster Leah Clery has provided the ammunition up top, netting half of their six goals in what looks like a break-out season for her.
Pegasus, meanwhile, have played out four similarly close ties with never more than a single goal in the difference. A young gun to watch so far has been Ella Armstrong.
Of the close chasers, Railway Union and Pembroke meet in the Sandymount derby with both aiming to build on productive starts. Orla Macken is the dynamo at the heart of Pembroke’s midfield and comes up against her youth club for whom Kate Lloyd has been a constant threat up to.
Old Alex got back to winning ways last weekend against Pembroke and were bouyed by a first appearance of the campaign from Deirdre Duke after a foot injury. Lena Tice has missed the last few weeks, too, but could come back into the fray soon.
Their next task is a game against Muckross who are looking for a first win. The diminutive Julia Balcerzak has proven an excellent performer since her arrival from Poland and is one to watch.
Cork Harlequins are another side going for a first win with their developing side. Michelle Barry’s return last weekend was a big plus and they will need her and Yvonne O’Byrne on form to keep a talented UCD at bay.
Loreto host Belfast Harlequins at Beaufort in the day’s other contest, the latter bouyed by the form of Jane Kilpatrick in defence who has recently joined the senior Irish women’s training panel.
Sunday sees a healthy selection of interprovincial contests with Connacht facing Leinster in Athlone at Under-21, 18 and 16 level while Leinster South take on Munster in Kilkenny at 18s and 16s.
On the men’s side, Glenanne’s perfect record will be put to the test by Banbridge at St Andrew’s. For Bann, key man Jonny McKee picked up a concerning injury late on Tuesday night for Ireland against Malaysia.
For the Glens, they have already amassed a five-point lead with Shane O’Donoghue’s eight goals in four games putting him top of the goalscoring charts. With David Lawless impressing between the posts and Kevin Venter looking a very handy addition, they are going well at this stage.
The Marlay derby sees Corinthian and Three Rock Rovers face off at Whitechurch Park with both sides on seven points. The reds have enjoyed a super start to the campaign with Chad Futcher an inspired signing with his long aerial bombs and drag-flicking prowess.
For Rovers, they are unbeaten domestically but were given a reality check at the Euro Hockey League last weekend in Belgium, falling to Belarussian and English opposition.
Pembroke will hope to surprise Lisnagarvey at Serpentine Avenue to try and land a first win of the season. Despite their tricky start, new captain Julian Dale has been in inspired form, scoring seven times in four outings but they need to start keeping it tight at the back against one of the most potent attacking forces.
Annadale are another side looking to turn draws into victories as they welcome Monkstown to Lagan College. UCD, meanwhile, have had a rough start to the campaign but will aim to put it up to YMCA who have not won since the opening day of the season.
Elsewhere, there is action in the Irish Hockey Challenge with 10 teams playing on day one of the group phases.
Saturday 9th October 2021
EYHL Division 1: Annadale v Monkstown, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Corinthian v Three Rock Rovers, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Glenanne v Banbridge, St. Andrews College, 3pm; Pembroke v Lisnagarvey, Serpentine Avenue, 3pm; UCD v YMCA, Belfield, 1pm
Irish Hockey Challenge
Group 1: Mullingar v Galway, Loreto College Mullingar, 1pm
Group 2: Naas v Waterford, Naas SC, 3.30pm; Wicklow v Midleton, East Glendalough, 1pm
Group 3: Antrim v Saintfield, Antrim Forum LC, 2.30pm; Armagh v Portrush, Ardmore, 1pm
EYHL Division 1: Cork Harlequins v UCD, Farmers’ Cross, 12.45pm; Loreto v Belfast Harlequins, Beaufort, 2.45pm; Muckross v Old Alexandra, Three Rock Rovers, 1pm; Pegasus v Catholic Institute, Queens University, 2.30pm; Railway Union v Pembroke Wanderers, Park Avenue, 1.30pm
Irish Hockey Challenge – Round 1: Botanic v NUIG 2, Botanic Holy Faith Glasnevin, 12.30pm; Cork Wanderers v Tipperary, 2.45pm; Galway 2 v Athlone, Dangan, 1pm; Wicklow v Limerick, East Glendalough School, 3pm
Sunday 10th October 2021
Under-16 Interpros: Leinster South v Munster, Loreto Kilkenny, 12pm; Connacht v Leinster, Athlone RC, 1pm
Under-18 Interpros: Leinster South v Munster, Loreto Kilkenny, 2pm; Connacht v Leinster, Athlone Regioal Centre, 3pm
Under-21 interpros: Connacht v Leinster, Athlone Regional Centre, 5pm