Key contenders 12 months ago, Loreto and Railway Union have their first opportunity to show their hand this season in the women’s EY Hockey League.
Loreto will make their seasonal bow with a Dublin derby date against Pembroke at Serpentine Avenue. Paul Fitzpatrick’s team look like one of the more settled line-ups and they can draw on a range of players who were busy this summer with international squads in addition to Olympians Sarah Torrans and Hannah Matthews.
Siofra O’Brien, Yasmin Pratt, Caitlin Sherin and Christina Hamill were all with the Under-23 development panel that impressed in series wins over Wales’ senior team and GB’s development squad.
With no major departures, the 2019 runners-up will look to push for top laurels once again but their first tie will be a tough one against a Pembroke who, themselves, have designs on a top four playoff place.
Indeed, they showed plenty to suggest they will be in the shake-up last weekend with a 1-1 away draw at reigning champions Pegasus. Ellen Curran is a big addition in midfield, playing the game at a ferocious tempo which will help unleash Gillian Pinder as time goes on.
And Coach Gavin Groves said preseason he feels he now has a squad that can be genuine contenders at his dispoal.
Railway Union enter the fray with a trip to Cork Harlequins. The Sandymount club’s flying form 12 months ago was rudely interrupted by lockdown after three successive wins and they will look to get back on that trail this weekend.
Sarah Hawkshaw was an instrumental figure then, either scoring or assisting all bar one of their goals in that winning-streak. For Harlequins, they handed six EYHL debuts last weekend and this will be another quick learning curve for their young side.
Elsewhere, Old Alex host free-flowing Catholic Institute with Lena Tice potentially making her return to club action having missed Alex’s 4-1 win over Belfast Harlequins. The Milltown club were the only side to win on day one of the season with their youngsters making an impact; among them, Mikayla Power – daughter of Olympic umpire Carol Metchette – netted her first EYHL goals.
Muckross’s new look side are up against UCD at Grange Road. They handed a wealth of debuts out last weekend who were well guided by sisters Caroline and Emma Mathews while Polish addition Julia Balcerzak got her first taste of Irish club hockey.
The students, meanwhile, showed the ability to dig deep in salvaging a point from their trip to Insta with a couple of minutes to go as their new
Belfast Harlequins’ date with Pegasus has been pushed back to midweek; they play their all-Ulster clash on Wednesday, September 22nd at Queen’s. Railway Union’s refix with Loreto takes place on the same night.
In the men’s competition, it’s derby time as Annadale host Lisnagarvey. In recent years, this tie might have been heavily-weighted in Garvey’s favour but the influx of internationals Tim Cross and brothers Michael and Callum Robson should make a big difference for Dale.
Garvey, meanwhile, could not find their full flow against Glenanne a week ago, losing 2-1 but they will still be bouyed by the number of chances created with Glens’ keeper David Lawless enjoying a debut to remember in the face of a star-studded forward line.
Three Rock Rovers host Banbridge with the former potentially adding Ross Canning and Mark Samuel to the panel that beat UCD 5-2 last weekend.
Banbridge were frustrated to be caught by a late Monkstown counter-attack but showed they have plenty of strong options. Philip Brown’s overlapping runs down the right are a big feature while Jonny McKee’s innovation at the apex of their attack is also key.
UCD’s students will benefit from an extra week together with Kevin O’Dea shining last Saturday despite just a short time to assimilate into the club. Harry Lynch was also excellent in defence and they provide the fulcrum to a squad which coach Ronan Hickey hopes will be augmented following exam rechecks.
They head up to Whitechurch to meet a Corinthian side who look like they have a gem in the form of Chad Futcher who scored twice on debut against Annadale.
It is one of three Dublin derbies up for decision. YMCA go to Glenanne looking to make it five wins in succession but are coming up against one of the other sides to win on day one.
The Y produced some serious counter-attack hockey against Pembroke, deploying a high striker in behind the last defender to great effect while Matthew Walker’s all action performance made him one of the players of the round.
For the Glens, they will be bouyed by their excellent defensive work against Lisnagarvey while their attacking efficiency to pick off their two goals was a strong feature.
Pembroke and Monkstown, meanwhile, are both eyeing their first win of the season. The former will need to keep things tight at the back as their forward line looks to be packed with goals with Julian Dale and Alan Sothern working in tandem.
For Town, Dave Fitzgerald was in fine form in goal last weekend in what is his 18th season in the first team.
Saturday 18th September 2021
Men – EYHL Division 1: Annadale v Lisnagarvey, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Corinthian v UCD, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Glenanne v YMCA, St. Andrews; Pembroke Wanderers v Monkstown, Serpentine Avenue, 4pm; Three Rock Rovers v Banbridge, Grange Road, 2.45pm
Women – EYHL Division 1: Cork Harlequins v Railway Union, Farmers’ Cross, 12.45pm; Muckross v UCD, Grange Road, 1pm; Old Alexandra v Catholic Institute, Alexandra College, 1.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Loreto, Serpentine Avenue, 2pm