Men’s EYHL Division One – team-by-team preview
Coach: Richard Fairman (third season)
Players in: Michael Robson (Crefelder HTC Germany), Tim Cross (Tilburg, Holland), Callum Robson (Crefelder HTC Germany), Owen McElhinney (GHHC Groningen, Holland)
Players out: Fergus Gibson (Loughborough Students)
Overview: Annadale have had a hugely productive summer, welcoming back some serious international talent with brother Michael and Callum Robson back at their original club after a spell in Germany while fellow senior star Tim Cross is another big addition. The link up with youth internationals James Clark, Paddy Rose and Kent Irwin.
It is slightly tempered by Fergus Gibson – another who played in August’s Euros – moving to Loughborough but Dale look much better equipped to move away from the bottom rungs they occupied in the two abandoned seasons.
And coach Richard Fairman is looking forward to the challenge, saying: “it’s been an exciting preseason welcoming our returning players and also our new arrivals. We are very much looking forward to what, hopefully, will be an uninterrupted season of hockey.”
Coach: Scott McCandless; assistant coaches: John Clarke and Gareth Lennox
Players in: John McKee (Crefelder HTC)
Players out: Ben Wallace(Brooklands), Drew Carlisle (Belfast Harlequins)
Overview: Banbridge are another Ulster club to welcome back one of their favourite sons with John McKee coming back following a spell in the German ranks, coming back to the club after an impressive EuroHockey Championship II campaign.
They have had a rigorous preseason which saw English outfit Brooklands visit Havelock with a return trip to play the same opponents along with Holcombe and Oxted. Preseason concluded with games against Lisnagarvey and Pembroke Wanderers.
Coach Scott McCandless is delighted with how things have gone to date with the latest crop of underage stars – like Charlie and Louie Rowe and Mark Cowan – pushing hard for inclusion in match day squads. Eugene Magee and Bruce McCandless provide the experience to inspire the young guns but Drew Carlisle has stepped back, linking up with Belfast Harlequins this term.
Coach: Brinsley Powell (1st season); Assistant coach: Peter Caruth
Players in: Simon Thornton (Pembroke), Chad Futcher (South Africa), Stephen Reid (Australia)
Players out: Joe Brennan, Neil Pelow (Cork C of I), Ashley Kemp (South Africa)
Overview: The reds have strengthened with the arrival of Chad Futcher – known as Thor – from South Africa having helped Wits University to win the Premier League and has accumulated both indoor and outdoor international caps.
A fellow South African Brinsley Powell takes over the coaching reins with Peter Caruth reprising the assistant role he held with Joe Brennan last season. Simon Thornton dons the pads on day one against Annadale after his move from Pembroke.
Other than that, it is largely a homegrown team with Ian Stewart earning a long-deserved call-up to the Irish side and Craig Mackay shining for the Under-19s in the summer; David Howard brings the corner threat.
Player coach: Shane O’Donoghue; Assistant coaches: Ralph Billings & David Shaw; Managers: Gerry Shaw & Noel Keogh
Players in: Kevin Venter (South Africa) David Lawless (Clontarf) Lorenzo Della Corte (Railway Union)
Players out: Iain Walker, Stephen Brownlow (both retired), Matt Mitchie (Returned to Manchester) Kevin Mellott (Studying)
Overview: Glenanne player-coach Shane O’Donoghue is looking forward to an enjoyable season in upbeat fashion, saying: “Players are keen to get back playing, work hard and just enjoy playing competitive sport again”.
His brains-trust has expanded well with Ralph Billings and David Shaw bringing extra quality to the assistant coach roles from their variety of experiences. Iain Walker has retired for a second time while Stephen Brownlow is also taking a break. It opens the door for David Lawless to make his debut in the EY Hockey League having been a star for Clontarf in recent years.
Their South African contingent has expanded too with Brad Venter and Shannon Boucher joined by Kevin Venter, adding extra quality to a line-up which is powered by O’Donoghue’s brilliance in midfield and from corners as well as Sam O’Connor and Neil Byrne.
Coach: Erroll Lutton; Asst Coach: Steven Arbuthnot; GK Coach: Raymond Geddis; Manager: Dean Beckett
Players in: Matthew Nelson (Loughborough), Peter McKibbin (Grossflottbeker THGC); Ollie Kidd (Nottingham Trent)
Players out: Paddy Hunter (Exeter University)
Overview: Probably the stand-out side from the past two incomplete seasons, Erroll Lutton has a number of extra options at his disposal this year while many of his young guns had busy summers, working with the Irish senior squad.
Matthew Nelson is back after stints in Germany and England to join his brothers Daniel and recent international Ben while Peter McKibbin is back from Grossflottbekker. Ollie Kidd is one of the youngsters who trained with the Irish seniors along with Mark McNellis, Troy Chambers, James Milliken and Jonny Lynch
With the Green Machine players otherwise occupied, Lutton was able to give game time to another new generation of youngsters in preseason in games against Brooklands, Banbridge and Cookstown before recording a strong performance against YMCA last week with the coach pleased with the outcomes.
Coach: Eddie O’Malley (1st season)
Players in: Guy Sarratt (UCD)
Players out: Ryan Spencer (Three Rock Rovers); Josh Filgas (UCD)
Overview: Eddie O’Malley moves up to the main job having initially taken on the role as Monkstown assistant coach last summer, following Gareth Watkins into the role after he moved south to Cork to coach UCC.
On the player-movement front, Guy Sarratt is a serious addition, bringing one of the top scorers in the EY Hockey League back to the club he grew up at. Josh Filgas goes the other way to UCD while Ryan Spencer has switched to Three Rock Rovers.
With Lee and Stephen Cole and Jeremy Duncan in the line-up, they will be looking to push for a top four spot and a shot at a first national title since 2016. Preseason has been busy with wins over Three Rock and Banbirdge, a draw with Corinthian and a loss to YMCA.
Coach: Paudie Carley (fourth season); assistant coaches: Devin Donnelly (3rd season), Alan Sothern (3rd season)
Players in: Philip Förster (Nuremburg HTC, Germany), Ilko Dartsch (Germany), Mark Duggan (Clontarf)
Players out: Fionn O’Leary (Bandon), Simon Thornton (Corinthian)
Overview: Given their dominance in the noughties, it is strange to think it is 11 years since Pembroke won their last national crown but they look to have a reasonably settled panel which can do some damage this season.
Philip Förster’s arrival from Germany and the addition of youth international Mark Duggan adds to Paudie Carley’s deck in which Olympian Alan Sothern is a key figure up front and as assistant coach.
Indeed, it is a side with goals in it with Isaac Johnson, Robert McCollum and Julian Dale involved while they have a heathy bunch of mid-20s players which will serve them well, even though the dynamic Kirk Shimmins is now in London.
“Pre-season, we have been integrating new players and giving some youth team members a run in the extended squad. Delighted to be back at hockey and looking forward to a solid post-Covid season,” is Carley’s initial assessment.
Three Rock Rovers
Coach: Elun Hack (third season); manager: Fraser Morris; physio: Huw Rees
Players in: Alistair Empey (UCD), Andrew Keane (UCD), Ben McInerney (Waterford), Ryan Spencer (Monkstown), Matteo Romoli (UCD), Fred Morris (Laren, Netherlands), Mark Samuel (UCD)
Players out: Ben McCrea (Netherlands), Sam Grace (Clontarf), Ben Walker (Braxgata, Belgium), Harry Morris (work abroad), Ravin Nair, Daragh Walsh (KHC Leuven), Mitch Darling (retired), James Kyriakides (work in London), Ethan Flynn (UCD)
Overview: A rollercoaster of a summer for Three Rock Rovers for whom a large chunk of their three in-a-row winning side are unavailable this time around. Daragh Walsh (returning to KHC Leuven) and Ben Walker (Braxgata) are the latest co-opted to play in Belgium while club legend Mitch Darling has retired, ending with three Irish Senior Cup, three EY Champions Trophy and one All-Ireland Club Championship crown to his name.
With Harry Morris, Ben McCrea and James Kyriakides moving away for work, Elun Hack has seen the panel overhauled in recent weeks. Ali Empey, Andy Keane and Mark Samuel return from UCD along with Matteo Romoli while Fred Morris is back from the Netherlands. Ryan Spencer (Monkstown) and Ben McInerney (Waterford) add more options. The job now is to see how to gel together after such a turnover. A glut of youth players have been given a chance to shine in preseason, too.
“There is much potential here and I look forward to see it develop in the course of the season,” said coach Hack.
Coach: Ronan Hickey (first season)
Players in: Kevin O’Dea (Cork C of I), Josh Filgas (Monkstown), Matthew O’Brien Holohan (Monkstown), Ethan Flynn (Three Rock Rovers), Jay Menelaou (Avoca)
Players out: Conor Empey (SCHC, Netherlands), Guy Sarratt (Monkstown), Ali Empey (Three Rock Rovers), Andrew Keane (Three Rock Rovers), Matteo Romoli (Three Rock Rovers), Scott Ruttle (YMCA), Jamie Pullen (Erasmus), Stephen Dawson
Overview: After a strong spell, pushing to be part of the upper echelons of the EYHL and a first ever Irish Senior Cup final appearance, this year looks to be a year of reinvention. It follows the departure of big stars Conor Empey and corner expert Guy Sarratt, both who have been on the fringes of the national setup.
Their exact line-up will also be a bit later than usual to be finalised due to the earlier start to the season with Leaving Cert and CAO points only tabulated this week. The big news on that front, though, is Irish senior international Kevin O’Dea has been signed up; in tandem with Harry Lynch, they can do plenty of damage.
New coach Ronan Hickey says he is “delighted to be back in UCD where I started my coaching career. There’s so much potential here and the team has taken enormous strides in recent years. I’m looking forward to meeting the players and building on the great foundations established by Michael over the past two seasons.”
Coach: Jason Klinkradt; assistant coach: Justin Sherriff
Players in: Scott Ruttle (UCD)
Players out: none
Overview: Of all the sides to be frustrated by last season’s short-lived tenure, YMCA are chief among them. After a couple of years of struggle, they looked set for their EY season with three wins out of three before the abrupt end to proceedings.
With minimal turnover means there is plenty of belief they can carry that momentum through, particularly having retained the services of South African Olympian Peabo Lembethe. That mood is boosted by a preseason win over Monkstown and a competitive showing against Lisnagarvey at Comber Road.
Sam Hyland and Matthew Walker both made inroads into the Irish senior setup during the summer while Grant Glutz’s diverse options as goal-getting striker, sometime enforcer at the back, and corner expert, gives them a couple of different styles of play to work off. Scott Ruttle’s return from UCD is the only formal transfer listed in or out.