The men’s EY Hockey league reaches the halfway stage this weekend with any one of Three Rock Rovers, Glenanne and Lisnagarvey in the mix to be Christmas number one while there is also a huge showdown at the bottom between UCD and Pembroke.
Rovers currently lead the way with 19 points but face Monkstown who have knocked both the Glens (1-0) and Garvey (4-3) off top spot in the past month with impressive wins in south Dublin.
The Grange Road side have been in flying form, scoring at least four goals in each of their last six games – and 30 times in the league in total – to show their attacking intent with Ali Empey, Evan Jennings and Ben Johnson filling their boots.
For Town, their strength has been in defence, conceding just 12 in eight games with Lee Cole marshalling the defence while goalkeeper Dave Fitzgerald’s return to action has been a big boon.
Taking a keen interest on those proceedings will be Lisnagarvey who play in the Ulster classico against Banbridge under Saturday night lights with a 6pm start at Comber Road as they anticipate a healthy crowd.
Garvey’s six game winning streak in the league came to an end last time out when they were undone by Monkstown 4-3 and they will be keen to get back on the horse.
Bann, for their part, are on a three-game streak of their own which has helped them rise to fifth place after a slow start.
Glenanne, meanwhile, have a tricky trip to Annadale who have been one of the break-out stars of the season to date, landing their first top flight wins for a number of years to look reasonably comfortable in mid-table and challenging for a playoff place.
The Glens are boosted by the return of Rowland Rixon-Fuller after eight weeks on the sidelines but Shannon Boucher has been missing in recent times. David Lawless has recorded back-to-back clean sheets with Shane O’Donoghue providing the winning goal in a pair of 1-0 wins.
At the bottom, meanwhile, tenth hosts ninth at Belfield with UCD up against Pembroke in a vital tie to their respective chances to avoid the automatic relegation place.
The students have just one point on the board and a loss would cut them at least five points adrift going into the winter break. Win, however, and they would draw level with Pembroke. Both sides have conceded 33 times this term, averaging over four per game.
Just above them, eighth placed YMCA are up against seventh ranked Corinthian with both sides needing to get a boost away from the relegation places. Neither side have won in the EYHL since the early days of October so this will be vital for their respective ambitions.
Both did reach the Mills Cup semi-finals in recent times, though, with Corinthian winning a cracker 8-5 against Railway Union while YM beat Glenanne.
Elsewhere, there is a full boat of the men’s EYHL2 fixtures with the Pool A clash between Cork C of I and Instonians a tasty looking one. Both sides won on their opening day of action and Inst have been able to call on Mikie Watt and Mark Gleghorne this season to good effect.
Railway Union will hope to reprise their 5-1 Leinster league win when they face Rathgar for the second time this season in the group’s other game.
In-form Kilkeel make their tournament bow in Pool B when they host Cork Harlequins. The Mourne men beat Inst last time out and also drew with Cookstown to show their strength. Both clubs are aiming to be the first time to win in this three-team group after Quins tied with Clontarf two weeks ago.
In Pool C, Bandon will look to build on an opening day win when they host Mossley while Cookstown will be confident of a second successive success in Dublin when they go to Portrane, seven days on from eliminating Pembroke from the Irish Senior Cup.
In the women’s EY Hockey League, it’s a slightly shorter line-up with only two games on the agenda with games initially postponed due to the Junior World Cup in South Africa, an event now on the backburner. Pembroke can extend their lead to seven points if they see off bottom side Cork Harlequins.
Belfast Harlequins and Muckross, meanwhile, face a huge encounter at Deramore Park. The hosts have the edge on three points with the Dubliners on just one but they have proven robust in defence via Aoife Glennon and Caroline Mathews and this could be a huge part of the contest.
At the far end has been the problem with just three goals in eight matches while Quins have seven, suggesting this could be a tight, low-scoring match-up.
EYHL2 has its third round of action with some early contenders beginning to mark themselves out. In Pool A, Ards have a five-point lead already and if they can get one over Trinity, they will have a healthy buffer going into the winter break.
Both Galway – in their first game of the campaign – and UCC will be going for the first win when they face off at Dangan on Saturday to build their playoff hopes.
Likewise, in Pool B, Lurgan and NUIG are looking to get a first W on the board. The big guns in this group already look set to be Monkstown and Queen’s and both put their 100% records on the line when they meet at Rathdown.
Sunday has a big interpro tie on the agenda with Leinster meeting Ulster in the Under-21 championship. It is Leinster’s first outing of the season while Ulster are hoping to bounce back after a 3-0 loss to Munster on day one.
Saturday 4th December 2021
EYHL Division 1: Annadale v Glenanne, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Lisnagarvey v Banbridge, Comber Road, 6pm; Three Rock Rovers v Monkstown, Grange Road, 1pm; UCD v Pembroke Wanderers, Belfield, 2pm; YMCA v Corinthian, Wesley College, 3.50pm
EYHL Division 2
Pool A: Cork C of I v Instonians, Garryduff, 1pm; Railway Union v Rathgar, Railway Union HC, 1pm
Pool B: Kilkeel v Cork Harlequins, Kilkeel HS, 2.30pm
Pool C: Bandon v Mossley, Bandon GS, 2pm; Portrane v Cookstown, Donabate Leisure Centre, 2pm
EYHL Division 1: Belfast Harlequins v Muckross, Belfast Harlequins HC, 2.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Cork Harlequins, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm
EYHL Division 2
Pool 1: Ards v Trinity, Londonderry Park, 2.30pm; Galway v UCC, Dangan, 1pm
Pool 2: Lurgan v NUIG, Lurgan JHS, 1pm; Monkstown v Queens University, Rathdown, 2.15pm
Sunday 5th December 2021
Under 21 Inter Provincials: Leinster v Ulster, Comber Road, 2pm