EYHL’s big decisions coming into focus on all fronts

A bumper 12 EY Hockey League top tier games and four vital EYHL2 fixtures makes for another exciting weekend as the formal prizes come ever closer into view.

After six rounds of hot potato, Lisnagarvey will hope to be the first side since November to hold onto the leadership of the men’s EY Hockey League.

Their win last Saturday over Three Rock Rovers provided a significant statement of intent and the expectation, on paper, is they would back it up against ninth placed Pembroke at home.

But the Dublin 4 side have already beaten third placed Glenanne in 2022 while Alan Sothern has come back after injury to score six times in two games.

It is their travails at the far end that has left them vulnerable, conceding on average almost four a game. Garvey were shy the services of international star Ben Nelson last week but his older brothers Matthew and Daniel bring further firepower while Ollie Kidd is maturing at serious pace.

Three Rock host Corinthian in the Marlay derby with the former dropping back off first last week after some rejigging of their forward line-up.

Corinthian have had a bit of a mixed bag of late as coach Brinsley Powell settles into the role full-time having arrived in Ireland in January. They drew with a remarkable late salvo against Garvey before losing 6-1 at home to Monkstown

Glenanne, level with Three Rock, have a real test when they go to Banbridge who – like Monkstown – are making a strong charge for the top spots.

The Glens are another who have suffered with players away while Bann host this one off the back of eight games unbeaten while Louis Rowe looking like a prodigious talent in their forward line. The last loss, though, was against Glenanne in October.

At the bottom, there is a mathematical equation that could see UCD relegated by Saturday evening if everything conspires against them. Their only point to date came against YMCA and they will need to outdo that performance on Saturday at Wesley to keep hopes of a miraculous comeback alive.

For the Y, though, another victory would all but assure them safety, leaving Corinthian, Pembroke and Annadale in the scrap to avoid relegation.

Monkstown are up against Annadale – the Ulster side produced an incredible comeback in their first meeting this season having trailed 3-0 to tie 3-3. Town have started 2022 well, winning three in a row, scoring 14 times in the process.

On the women’s side, it is a massive weekend with seven EYHL fixtures potentially set to have a big impact on the destination of the league title and the playoff places.

In some ways, Railway Union could be the swing-vote. They face the two main challengers, Pembroke on Saturday and then second placed Catholic Institute on Sunday.

For the Park Avenue outfit, it has been a hectic recent schedule with European indoors followed by a large tranche of their players being involved in the indoor series between Ireland and South Africa.

Pembroke re-established a four-point lead last Sunday with a narrow 2-1 success at Cork Harlequins, breaking a run of two successive draws that had seen their lead cut back briefly to the minimum.

Insta have been on a stunning run, scoring 27 times in five successive wins but this weekend is probably their biggest test. Saturday sees them welcome Pegasus – fourth place after back-to-back defeats – before that Railway tie in Dublin at 5pm on Sunday evening.

Third place Old Alex have a busy weekend, too, starting off against Muckross on Saturday before going north to Pegasus on Sunday. The MIlltown club have lost just once in their last nine games to stay very much in the frame in case of slips from the sides above them.

There remains a serious battle between Loreto (fifth), Railway (sixth) and UCD (seventh) to secure the quarter-final playoff places. For Loreto, they are up against Belfast Harlequins while UCD host Cork Harlequins needing results to stay in contention for a top six finish.

In EYHL2 Group 2, Monkstown became the first side mathematically guaranteed a playoff place last week when they ran up an 8-1 win at Garryduff against Cork C of I with Anna O’Flanagan scoring a hat trick.

Should they win at home against NUIG, the likelihood is they will add the automatic semi-final berth in the playoffs with a couple of games still to play.

Ards’ Zara Malseed lines up a shot against Corinthian. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Lurgan against C of I looks to be the key game in the playoff chase as third place faces fourth, the former leading the latter by two points.

In Group 1, Ards are on the brink of formalising some sort of a promotion playoff spot thanks to their 3-1 win over Corinthian last Saturday with Amy Benson netting twice and Ellen Robinson getting in on the act.

That gives them a five-point lead in Group 1 over the reds and they will be going all out now to top the table and go straight into the semi-final spots. They face third placed UCC who want to put some more distance between themselves and Trinity.

Corinthian will be hoping Ards slip in their closing games to open the door but they need to win their remaining ties, starting with away to Galway this weekend.

Elsewhere, the Irish Hockey Trophy sees Ashton make the long trip to Raphoe in their refixed semi-final.

Saturday 5th March 2022
EYHL Division 1:
Banbridge v Glenanne, Havelock Park, 2.45pm; Lisnagarvey v Pembroke, Comber Road, 2pm; Monkstown v Annadale, Rathdown, 4pm; Three Rock Rovers v Corinthian, Grange Road, 12.30pm; YMCA v UCD, Wesley College, 4.45pm

EYHL Division 1:
Belfast Harlequins v Loreto, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Catholic Institute v Pegasus, Rosbrien, 1.30pm; Old Alexandra v Muckross, Milltown, 1.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Railway Union, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm; UCD v Cork Harlequins, Belfield, 1pm

EYHL Division 2 – Pool 1: Ards v UCC, Londonderry Park, 2.30pm; Galway v Corinthian, Dangan, 1pm
Pool 2: Lurgan v Cork C of I, Lurgan JHS, 1pm; Monkstown v NUIG, Rathdown, 2.10pm

Irish Hockey Trophy, semi-final: Raphoe v Ashton, Royal and Prior, 1pm

Sunday 6th March 2022
EYHL Division 1:
Pegasus v Old Alex, Malone Playing Fields, 1pm; Railway Union v Catholic Institute, Park Avenue, 5pm