Pembroke and Corinthian’s battle royale in men’s EYHL relegation tussle

Pembroke and Corinthian face a battle royale as both look to get some breathing room the men’s EYHL relegation contest as the regular season enters its last three rounds.

The Serpentine Avenue side have home advantage which they will hope to use to overhaul the two-point gap to the reds as they aim to repeat their 4-3 success from November.

For Corinthian, they have been boosted by the return of South African international Chad Futcher with his impact at penalty corners and long overheads from the back.

Their defence will be pivotal in trying to tame Julian Dale (15) and Alan Sothern (12) who have combined for 27 EYHL goals to sit second and third in the league’s goalscoring charts.

Both clubs have endured frustration in the past two rounds, conceding late to miss out on points in 3-2 defeats to Three Rock Rovers and are looking to arrest three-game losing streaks, suggesting the sides will be very much well-matched.

At the top, Lisnagarvey will be expected to maintain their lead when they travel to already relegated UCD but they did struggle initially against the students earlier in the campaign before cutting loose.

Ben Nelson has been missing up front for the past few games but James Lorimer is back in the mix and Garvey have still been in flying form in front of goal with 14 goals across their last three wins. Overall, they have had 14 different scorers in this campaign, the highest of any club to date.

Three Rock Rovers host Glenanne off the back of a St Patrick’s Day Mills Cup final success with Ben Johnson scoring a hat trick of corners in a 5-2 win over YMCA. The Glens have had a frustrating run of late, picking up just four points from the last 12 available to stymie their title hopes. Shane O’Donoghue’s 20 goals mark him out as the clear top-scorer.

Monkstown are the league’s in-form team with five wins in succession and have the best defensive record; they meet YM who are without Matthew Walker while his younger brother Adam missed the Mills final on Thursday, too, leading to some rearrangement at the back.

Banbridge’s Alexander Tinney and Annadale’s Adam McAllister lock horns. Picture: Billy Pollock

In Ulster, Banbridge host Annadale in the Ulster derby with the former unbeaten in 10 games but a couple of draws leaves them four points away from the top two. Dale moved four points clear of the relegation zone last week and if they can nick a result, it would go a long way to securing their continued EYHL status.

In EYHL2, it is hitting crunch time with the playoffs coming into view. The top two from each group will qualify for the playoff stages; with three groups, the top-two ranked pool winners will go straight through to the semi-finals while the third best pool winner and the three group runners-up go into the quarter-final phase.

The quarter-finals will be played on April 2 with the winners going to the EYHL2 finals weekend to be played at Corinthian Hockey Club on April 9 and 10.

The winner of the semi-finals will be promoted to the EYHL for 2022/23 with a final for overall winner to be played a day later.

In the competition itself, Railway Union ran up a 9-1 win over Rathgar in Group A on Tuesday night with Mark English adding another four goals to his remarkable total for the season.

It put them eight-points clear at the top of the table of the next two chasers – Instonians and Cork C of I – who meet on Saturday afternoon at Shaw’s Bridge, making it a crucial fixture in the playoff chase.

In Group B, Cork Harlequins will hope to bounce back after their tough loss, Covid-affected 6-1 loss to Clontarf a week ago. They welcome Kilkeel at Farmers’ Cross with whoever wins going top of the table; for Quins, it is their last chance to put their hat in the ring for a playoff spot while the Mourne men have this one and next week’s home date with Clontarf to come.

Group C had a shake-up last with Portrane’s win at Bandon putting the cat among the pigeons. However, the top two could be done and dusted formally this weekend with Cookstown hosting the Fingal side while Bandon go to Mossley; should Town or Bandon get a draw or more, they will be through in some shape or form.

Sunday sees the second last fixture of the men’s Under-21 round-robin phase with Ulster up against Leinster looking to overturn their 3-1 defeat when the sides met at Comber Road. For the blues, a win would guarantee they top their group.

Men’s weekend fixtures
Saturday 19th March 2022
EYHL Division 1:
Banbridge v Annadale, Havelock Park, 2.45pm; Monkstown v YMCA, Rathdown, 2.15pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Corinthian, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm; Three Rock Rovers v Glenanne, Grange Road, 1pm; UCD v Lisnagarvey, Belfield, 2.50pm

EYHL Division 2
Group A:
Instonians v Cork C of I, Shaw’s Bridge, 1pm
Group B: Cork Harlequins v Kilkeel, Farmers’ Cross, 2.45pm
Group C: Cookstown v Portrane, Steelweld Park, 2.30pm; Mossley v Bandon, The Glade, 2.30pm

Sunday 20th March 2022
Under 21 Inter Provincials:
Ulster v Leinster, Grange Road, 3pm