They will have a major job to keep the title as last year’s cup winners Three Rock Rovers, last year’s defeated finalists Corinthian and past masters Railway Union and Avoca
The winner of the league will represent Ireland in the European Club Championships in 2009.
Pembroke Wanderers will look to retain the title, which they won last year in a pulsating final defeating Corinthians with a golden goal scored in extra time.
They will be without their international quartet and will also miss South African Ian Symons – all of whom are away preparing for the Olympic qualifiers
Three Rock have bolstered their indoor squad considerably, bringing in indoor specialist Ezra Handelman, Irish international Andy McConnell and Dutch striker Maarten Sier.
Of the other contenders, Monkstown’s style of play outdoors has hit top form and is well-suited to the indoor game while Corinthian – inspired by Lucas Piccioli – were a surprise package last season.
Glenanne return to the competition after a few seasons out.
Past masters of the event – Railway Union and Avoca – will hope to improve on last year when neither made it out of the group stages.
In the past, they have been the standard bearers but the increased competitiveness in the competition last season meant that their dominance was broken.
The action gets under way on Friday night in one of the most open events in Irish hockey.