They begin their title defence against an Alex side who have brought in Roisin Flinn and Pamela Smithwick from UCD but are dealing with the retirements of Jan Ovington and Anya Bowers while Liane Ryan has emigrated to England.
Their squad, therefore, takes on a youthful look with four teenagers added to the panel.
Given the influx of high quality newcomers Holly Jenkinson, Nikki Evans and Zara Delany and the likelihood their main title rivals will be weakened at various points in the season, Railway look a formidable proposition.
Emma Smyth is likely to be absent for some portion of the season due to international commitments – they are currently on an enforced rest until October 10’s first round of the Irish Senior Cup and the World Cup qualifiers could see clubs stripped of star players for a large tract of January to March.
Delany, though, has resumed light training following a lengthy lay-off due to a cartilage injury and Emer Lucey is out for about three weeks but, other than that, McKinnon’s squad appears the strongest on show.
Sinead Dooley is another big boon following a season off due to a gaelic football injury. Fully focused on hockey now, the former Ireland panelist has been showing signs of regaining her touch.
In previous years, the IHL final pairing of Loreto and Hermes would be the marquee game but it takes on a slightly different profile this time around with many top players unavailable.
The game is likely to be a key one nonetheless but Nikki Symmons, Cathy McKean and Lizzie Colvin sit out the game for Loreto but former Irish international Catriona Tipping is back in full-training.
Pembroke will hope their youth stars Alice Ward, Noelle Farrell and Orla Fox continue their rise as they come to terms with Louisa Moore’s departure to London. They will not face former team-mate Elaine Bromell, however, as she left Bray after a one-year stint to move back to Catholic Institute.
The Wicklow club are likely, once again, to be involved in a four-team mini-league at the bottom end of the table with Corinthian, Glenanne and Trinity.
The students have the weekend off – along with UCD – but have strengthened to a reasonable extent. Corinthian and Glenanne – both under new coaches – have a key tie at Whitechurch Park.
Corinthian keep a fairly settled side from last season for Stewart Walker and assistants Andrew Cronje and Lucas Piccioli to work with but Guy Garrett starts the year without forward duo Valerie Sexton and Nicci Daly who have moved to UCD and Loreto respectively.
* A team by team preview will be posted this evening, detailing all the ins and outs over the summer.
Saturday Division One schedule:
Pembroke vs Bray, 1pm, Serpentine Avenue; Corinthian vs Glenanne, 1.45pm, Whitechurch Park; Loreto vs Hermes, 2.30pm, Beaufort; Railway Union vs Old Alex, 2.30pm, Park Avenue