Railway and Hermes set for stellar showdown

No doubt where the tastiest of the ESB Senior Cup second round ties as St Andrew’s hosts Hermes and Railway Union as two of the competition’s big guns face off. Mick McKinnon’s side have been flying thus far and showed the depth of their squad in last week’s win over Glenanne as a number of players struggled with flu.

He will be hoping Helen Stevenson, Emer Lucey and Tricia O’Dwyer will show no further ill-effects and that Nikki Evans – on her first match-up against her old club – can manage more than the 20 minutes she produced last week.

Evans appears to have settled in quickly but Jean McDonnell remains the main scoring threat with two hat-tricks already to her name this year. And her combination work with Emma Smyth and Cecelia Joyce could be the unlocking of this tie.

Hermes, for their part, have had a stop-start beginning to the season but the introduction of Aine Connery and the red-hot form of Anna O’Flanagan means they have a chance. Jill Hodgins will be unavailable for first team action for the next couple of weeks as she recovers from her marathon exertions though did hint that athletics could be her new calling in an Irish Times’ interview.

Old Alex face IHL opposition in Cork, travelling to Harlequin Park to face the reigning Munster champions. It will be another tough, learning curve for Ivan Ovington and Miles Warren’s evolving side who have shown their capacity to battle.

A scarcity of goals to date means that fighting spirit has been the modus operandi as a series of retirements has hurried the introduction of a number of teenagers. A first win last Sunday was timely and they can treat their trip to the base Karen Bateman et al as a shot-to-nothing.

At Beaufort, Loreto’s Lizzie Colvin faces her schoolgirl club, Armagh, for the first time since moving to Dublin to study at the start of 2008/09. She was the seventh of Mick McKinnon’s charges to earn an international cap whilst at the club in a four year period before she moved to Loreto.

The northern visitors currently top the Ulster women’s Premier League with impressive wins over the Ulster Elks and Ards though a 5-1 loss to Ballymoney last time out means their actual level remains to be determined.

Pembroke will hope to reflect more of Sunday’s draw with Hermes than last Saturday’s loss to Corinthian when they host Glenanne while UCD will be looking to erase memories of their controversial loss to Hermes in the league when they travel to Bray. Key to that battle is dealing with former members Linda O’Neill and Catherine Murray.

Beyond the Leinster sides, IHL newcomers Ards and UCC provide an intriguing battle. Pegasus and Randalstown is the big game involving two Ulster sides and serves as a double-header with the club’s respective second teams facing off in the refixed junior cup tie.

Elsewhere, the Irish Hockey Trophy tips off with 18 of the 42 entrants into the fray. Winners Ulster Elks’ elevated status means they are eligible to retain their title but finalists Catholic Institute compete once more.

Genesis are the highest-ranked Leinster-side involved this weekend and, with a solid young side, aided by the quality of Laura Barry, may fancy repeating last year’s semi-final run. But they face a hazardous trip to Queen’s who showed enough in the Varsities to be a force to reckon with and are currently unbeaten in Ulster’s second tier.

Weston travel to Banbridge; Clontarf are off to Galway to face NUIG while Botanic are Belfast-bound to play Knock. meanwhile, there are home draws for Avoca, Newbridge, Kilkenny and North Kildare.

* The draw for the ESB Irish Senior Cup third round will be made on Sunday at 12pm in Pembroke in conjunction with the IHA’s EGM. There will also be a Governance Review Presentation at this meeting. To find out more, go to www.hockey.ie.

ESB Irish Senior Cup Round Two (Saturday)
Hermes v Railway Union, 3pm, St Andrews; Pembroke v Glenanne, 2.30pm, Serpentine Ave; Loreto v Armagh, 2pm, Beaufort; Ards v UCC, 2.45pm, Ards LC; Cork Harlequins v Old Alex, 1pm, Harlequin Park; Pegasus v Randalstown, 2.30pm, Queens; Bray v UCD, 1pm, Loreto Bray; Lisnagarvey v Ballymoney, 2.30pm, Hillsboro

ESB Irish Junior Cup (Saturday)
Pegasus II v Randalstown II, 1pm, UUJ

ESB Irish Hockey Trophy (Saturday)
Banbridge v Weston, 4pm, Havelock Park; Queens v Genesis, 1pm, Queens; NUIG v Clontarf, 2pm, Dangan; Avoca v Ashton, 1pm, Newpark; Kilkenny v Galway, 3pm, Kilkenny College; Parkview v Coleraine, 2.30pm, Ballyclare HS; North Kildare v Kilkeel, 3pm, Caragh Road; Newbridge v Carrickfergus, 1pm, St Mary’s Naas; Knock v Botanic, 1pm, St Coleman’s School

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