After the enforced Winter hibernation, women’s hockey finally kicks fully into gear as two hotly anticipated Irish Senior Cup ties take centre stage on a full weekend of action.
Revenge will be foremost in the minds of Loreto as they seek to make up for last year’s second round exit at the hands of UCD on penalty strokes in the all-Leinster affair in Belfield.
Their intentions to oust the cup holders, though, is hampered by Nikki Symmons’ absence. The outstanding player in the first half of the season, she is recovering from a pre-Christmas hip operation in a bid to be in full working order for the World Cup qualifiers.
The students have the benefit of a recent fixture in their legs but know they will need to up their tempo from Wednesday’s defeat to Railway Union if they are to repeat their glorious run.
The other side of the draw sees the countries only two perfect records come face to face as Pegasus welcome Railway to Belfast. Pegs came from behind to nab a 2-1 win the last time the sides met, Kirsty McCollum scoring with just two minutes remaining.
They enter the game with a perfect season to date but, in truth, have played precious little competitive hockey this season with three domestic league under their belt.
Railway await the availability of Claire McGarrity who missed the midweek game with UCD through flu but Mick McKinnon was pleased with the tempo of his side that evening, especially with this game in mind.
On the domestic front, Hermes have appointed Dutchman Eric Fintelman as head coach, joining the club for the rest of the season. He has previously run training sessions with the Amsterdam ladies first team while also being involved with their youth set-up. His most recent job was as trainer of Tempo 47.
The club made contact with Fintelman through former coach Rense Siegmund who enjoyed a successful season with the Booterstown club in 1999/2000.
His first encounter at the helm is an away day at Pembroke which could see Hermes jump into second place in the league. Chloe Watkins was back in training this week for the first time since her ankle injury though Jenny Kinch is unavailable.
Old Alex begin a vital double-weekend of home league action on Saturday with a view to leading the race for the IHL playoff spot. As many as six teams – currently covered by three points – have their eye on claiming that position at the season’s mid-point with a consistent run of form for one club likely to set them apart.
They begin with improving Glenanne on Saturday and then face off against Pembroke on Sunday. Trinity held fifth over the Christmas break and a win over Bray would see them retain that honour should either Pembroke or Alex drop points from their respective double-headers.
Two more Jacqui Potter Cup ties will be decided on Sunday, too, with the Glens hosting Bray and Corinthian beginning the New Year with a home tie against Pembroke II.
Meanwhile, the Irish Hockey Trophy third round will be completed on Saturday. Niall Denham’s Three Rock Ladies finally make their debut in the competition having been the beneficiaries of a bye and a walkover to receive a rare visit from Dromore. They are the last remaining Leinster Branch club in the competition.
Weekend schedule (Saturday):
ESB Irish Senior Cup, semi-finals: UCD v Loreto, 2.45pm, Belfield; Pegasus v Railway Union, 2.30pm Queen’s
Leinster Division One: Pembroke Wanderers v Hermes, 1pm, Serpentine Avenue; Old Alexandra v Glenanne, 3.15pm, Milltown; Trinity v Bray, 3pm, Santry
ESB Irish Hockey Trophy, third round: Omagh v Greenfields, 2.30pm, Omagh; Queen’s v Knock, 12.30pm, Queens; Three Rock v Dromore, 12.30pm, Grange Road
Jacqui Potter Cup, second round: Corinthian v Pembroke Wanderers II, 12.30pm, Whitechurch; Glenanne v Bray, 3pm, Tallaght
Leinster Division One: Old Alexandra v Pembroke Wanderers, 3.30pm Milltown