Finals season tips off as venues confirmed

Grange Road will once again host the Men and ESB women final’s weekend of the Irish Hockey League, it has been announced today, with the wildcard event also likely to be played at the same venue on May 14 to 16.

As last year, a stand will be erected at the ground for the weekend while an outdoor barbecue and bar will be available in the wooded area at the grounds among other additions to the venue over the course of the weekend.

The women’s event will see a new winner crowned as Loreto bowed out in the group stages. Leinster leaders Hermes and Railway Union will duke out the final’s weekend, facing off in the semi-final while the first finalist from outside the province will come from the meeting of Cork Harlequins and Pegasus.

On the men’s side, no semi-finalists have been confirmed but Pembroke look a sure-fire bet to reach the final four with a four point lead in Pool A and two rounds of fixtures to play – on April 17 and May 1. In Pool B, Lisnagarvey and Glenanne lead the way with any winner from next week’s battle at St Mark’s likely to go through, too.

In the wildcard competition, YMCA are the only finalised side in the men’s competition. Bandon look the most likely to join them from Munster while Ulster’s representatives will come from either Lisnagarvey or Instonians. Should ‘Garvey make the finals weekend but also finish fifth in Ulster, the wildcard event will require a change of date.

On the women’s side, Old Alex have qualified from Leinster for the second successive year. Who takes third and a playoff spot remains anyone’s guess with three rounds of fixtures and four sides – UCC, Cork C of I, Cork Harlequins and Catholic Institute – all in the hunt for the title.

Ulster is similarly unresolved with as many as five sides in the mix, some still with a third of their league campaign to complete.

Elsewhere, the Leinster Branch has confirmed the venues for all of the domestic finals as well as the division one/two play-off.

The first three of the men’s junior finals will take place on Sunday in Serpentine Avenue with the Railway, Inter and Junior Cup all up for grabs.

It makes for a busy weekend for Monkstown II who follow up Saturday’s Irish Junior Cup final with a battle with Railway Union II on Sunday and though they go into the final as overwhelming favourites, the freshness factor could play a part.

Saturday’s battle with YMCA II is a repeat of their recent Railway Cup semi-final and sees them look to add to last season’s league title success. They are going for their sixth success in the competition but a first since 1969 since when they have only reached the decider once – a 1982 loss to Newry.

YM have to dig even deeper into their annals to find a final appearance, last contesting the final in 1958 while it was 1954 – a 2-1 extra-time win over Lisnagarvey – when they last lifted the trophy.

The Town have been this season’s cup specialists, emerging from a bottom half of the Railway Cup draw which featured the top seven from division three. The goals have been spread around the team with Simon Allen and Frank Ryan grabbing the semi-final goals against the Y.

For Railway, they finally earned their first point of the campaign with a draw against Sandymount rivals YM. Their young side, using many of last year’s Benny Atkinson Cup final crop, has ousted four division four outfits, including a comfortable 5-1 semi-final win to contest the final.

In the Intermediate decider, Fingal III and Navan II lock horns while Weston III and Mullingar II battle for the Junior crown, though the latter side may feel aggrieved at the 6pm, Sunday evening tip-off time, given their extended travel, especially with a few school-goers in their squad.

The second round of finals, namely the Avoca U-21 Cup, the Neville Davin and the Minor Cup will be played on April 18 at North Kildare’s home – the Maws – as part of their festival of hockey that weekend (on which more later) to celebrate the opening of their brand new astroturf pitch.

Meanwhile, ALSAA has been named as the venue for the division one/two promotion/relegation decider. Railway Union await who comes out in second from Avoca and Weston for the right to play in the top tier in 2010/11.

On the women’s front, Gillian Garrett’s superb Old Alex II’s, blending experience with rising stars like Sarah Robinson and Erika Hinkson will be going for a double to go with their division two triumph a fortnight ago.

They face a Randalstown II side who have prospered while their first team goes through a transitional period and provide a formidable contest. Pamela Muir is one to watch, bagging a semi-final hat-trick against Lurgan while also being a sharp-shooter in their Ulster Junior One campaign where they have also been named champions with two games to play.

Grange Road is the venue on Saturday for the first series of divisional cup finals with Suttonians first team taking on Pembroke III, YMCA going for the treble against Clontarf II while Three Rock Ladies IV are up against an Avoca II looking to add to their recent promotion. The second set of finals will be played on April 17.

Men’s Irish Junior Cup final:
YMCA II vs Monkstown II, 4pm, Belfield

ESB Women’s Irish Junior Cup final:
Old Alex II vs Randalstown II

Leinster Women’s divisional cup finals (all at Grange Road, Saturday):
Division 3/4 final: Suttonians vs Pembroke Wanderers III, 3pm
Division 5/6 final: YMCA vs Clontarf II, 1pm
Division 9/10: Three Rock Ladies IV vs Avoca II, 11am

Leinster Men’s Cup finals (all at Serpentine Avenue, Sunday):
Railway Cup final: Railway Union II vs Monkstown II, 2pm
Intermediate Cup final: Fingal III vs Navan II, 4pm
Junior Cup final: Mullingar II vs Weston III, 6pm

* As there are eight finals up for decision over the weekend, it is unlikely I will be able to make the majority of these finals. As a result, can members from the participant clubs either email me on with any details or photos or call me if you have my number by Monday evening so that I can post as accurate as possible reports posted to the site.

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