Half dozen on edge of IHL elimination

Pronounced splits between top and bottom halves of the men’s IHL tables have the chance to be wedged further apart as the top three in each group will face a side less well off on Saturday.

Originally billed as the third series of matches, this postponed date from December now sees Pembroke as the only side with three wins from three.

They look the most vulnerable, though, this weekend as their run of bad luck was extended in midweek with Paddy Conlon’s broken hand in training adding to their woes.

With David Williamson cup-tied and Tim Lewis going back to Germany, it leaves them shy some of their best performers of late while worries over Maurice Elliott and Mick O’Connor will not help the mood.

Build-up play has been good but converting chances is the issue with just one goal in four appearances since they went top in Leinster a month ago with a win over YMCA.

Bann, though, had their second goal-shy performance of the week against Annadale on Wednesday night, following a 1-0 defeat to Lisnagarvey just a few days earlier.

Neil Hamilton did the damage that day with the only strike of the game but young stars like Josh Moffett and Stephen Dowds will test the Pembroke defence.

Monkstown and YMCA could well end up top of the pile in Pool B by Saturday’s end should Pembroke falter as they play the two least productive sides to date in the competition.

The Town used their midweek tie with UCD to rotate their panel to a reasonable extent and they travel south to Cork Harlequins looking to make a fourth semi-final a possibility.

The Farmer’s Cross side have yet to register a win but have good memories of last year’s epic comeback against the sky-blues, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 as David and Paul Lombard combined for the winner. The latter is an injury doubt.

YM, meanwhile, got back on the winning road after a blip against Three Rock and have players like Andy Walker, Phil Marshall, John Bruton and Marcus Richardson who can unlock many a defence.

Whether an Instonians’ side who have not enjoyed dates with Dublin opposition can break their will remains to be seen. A loss would end their competition formally and so Mark Irwin and Paddy Brown’s charges need something special but the odds are against them at Milltown.

In Pool A, defeat for any of Cookstown, C of I or Annadale will end their remote chances of semi-final qualification.
Corinthian face C of I in the one match to be played in Leinster and have appear to have a confidence in front of goal in the IHL which has deserted them domestically.

Defensively, with Alan Blennerhassett backed up by Ross Murray, they have been one of the best around, however. Coping with Nick Burns and John Jermyn is the battle this week and if they do so, Lucas Piccioli’s side will have an all-or-nothing revenge game against Lisnagarvey in the final series.

Given that showdown, the Glens can move the closest to semi-final qualification if they win over Anndale in Carruduff but they will wary of the Ulster side whose form has improved of late, going unbeaten in Ulster since October and is now into the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals. Peter Caruth has been consigned to some of the more entertaining twitter duties of late due to injury.

The attacking triumvirate of Gary Shaw, Shane O’Dononghue and Stephen Brownlow have been combining well of late and will hope there is not too much weariness in their legs from Thursday’s win over Three Rock.

The other group game sees Cookstown host Lisnagarvey with the home side very much on the outskirts of qualification. Both teams will be without influential players with Keith Black and Ewan Butler still on the comeback trail from sickness and injury for the reds and Peter MacDonnell and Stephen Hunter missing for the Blues.

In men’s division one, Railway Union and Three Rock have must-win games against UCD and Weston, respectively, if they to keep their wildcard chase alive and apply pressure to Corinthian. Weston, though, will need to target a game such as this if they are to reel in UCD after last week’s devastating result. Alan Browne will hope Tuesday’s result against Fingal was an aberration and get back to their battling ways.

Just two games in division two as Dublin University are on tour. Clontarf can move four points clear if they win the North Dublin derby with Suttonians; the Rathgar Chiefs have a doubt over Graham O’Neill for the trip to Navan while Nick Odlum has departed for a work placement in France.

Men’s IHL fixtures, Saturday
Pool A:
Cookstown v Lisnagarvey, 2.30pm, Coolnafranky; Corinthian vs C of I, 2.30pm Whitechurch Park
Sunday: Annadale v Glenanne, 1pm, Lough Moss
Pool B: Cork Harlequins v Monkstown, 1pm, Farmer’s Cross; Banbridge v Pembroke, 4pm, Havelock Park; YMCA v Instonians, 3pm, Alexandra College

Men’s Division One: Weston vs Three Rock Rovers, 3pm, Griffeen Valley Park; Railway Union vs UCD, 1pm, Park Avenue
Men’s Division Two: Navan vs Rathgar Chiefs, 12.30pm, Kings Hospital; Suttonians vs Clontarf, 1pm, Sutton Park

Men's Leinster Senior Div 1