Round one in the three-part mini-series that is likely to decide the destination of the Leinster women’s division one receives an early evening showcase on Saturday as Hermes and Loreto tip off at the novel time of 6pm in UCD.
With both sides still to face Railway Union in the next fortnight, all three sides can claim the title destiny is within their own hands.
Saturday’s battle is a repeat of last weekend’s IHL barn-stormer and Gareth Evans’ Loreto have held the box seat in both their meetings with Hermes this season.
But the Booterstown club can draw plenty of solace from nabbing a losing bonus point when they most needed it and the psychological boon cannot be under-estimated.
Who will be hit harder by international unavailability though will be a big factor. The star factor of Anna O’Flanagan and Aine Connery is ruled out but Jenny Burke remains a threat for the young defensive pairing of Hannah Matthews and Aisling Campion who have marshalled well in the two prior meetings.
Their creative forces of Nicci Daly and Nikki Symmons are also absent but Cathy McKean has been in a huge presence on such weekends and is still one of the best poachers in the league.
Railway’s bid for the title would be the strongest were it not for their early season points deduction but they will be hopeful of a draw at Belfield – a result which would move them top should they get the expected result against Corinthian.
Jane Bunworth is out for the remainder of the season while Sarah Walker is a doubt for the reds, a side who have become much more competitive in the second half of the season.
It is their final league game before which they wait and see what promotion/relegation playoff place awaits.
Sinead Dooley is one for them to watch out for, the former Irish panellist a revelation this season with her long-term injuries behind her and plenty more pitch-time with the international quintet in the Railway front six sporadically available for Leinster league and cup duty.
Indeed, their Jacqui Potter final win showed the strength in depth, as has their seconds run in the Junior Cup and division two with Kate Lloyd a lively presence at centre-forward.
UCD and Alex’s battle for fourth continues apace, facing into home ties against Pembroke and Glenanne, respectively.
Both visitors have little to play for bar final rankings but have shown enough hunger in recent weeks to make sure neither side gets an easy ride.
The students are without Chloe Watkins and Niamh Atcheler and have struggled in front for field goals without the former but their corner variations could do the trick. Likewise, Alex miss Shirley McCay’s all-action style. Bray and Trinity meet in a tussle for who gets eighth and ninth.
In the Irish Hockey Trophy, meanwhile, Three Rock Ladies will hope to do a lot better against Lisnagarvey than their men’s seconds did last weekend. They meet in a semi-final game at Grange Road at 3pm.
Leinster Women’s Division One, Saturday: UCD vs Pembroke, 11.15am; Glenanne vs Old Alex, 1.30pm, St Marks; Railway Union vs Corinthian, 2.45pm, Park Avenue; Bray vs Trinity, 4.30pm, Loreto Bray; Hermes vs Loreto, 6pm, Belfield
Monday: Loreto vs Old Alex, 8pm, Beaufort
Women’s Division Two, Saturday: Loreto vs Pembroke, 12.45pm, Beaufort; Our Lady’s vs Old Alex, 1pm, Templeogue; Hermes vs Muckross, 3.30pm; Railway Union vs North Kildare, 4.15pm, Park Avenue
ESB Irish Hockey Trophy, Saturday: Three Rock Ladies vs Lisnagarvey, 3pm, Grange Road; Portadown vs Ashton, 2.30pm, Edenvilla