Hermes and UCD vye for IHL Pool A top spot

Hermes have an almost instant chance of revenge against UCD in the refixed Irish Hockey League clash, aiming to slow the rising juggernaut which has laid waste to virtually every challenge in their path to date.

The tie was initially pushed back due to the intervarsities earlier this month, a situation which had the upshot of leaving both sides in a position to seriously strengthen their push for a playoff place.

The Booterstown hosts have saved their best form for the showpiece competition this term having already fallen by the wayside in the Senior Cup while three losses in the Leinster league see them well off the pace.

Goalscoring issues pervaded both campaigns but in the IHL they have had a carefree spirit, dismissing Armagh and Old Alex on 3-0 scorelines. As such, they lead the way by virtue of a bonus point ahead of UCD – along with Catholic Institute and Pegasus – on seven points.

Mary Logue, against the club she coached to the Senior Cup in 2009, will be looking to learn from the experience of nine days ago when the students nabbed a goal in each half to run up a 2-0 win.

For particular video analysis will be the corner moves as Hermes earned eight set pieces but could not finish. Sinead McCarthy should be allowed more pitch time, her recuperation limiting her to 30 minutes against TRL last Saturday, while Audrey O’Flynn is also back in the fray.

Again, taming the former Hermes’ stars Anna O’Flanagan and Chloe Watkins is key with the students’ confidence level sky-high after an amazing run of results.

In the other IHL tie to played this weekend, Railway Union will be without Cecelia and Isobel Joyce as they make their way back from Bangladesh where they helped the Irish women’s cricket team maintain one-day international status.

UCC graduate Julia O’Halloran will seek to plot the demise of some old friends as she welcomes her former colleagues to Park Avenue. O’Halloran, 24, was a mainstay of the College side during something of a golden period from 2007-2010, but now plies her trade with Mick McKinnon’s troops in Dublin.

Having recently withdrawn from the national setup, O’Halloran is now free to express herself more often at club level, and will be hoping she can guide her side to a repeat of Railway’s 3-0 win at the Mardyke in 2009, when she was on the losing side. While former team-mates Ali O’Regan and Ali O’Connor are still in situ at UCC, the majority of the side has a youthful look and is on a steep learning curve at this level.

With Loreto storming clear in Pool B, Railway will target a bonus point to put some daylight between themselves and Ballymoney in second place.

Domestically, Loreto and Old Alex is the marquee tie with the pair jostling for second place in the division behind UCD. It is a big moment for Alex having run up four successive wins against sides from the bottom half of the division without conceding a single goal. And they can make another big statement – to go with the Senior Cup win over Hermes – against a Loreto side for whom Katie Evans has finished up her short tenure in Dublin.

Nikki Symmons remains out but Loreto have coped reasonably well in her absence, winning each game to date, showing the strength in depth.

Trinity play Corinthian in a game which could lift the students into a share of fifth place with Hermes ahead of a game between the sides on December 3, having managed to garner seven points despite scoring just two goals to date.

For Pembroke and Glenanne, victory for either will push them to a relatively safe position at this point in the season. Pembroke fronted up well against Alex last week with Lizzie de Araugo leading their attacking options while Glenanne await the return of their cricket internationals.

Elsewhere, Pegasus received a big boost as Ireland was once again handed the hosting of a major tournament. The IHL and Senior Cup champions will host the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy – the second tier of women’s club hockey on the continent – over the Easter weekend.

They have been drawn in a pool with Belgium’s La Gantoise, Russia’s Metrostroy St Petersburg and Lithuanian Gintra Strekte Universitas while the other group has Belarussian, Scottish, Ukranian and Italian teams.

Railway hosted the competition last term in Dublin while Galway brought European club indoor to the country. With a men’s Olympic qualifier soon to follow this summer’s Champions Challenge I, it continues a recent run of high quality tournaments coming to these shores.

It could also be the catalyst to see Ireland earn a place in the recently rejigged women’s Club Champion’s Cup for a first time. Railway and Loreto’s performances last spring have seen Ireland move up to ninth in the standings, just half a ranking point behind Russia who occupy eighth – the lowest place to be included in the top competition.

Ten Leinster sides, meanwhile, take on the Irish Hockey Trophy first round with North Kildare the highest ranked from the province following an excellent start to women’s division two. They host Mourne side Kilkeel at The Maws.

ESB Electric Ireland Irish Hockey League Round 3 (Saturday): Hermes v UCD, 3pm, Booterstown; Railway Union v UCC, 5pm, Park Avenue

Leinster Women’s Division One
Saturday: Old Alexandra v Loreto, 3pm, Milltown; Trinity v Corinthian, 4.30pm, Milltown; Pembroke v Glenanne, 5pm, Serpentine Ave
Division Two: Pembroke v UCD, 11am, Serpentine Ave; Old Alexandra v Railway Union, 1.15pm, Milltown
Sunday: Loreto v Hermes, 2.30pm, Beaufort

EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy
Pool A: HC Victorya Smolevichi (BLR), Grove Menzieshill (SCO), MSC Sumchanka (UKR), HF Libertas San Saba (ITA)
Pool B: ARA La Gantoise (BEL), Pegasus (IRL), HC Metrostroy St Petersburg (RUS), Gintra Strekte Universitas (LTU)

ESB Electric Ireland Irish Hockey Trophy, round two: Weston v Dromore, 3pm, Griffeen Valley Park; Portadown v Genesis, 2.30pm, Edenvilla Park; Waterford v Naas, 2.30pm, Newtown School; Our Ladys v Greenfields, 2pm, Templeogue; North Kildare v Kilkeel, 2.30pm, The Maws; Bandon v Cork C of I, 12pm, Bandon GS; Suttonians v Wexford, 2pm, Sutton Park; Cookstown v Galway, 1pm, Coolnafranky; Ashton v Knock, Knock withdrawn – Ashton receive w/o; North Down v NICS, 2.30pm, Comber LC; Victorians v Greenisland, 4pm, Queens; Bray v Clontarf, 1.15pm, Loreto Bray; YMCA v UL, 2.30pm, Claremont Road; Ballymena v Newbridge, 2.30pm, Ballymena; Omagh v Muckross, 4pm, Campsie; Fermoy v Larne, 12.30pm, Loreto Fermoy)

Women's Leinster Senior Div 1