Third IHL series to reveal playoff contenders

Men’s weekend preview:
The third round of the Irish Hockey League often sees the split between contender and also-rans with back-to-back ties hastening the process. In men’s Pool B, a potential schism could occur as the top three meet the bottom trio but ties have been tight thus far with only YM’s 4-1 success over Annadale last week garnering a winning bonus point.

Former Cork C of I forwards Stephen Parker and Jonny Bruton could return to haunt their old club for the Y will hope that their run of three losses was just a blip. Andy Walker returned to positive effect while David Robinson appeared galvanised in netting a couple of second half penalty corners, a facet of their game which had been a cause for concern.

For the Garryduff side, holding onto a lead is their aim after twice giving up an advantage but without John Jermyn’s scheming and corner prowess, their attacking options are stunted. Billy Lynch has been superb between the posts and will need that run to continue.

Pembroke have done without the likes of Tim Lewis and Alan Giles for much of the early season to little detriment as Brendon Carolan’s side have impressed with their quick interplay. Mick O’Connor has been unplayable in parts and has the skills to break through Annadale’s compact defensive line while Ronan Flannery marshals a strong defensive line. Kirk Shimmins could return after resting for the Three Rock tie last week following the All-Ireland schools.

Three Rock welcome table-toppers Lisnagarvey to Grange Road for the third time in the competition, both with a bonus-point win a piece to their name in previous editions. Both are down players from those days, though, as Garvey have managed well in the competition this season without the likes of Mark Daniel, Mark Robinson, Alex McRoberts and Jason Lynch unavailable for last season’s finalists.

Three Rock rested their schoolboys last week following an intensive period at the All-Ireland championships but could have Luke Madeley, Harry Morris and Ross Canning in contention for places in the match-day panel.

In Pool A, Monkstown travel north for a second successive week against EHL opposition having come through a trip to Cookstown relatively unscathed. Havelock Park is the destination this week to play Banbridge, putting top spot in the group on the line. Robbie McFarlane is in red-hot form. Having taken over a year – albeit a travel-interrupted one – at Monkstown to get his first goal, he has since fired four in three games including last week’s equaliser.

Bann are without Josh Moffett from their forward line but they found form last weekend against Cork Harlequins to get them back in the play-off mix and their early evening games can provide an extra man with a partisan local crowd to feed off.

Glenanne, meanwhile, have some catching up to after a stunning Instonians turnaround last weekend which saw them concede twice in the closing five minutes to ship a 3-2 defeat. Gary Shaw had been superb on his return in scoring and creating goals and a 2-0 lead at half-time. However, John Watson inspired a comeback to add extra pressure to Cookstown’s trip to Glenanne Park.

The Co Tyrone side have won there before and, with Joe Brennan out, they will sniff an opening again but they have defensive shortages of their own with Godfrey Irwin out.

At the bottom of the table, Harlequins host an Instonians’ side livid at being docked two points in midweek for fielding an ineligible player in their 4-0 loss to Monkstown. Quins’ Phil McLaughlin and Dan Hobbs are injury doubts in the Pool A basement battle but the lack of bonus point wins so far means the table is still quite tight and any victor will close the gap.

In Leinster division one, it is a key weekend at the bottom of the table as the three sides without a point meet. Winning varsities can provide a platform for student sides to gain momentum and UCD’s run in Galway earlier this week was comprehensive enough to suggest they can push on.

They play Clontarf on Saturday in a do-or-die clash for both sides before the Bulls play Fingal on Sunday. The ALSAA club play Portrane on Saturday in the Neville Cup, a postponed tie from 10 days ago due to a floodlight issue.

In division two, Weston’s game with Suttonians has been postponed as a mark of respect to Dermot Smith, one of the Lucan club’s founder members, who passed away during the week.

Dublin Uni go to Queen’s in an all-varsity tie in the preliminary round of the Irish Hockey Trophy, leaving one game in the provincial second tier. Avoca can move further clear of the pack should they get the better of Rathgar for a second time this term.

Fixtures (all Saturday unless stated):
Men’s Irish Hockey League, Pool A:
Banbridge v Monkstown, 5pm, Havelock Park; Cork Harlequins v Instonians, 3pm, Harlequin Park; Glenanne v Cookstown, 3pm, Glenanne Park
Pool B: Cork C of I v YMCA, 2.30pm, Garryduff; Three Rock Rovers v Lisnagarvey, 3pm, Grange Rd; Pembroke v Annadale, 3pm, Serpentine Ave

Leinster Division One: UCD vs Clontarf, 1pm, Belfield
Sunday: Clontarf vs Fingal, 1pm, Mount Temple

Neville Cup: Fingal vs Portrane, ALSAA @ 1:00pm
Irish Hockey Trophy, round one: Raphoe vs Newry, 2.30pm, Royal and Prior; Queen’s University vs Dublin University, 2.30pm, Malone Road
Men’s Division Two: Avoca vs Rathgar, 3.30pm, Newpark

Men’s Irish Hockey Challenge, round one: Ballynahinch vs Naas, 1pm, St Colman’s School; St James Gate vs Portrush, 2pm, Iveagh Grounds; Ballymena vs Larne, 2.30pm, Ballymena Showgrounds; Saintfield vs North Kildare, 1pm, Saintfield; Omagh vs Parkview, 1pm, Campsie Playing Grounds

Men's Leinster Senior Div 1