A double weekend for most, one of the main talking points concerns the absence of a potentially pivotal men’s Leinster division one tie between Monkstown and Pembroke, originally scheduled for Sunday.
It means Pembroke’s date at Glenanne on Saturday takes on a big significance. Always a heated encounter, the Glens have quietly worked their way back into the title race with seven points since Christmas to move within three points of top spot.
This has been achieved despite the absence of Joe Brennan but Graham Shaw and Paul Fitzpatrick’s side have been plugging away to neat effect.
Pembroke welcome back Kirk Shimmins and Mark Loughrey to their line-up following Irish U-18 trials but Alan Giles and Ronan Flannery are major doubts. Both were named in their Mills Cup semi-final match-day 16 but Giles had a back spasm in the warm-up while Flannery has been carrying knocks all season and sat out that tie.
Monkstown will hope not to slip up on Saturday against UCD after a frustrating night against Three Rock on Tuesday. The students have plenty of former Town men in their ranks but have a doubt over David Watkins but Shane O’Donoghue is available.
The Town, meanwhile, received a postponement for Sunday’s date, a situation which Pembroke appealed, feeling there were not grounds.
What the basis for the postponement and subsequent appeal concern remain at the hands of the Leinster Hockey Association who agreed to the change in date but were not in a position to divulge the reasoning, stating to The Hook: “In line with our long standing practise, the LHA does not find it appropriate to comment on individual appeals.”
The Irish Hockey Association, though, did confirm that international players would have been available for the date, stating: “Fitzgerald was always allowed play as a goalkeeper while Gareth Watkins was never due to train on February 19 as it was always scheduled as PC training. Paul Revington indicated this a number of months ago in his communication document to the clubs.”
For Pembroke, South African Matt Brown is due to return to the club in the coming weeks.
In the race for the IHL places, Corinthian are in the last chance saloon as a loss to Railway Union at Whitechurch Park would see them at least seven points, and two places, off the pace.
Their third quarter performance against Pembroke last week showed guts with Dan Treacy’s energy driving them on but Railway have not lost in the league since September and have serious belief in their ranks.
For the reds, a tough date on Sunday against Glenanne completes a hard weekend. YM will hope to stay clear of the IHL wildcard playoff place, hoping to make Clontarf’s winning feeling a fleeting one.
The Bulls big game is on Sunday, facing northside rivals Fingal in a six-pointer between ninth and tenth with Mount Temple school teachers Gareth Borland and David Bane pitting their wits against each other in the player-coach mode.
In division two, the rollercoaster continues as Avoca look to stay clear of the pack but need to tame the triple threat of Mukhtar Ahmed, Ralph Billings and Chris Neville who did for Mullingar on Wednesday evening in the league, Portrane taking a 6-0 win.
Chasers Suttonians face a feisty date with Weston who still have plenty of interest in promotion, as do Dublin University who face a number of their old boys now plying their trade at Rathgar.
Kilkenny, meanwhile, are hoping to make it a memorable weekend as their men line up a second successive Irish Hockey Challenge final date as they host PSNI in the semi-final.
It is part of a double-header at Kilkenny College, following on the cats ladies who are at the same stage of their respective competition and meet Clonmel.
Two Leinster sides are left in the competition with Botanic and Monkstown ensuring there will be at least one finalist from the province.
In women’s division one, the form-guide would suggest five victories for the top five against those in the bottom half of the division.
Unbeaten in three, Trinity have the most potential in their ranks but their opponent, Railway Union, currently offer the least opening for an upset.
The Santry beach could slow their attacking ambitions with Ailbhe Coyle one of the battling influences who could motivate their rearguard – similar to what Glenanne managed to do a couple of weekends ago.
UCD play Corinthian but will hope to have some of their missing half-dozen back in the fold. They were without Deirdre Duke, Kate Collins-Smyth (broken finger), Hannah de Burgh-Whyte, Noelle Farrell, Dora Gorman and international-tied Chloe Watkins.
Old Alex travel to Pembroke aiming to stay ahead of Hermes in fourth place while Three Rock Ladies’ survival bid has been dented by a knee injury to Anna Carson.
** UPDATE (February 23): The IHA would like to confirm that Monkstown did not receive information that their two international players Gareth Watkins and David Fitzgerald were available for Sunday, February 19 until after the appeal. They apologise for indicating that they received this information some months ago.
Weekend fixtures (all Saturday unless stated)
Men’s Leinster Division One:
Monkstown v UCD, 1.30pm, Rathdown; Clontarf v YMCA, 12.30pm, Mount Temple; Corinthian v Railway Union, 1pm, Whitechurch Park; Glenanne v Pembroke Wanderers, 12.30pm, Glenanne Park
Sunday: Corinthian vs Glenanne, 1pm, Whitechurch Park; Fingal v Clontarf, 1:30pm, ALSAA; UCD v Railway Union, 4pm, Belfield
Men’s Leinster Division Two: Avoca v Portrane, 2pm, Newpark School; Suttonians v Weston, 1pm, Sutton Park; Dublin University v Rathgar, 2.15pm, Grange Road
Men’s Irish Hockey Challenge, semi finals: Limerick v Ballynahinch, 2pm, Villiers; Kilkenny v PSNI, 3pm, Kilkenny college
Women’s Leinster Division One: Pembroke v Old Alexandra, 11am, Serpentine Ave; Trinity v Railway Union, 11.30am, Santry; UCD v Corinthian, 1pm, Belfield; Hermes v TRL, 1.30pm, St Andrew’s; Loreto v Glenanne, 2.30pm, Beaufort
Divsion Two: Railway Union v North Kildare, 11.30am, Park Ave; Loreto v Genesis, 11.30am, Beaufort; Newbridge v Old Alexandra, 1pm, St Mary’s, Naas; Hermes v Pembroke, 3.30pm, St Andrew’s; Corinthian v UCD, 4pm, Whitechurch
Sunday: Pembroke v Corinthian, 4pm, Serpentine Ave
Electric Ireland (women’s) Irish Hockey Challenge, semi finals: Botanic v Monkstown, 1pm, Holy Faith Glasnevin; Kilkenny v Clonmel, 1pm, Kilkenny College
Electric Ireland (women’s) Irish Hockey Trophy, quarter finals: Ballymena v Galway, 4.30pm, Ballymena Showgrounds; Clontarf v Omagh, 2pm, Mount Temple