Trinity and Queen’s offer the university challenge as Griffeen Valley Park hosts a women’s Irish Senior Cup tie for the very first time as the Dubliners have been forced to give up home advantage.
It comes in the wake of the LHA’s decision to bar the use of Santry Avenue for the senior league games until the hazardly moss growing through the turf is fully cleared.
With the college yet to resolve the issue, it caused the relocation of a couple of late season league matches and that situation continues with Weston – home club of Trinity coach Scott Beattie – obliging.
The students do welcome back Maebh Horan and Jessie Elliott for the biggest game in the club’s recent history, pursuing a first final appearance since 1933.
That duo, both Leinster underage and Irish university representatives, missed a couple of the games toward the end of the provincial campaign due to medical exams.
But they are back in two for a tie between the sides who finished sixth in the respective Leinster and Ulster top divisions.
Queen’s are powered by the excellent Hannah McMillan while Joanne Orr’s eye for goal saw the Ulster side dismiss Portadown with minimum of fuss in the last round last November. Their last day in the ISC sun was way back in 1929, finishing off a run of three titles in four years.
Otherwise, the rest of the draw has a more familiar hue with each of the winners from the last five years present and correct. Two of those meet at Belfield as Pegasus meet UCD in a repeat of the 2009 decider, one won in resounding fashion by the students.
But their mojo, of late, has deserted them since completing the league and cup double at the end of March. A frustrating 0-0 draw with Old Alex and a loss in Limerick to Catholic Institute ended their IHL dreams when opportunity presented itself.
Pegs have similarly run up two major trophies this season as well as also coming into the game off the back of a defeat, beaten 3-1 by Hermes.
But the Dublin giants are the biggest name to be missing from the quarter-final line-up, falling to former player Emma Russell’s double in round two to Old Alex.
Alex’s reward for that milestone win is a date with Loreto, hoping they can see home what they could not in the league. In round 17, the Milltown club built a 2-0 lead only for the Beaufort side’s corner routine to reduce the deficit before Jessica McGirr continued her excellent form since breaking into the team to level.
Both sides have their internationals back from that date, making this an intriguing tussle. Reducing breakaway bursts from Emily Beatty, Russell and Hannah McDermott is key while Loreto exude similar pacey qualities to set this one up nicely.
Mick McKinnon’s Railway travel north to his residential home of Armagh to play the side he coached through their meteoric rise through the divisions.
On the men’s side, Railway Union will enjoy home advantage as they aim to reach a first Irish Senior Cup final in the open era after an impressive record in the competition in the pre-World War II period.
They reached the final six times back then but have not done so since 1938. The nearest they have been since was an extra-time loss in 1997, falling to a Paudie Carley penalty to Pembroke at the final four stage, adding to three semi-final defeats between 1977 and 1979.
But with many major contenders like 2011 finalist Cookstown and Monkstown out already and a genuinely even competition at hand, progression could open up the draw yet further.
It offers a corner and open play threat which few sides can match, scoring 15 more than any other side in the Leinster campaign. Just one normal time loss since September shows the strides made at Park Avenue under Ian O’Keeffe but the only side to affect that result were the Glens.
Indeed, they have something of an Indian sign in their armory, recovering from a 3-0 deficit in their first league game while the 3-1 result in Tallaght was a vital one for the Glens.
Graham Shaw has served an IHL suspension but his side managed to prosper without his considerable promptings from the back, countering brilliantly for a 4-0 victory over Banbridge.
Jonathan Kane has emerged as their go-to man this season for goals, his hat-trick bringing his tally to 18 for the year, and their greater match sharpness could play a big part.
Railway have had to content themselves with friendlies against the likes of NICS and YMCA in recent times with 28 days passing since their last competitive outing.
For Pembroke, they became the first side to get a result from a trip to face Lisnagarvey on the Comber Road in the IHL this term last weekend and a repeat could keep alive their hopes of a third EHL journey.
Mick O’Connor could return after a hip injury while Alan Sothern has been back in training but is still a doubt.
Banbridge’s trip to 2006 champions Cork Harlequins is a tricky one but a 4-0 win in the IHL earlier this season gives the Bears a significant mental advantage.
NICS – along with Railway – are the other non-IHL side seeking to cause an upset as they take on Instonians at Stormont. Service were beaten to the wildcard spot by Inst in the Ulster Premier though a win and a draw over the Shawsbridge club during the campaign lends a weight of confidence.
Men’s Irish Senior Cup quarter-finals (Saturday): Railway Union v Glenanne, 2pm, Park Avenue; Lisnagarvey v Pembroke, 2.30pm, Comber Road; Cork Harlequins v Banbridge, 2pm, Farmer’s Cross; NICS v Instonians, 2.30pm, Stormont
Electric Ireland Irish Senior Cup quarter-finals (Saturday): UCD v Pegasus, 1pm, Belfield; Old Alex v Loreto, 1pm, Milltown; Armagh v Railway Union, 1pm, Ardmore LC; Trinity v Queen’s University, 1pm, Griffeen Valley Park
** Semi-final draw will take place in the Dropping Well, Milltown at approximately 3.30pm