Women’s IHL serves up monster grouping

Arguably the toughest pool in the history of the competition for the 2012/13 season, the women’s Pool A has caused some to wonder whether a different approach to seeding is necessary for the IHL following yesterday’s draw.

The presence of an Irish international-laden Hermes side in the wildcard playoffs was always going to skew whichever pool they were landed in.

The Booterstown outfit had a poor campaign in Leinster but were unbeaten in their IHL pool when their international contingent was present – highlighting why some feel the IHL should be seeded on previous performances in the competition, like rugby’s Heineken Cup, rather than on domestic league placings.

Catholic Institute’s dubious reward for winning out in Munster is to be landed with Hermes – a beaten semi-finalist this year – in Pool A along with 2011 winners Pegasus, 2012 champions Railway Union and 2012 runners-up Loreto.

Ulster Elks, who are heading into their maiden IHL campaign after finishing fourth in the northern province, are the pool’s dark horses and could hardly have asked for a tougher introduction to the competition.

That’s not to say that Pool B encounters will be a walk in the park either. Irish Senior Cup winners UCD will start as favourites to advance – depending on how many of this year’s crop stay put at Belfield – while Ballymoney are re-emerging as a force after a couple of fallow years. Lurgan’s upward mobility has continued in Ulster and they’re here too along with Old Alex, Cork Harlequins and wildcard qualifiers Ards.

Irish Senior Cup holders Quins have had the rub of the green in the men’s competition, too, and will face three of the five sides they met in this season’s encounters in Pool A.

They are 2011 Irish Senior Cup finalists Cookstown and Monkstown and wildcard qualifiers Instonians, whom Quins beat twice – once in the IHL and again in the ISC semis – by the minimum margin this season.

An ever-improving Annadale and a Pembroke Wanderers side who will have to plan without coach Brendon Carolan after his departure to Corinthian complete the pool.

Things are comparatively harder in Pool B with the champions of this season and last – Lisnagarvey and Banbridge respectively – as well as Leinster league winners Glenanne, while this year’s Irish Senior Cup finalists Railway Union make their bow in the competition in this pool.

As with Hermes in the women’s tournament, YMCA – this year’s beaten IHL finalists – are an unusually strong wildcard qualifier making this pool tough to predict.

Irish Hockey League draw 2012/13
Men’s Pool A:
Cookstown (Ulster 1); Monkstown (Leinster 2); Pembroke Wanderers (Leinster 3); Annadale (Ulster 4); Cork Harlequins (Munster); Instonians (Wildcard) 
Men Pool B: Glenanne (L1); Lisnagarvey (U2); Banbridge (U3); Railway Union (L4); Cork C of I (M); YMCA (W).

Women Pool A: Pegasus (U1); Railway Union (L2); Loreto (L3); Ulster Elks (U4); Catholic Institute (M); Hermes (W) Women Pool B: UCD (L1); Ballymoney (U2); Lurgan (U3); Old Alexandra (U4); Cork Harlequins (M); Ards (W).

Elsewhere, Richie Malone has named 28 players across two panels (see below) to line our for the Irish U-18 girls this summer across two short series. The first sees them play Germany in Belfield from June 20-24 before they meet Scotland from June 28 to July 1.

The Irish U-16 boys and girls, meanwhile, are in action this weekend against Austria at Belfield as they begin their preparations for the European championships with the boys off to Vienna while the girls will play in Valencia.

Irish U-16 boys vs Austria
Saturday, May 26:
Sunday, May 27: 4pm
Monday, May 28: 3pm

Irish U-16 girls vs Austria
Saturday, May 26:
Sunday, May 27: 6pm
Monday, May 28: 6pm

Ireland U-18 girls panel to play Germany (Belfield, June 20-24)
Bethany Barr (Lurgan College, Lurgan), Serena Barr (Lurgan College, Lurgan), Chloe Brown (South East Regional College, Ards), Lucy Camlin (GK, Ballyclare HS, Pegasus), Robyn Chambers (Rainey, Ballymoney), Amy Cooke (Ballyclare HS, Pegasus), Carolyn Crampton (GK, Wesley College, Old Alex), Claire Foley (St Gerards), Hannah Grieve (Lurgan College, Lurgan), Amanda Haslam (Kilkenny College, Tullamore), Sarah Hawkshaw (Mount Sackville, Railway Union), Penny Joyce (Portadown College, Lurgan), Kate Lloyd (Loreto Dalkey, Railway Union), Hannah McDermott (Alexandra College, Old Alex), Jessica McGirr (Loreto Beaufort, Loreto), Katie Morris (Methody, Belfast Harlequins), Antonia McGrath (Ursuline Thurles, Cork Harlequins), Abby Oakes (Mount Mercy, Cork Harlequins), Millie O’Donnell (Alexandra College, Old Alex), Emma Russell (Holy Child Killiney, Old Alex)

Panel to play Scotland (June 28-July 1): Bethany Barr, Serena Barr, Juliet Beatty (Alexandra College, Old Alex), Elaine Carey (Colaiste Iognaid, Galway), Robyn Chambers, Natasha Cooke (GK, Colaiste Iognaid, Galway), Carolyn Crampton, Sarah Evans (Rathdown, Loreto), Claire Foley, Hannah Grieve, Amanda Haslam, Kate Harvey (St Angela’s, Ashton), Sarah Hawkshaw, Penny Joyce, Jenny Long (High School, Corinthian), Jessica McGirr, Katie Mullan (Dalriada, Ballymoney), Abby Oaks, Millie O’Donnell, Susan Shirley (Kilkenny College, Kilkenny)

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