The underage interprovincials has trimmed men’s Leinster division one to just four games but, after a pivotal double weekend, plenty more swings of fortune could yet be played out.
Fall to the airport-side, though, and staying alive in the division would look to be a bridge too far for Mark Cullen’s side. The first meeting of the teams was a painful one for the Blackrock club, losing from what looked a rock-solid position in September with a series of goals in the last ten minutes. It remains the only win for David Bane’s crew.
How this plays out will be intriguing with both sides looking to employ a deep press and counter-attack at pace. Alistair Addison’s overheads for runners like Martin Naughton and Andrew Ramsay could be key but they will need to move the wily Eamonn Bane and Andrew Marshall out of their comfort zone.
Fingal, meanwhile, will hope to get some of their midfield options back and fit as Andrew Shekleton, Glen Shekleton, Marcus O’Brien and Chris Neville have all been touch and go over the past few weeks.
At the top, Monkstown and Three Rock’s second meeting within a fortnight will likely have a big bearing on whether the former can produce a late season charge for the title, building on their resurgent win over Pembroke.
Dave Fitzgerald’s departure with the Irish team to Argentina means Craig Ellis is the likely goalkeeping deputy while Three Rock must cope without Mitch Darling for a fourth successive game due to his Irish commitments.
With full internationals Gareth Watkins, Davy Carson, Kyle Good, Stephen and David Cole still around, the Rathdown hosts have plenty of firepower which they showed in abundance last Saturday against Pembroke.
However, they are coming up against the meanest defence in the division with the form of Peter McConnell one of their highlights to date while Joe Brennan has been making fleeting appearances, too, to bolster their options.
Should Rovers hope to overhaul Pembroke, victory over the Town is an imperative while the hosts need is equally vital if they are to avoid a protracted battle to pin down an IHL place.
For Railway Union, they will hope to limit Alan Sothern’s options in the Sandymount derby as the province’s topscorer has now accounted for close to an incredible 60 percent of Pembroke’s league goals.
The free-scoring days of a season ago, though, have diminished for Railway – only Fingal and Avoca have scored fewer – to leave their hopes of a return to the IHL in some peril, especially given the resurgent form of Corinthian.
Four successive wins for the reds see them sitting pretty in third place and victory over a stuttering YMCA could strengthen their hand further. A win would five between them and Stephen Barry’s side – another man absent this weekend due to Irish commitments.
The Irish Hockey Trophy tips off for most of division two with a pair of all Leinster clashes. Kilkenny will look to build on their win over Dublin Uni last time out as the additions of Tom Manning and Billy McEnery have made them a serious proposition with suggestions Brian Gray and Derek O’Gorman could also be on the way.
It means Suttonians visit with some trepidation, especially without rising star Jack Ryan. Conor Gillett leads their forward options while Chris O’Connor has also proven effective.
Trinity host Weston in the other all-Leinster affair while Rathgar go to South Antrim hoping to go closer than the 6-1 thrashing their endured last season at the quarter-final stage.
For the province’s U-18 and U-16 sides, the interpros tip off this afternoon in Cork after a couple of years in Dublin as the centralised format has now been displaced with the initial rotation between the provinces restored.
Leinster’s U-18s will look to mainly to the All-Ireland Schoolboy’s winning St Andrew’s side at this year’s interprovincials as eight of that team make up Gareth Borland’s panel.
Among them are leaders Lee Cole and Mark Loughrey who swap captain and vice-captain roles from the school team with the former donning the armband in the tournament with Glenanne’s Brian O’Malley also taking on a vice-captaincy role.
Along with Three Rock’s Harry Morris and Pembroke’s David Kane, they make up a quintet of returnees to the panel in which the forward line is likely to have a fresh look to it.
To that end, Jack Ryan moves up from the Irish U-16s – as does Jazze Henry and Neil Byrne – and looks set to line up alongside Mount Temple’s Kevin Mullins, Cillian Hynes and Stu Ronan, the sole Wesley player to be included due to Luke Madeley’s shoulder injury.
Hugh Lavery steps up from the Leinster U-16s and, along with George Dagg, make Sandford Park the second highest represented school for the blues.
Ben Epstein has a higher percentage of last season’s U-16s to call on again as strikers Freddie Morris, Jordan Larmour and Keith O’Hare, midfielder David Nolan, utility man Darragh Walsh, defender Ziggy de Boe Agnew and goalkeeper Leo Micklem all back for a second year in a side set to be captained by Kilkenny’s Sam Grace. For both panels, Sunday could be the key day in their retention bids as they play twice.
Men’s Leinster Division One: Pembroke Wanderers vs Railway Union, 2pm, Serpentine Avenue; YMCA vs Corinthian, 4.30pm, Alexandra College; Avoca vs Fingal, 12.30pm, Newpark; Monkstown vs Three Rock Rovers, 1.30pm, Rathdown
Men’s Irish Hockey Trophy, round two: Kilkenny v Suttonians, 1pm, Kilkenny; Armagh v Campbellians, 2.30pm, Armagh; Dublin University v Weston, Santry; Portadown v Bangor, Portadown; Queen’s University v Newry, Queens; South Antrim v Rathgar Chiefs, 2.30pm, Laurelhill Sportzone
** Draw for round three of the men’s Irish Hockey trophy will be on Monday, December 3 at the IHA offices
U-18 Schedule (all at Garryduff): Friday: Munster v Ulster, 3pm; Munster v Leinster, 7pm; Saturday: Leinster v Ulster, 11.30am; Munster v Ulster, 5pm; Sunday: Leinster v Ulster, 11am; Munster v Leinster, 3pm.
U-16 Schedule (all at Garryduff): Friday: Munster v Ulster, 1pm; Munster v Leinster, 5pm; Saturday: Ulster v Leinster, 9.30am; Munster v Ulster, 3pm; Sunday: Leinster v Ulster, 9am; Munster v Leinster, 1pm.
Leinster U-18: James Carr (GK, St Andrews/Monkstown), Hugh Lavery (GK, Sandford Park/Pembroke), Gavin Browne (St Andrews/Monkstown), David Kane (St Kilians/Pembroke), Harry Morris (St Columbas/Three Rock Rovers), Mark Loughrey (vice-capt, St Andrews/Pembroke), Sam O’Connor (St Benildus College/Glenanne), George Dagg (Sandford Park/Pembroke), Lee Cole (captain, St Andrews/Monkstown), Brian O’Malley (vice-capt, Castleknock CC/Glenanne), Alex Service (St Andrews/Pembroke), Neil Byrne (St Colmcilles/Glenanne), Jazze Henry (St Andrews/Monkstown), Jack Ryan (Sutton Park/Suttonians), Ben Campbell (St Andrews/YMCA), Kevin Mullins (Mount Temple/Clontarf), Cillian Hynes (St Andrews/Pembroke), Stuart Ronan (Wesley College/Three Rock Rovers)
Coach: Gareth Borland
Manager/GK Coach: Ronan Walsh
Asst Coach: Scott Beattie
Leinster U-16 squad: Leo Micklem (GK, Wesley College/YMCA), Keith O’Hare (Sutton Park/Suttonians), John Guilfoyle (St Andrews/Monkstown), Ziggy de Boe Agnew (St Andrews/Avoca), Sam Grace (Kilkenny College/Corinthian), Geoff Cole (St Andrews/Monkstown), David Nolan (St Andrews/Monkstown), Darragh Walsh (Wesley College/Three Rock Rovers), Freddie Morris (St Columba’s/Three Rock Rovers), Jordan Larmour (St Andrews), John Mullins (Mount Temple/Clontarf), Rory Nichols (St Andrews/Monkstown), Patrick Temperley (St Andrews/Monkstown), Robert Browne (St Andrews/Monkstown), Guy Sarratt (St Andrews/Monkstown), James Walker (St Andrews/Three Rock Rovers), Darragh Butler (The High School/Corinthian), Max Maguire (St Andrews/Monkstown), Herbie Fowler Hudson (Newpark Comp/Monkstown), Alex Barlow-Ladias (Wesley College/Pembroke Wanderers)
Coach: Ben Epstein
Manager: Ronan Hickey
Asst Coach: Stuart Malcolm
Physio: Leigh Pelow