Four triple bills across the weekend will provide defining moments for most of the contenders as the race for the men’s Irish Hockey League semi-finals berths quickly hots up.
Last weekend saw Shaw’s Bridge particularly well attended for the Ulster double-header and, with many of those protagonists in action at Havelock Park along with the well-supported Monkstown and Cookstown, the three-game card looks a cracking one.
The first game sees Cookstown take on Annadale. The Reds had the perfect start to their IHL campaign with a resounding 6-1 win over Cork Harlequins with Simon Todd making his IHL debut after joining Cookstown from Mossley this season and they have the edge in form.
Annadale’s young side suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat to Instonians in round one so will looking to add to their losing bonus point. In the Ulster league this year the sides drew in Cookstown and in the return fixture Cookstown ran out 3-1 winners.
Town had a somewhat surprisingly comfortable 6-1 victory over Pembroke last weekend and will hope to continue their rich vein of form, especially if Andy Ewington hits form. His drag-flick was not required as their forward line smacked home four open play goals in the first half alone to make them the side to beat.
Instonians, though, aim for two from two after their win over Annadale in round one and Paul Gleghorne’s defence will not be easily breached
The final game sees hosts Banbridge take on Cork C of I. Both sides gained maximum points from round one, Banbridge beating Lisnagarvey 3-2 and CI running out 4-1 winners over Glenanne, so it’s all to play for in Havelock Park.
In Milltown, YMCA are the only side of the six on display who have a win under their belt.
They raise the curtain of the triple header against Glenanne, a side they beat twice in the league 3-2. Last term, they saved their best form for the IHL and their win over Railway, coming back from a goal down to win handsomely, suggests they are looking to do something similar this term after a staccato Leinster campaign pock-marked with injuries.
At 3.30pm, Railway Union take on Lisnagarvey. This is the first time these two sides have met in the IHL and both will be hoping for their first win of this year’s campaign following defeats last week.
They have form against Garvey, though, winning last season’s Irish Senior Cup semi-final 3-2 and the strikeforce of Mark English and Rob Abbott will put Brian Waring’s back four to the test.
The final game in Milltown sees Pembroke play Cork Harlequins. After their heavy defeat to Cookstown last week, Harlequins are carrying a couple of injuries so will have their work cut out against the current Leinster league champions. Pembroke lost in similar fashion to Monkstown in round one and so will be hoping to bounce back.
Sunday’s hockey switches to Lisnagarvey and Monkstown as hosts. On the Comber Road, Cork C of I and the host club follow each other up the M1 from Milltown for the day’s early game at 1.30pm.
Annadale and Pembroke will hope that Saturday’s games will have pushed them back into contention, adding to the value of their meeting while Cookstown and Instonians close out the day.
Town will be without the services of influential player Keith Black, who sustained a knee injury against Harlequins last weekend.
At Rathdown, Cork Harlequins will need to go some to upset the hosts in the 1.30pm start while YMCA versus Banbridge looks the pick of the Sunday games. Glenanne play Railway Union at 5.30pm in the final game of 12 high octane tussles.
Elsewhere, Belfield is becoming a second home for Kilkenny. First their ladies team won the Irish Hockey Challenge last weekend and, this Saturday, their men’s team play Portadown in the Irish Hockey Trophy final.
The first the LHA junior cup titles, meanwhile, will be played in Serpentine Avenue as Marlay neighbours Three Rock Rovers III and Corinthian III meet in the Intermediate Cup final at 2pm.
Irish Hockey League Round Two
Men’s Pool A (Havelock Park, Banbridge): Cookstown v Annadale, 1.30pm; Instonians v Monkstown, 3.30pm; Banbridge v Cork C of I, 5.30pm.
Men’s Pool B (Milltown, Dublin): Glenanne v YMCA, 1.30pm; Railway Union v Lisnagarvey, 3.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Cork Harlequins, 5.30pm.
Men’s Pool A (Comber Road, Lisburn): Lisnagarvey v Cork C of I, 1.30pm; Annadale v Pembroke Wanderers, 3.30pm; Cookstown v Instonians, 5.30pm.
Men’s Pool B (Rathdown, Dun Laoghaire): Monkstown v Cork Harlequins, 1.30pm; YMCA v Banbridge, 3.30pm; Glenanne v Railway Union, 5.30pm.
Men’s Irish Hockey Trophy final (Saturday): Portadown vs Kilkenny, 3.30pm, Belfield
Leinster Intermediate Cup final (Saturday): Three Rock Rovers vs Corinthian, 2pm, Serpentine Avenue