** For the breakdown of each men’s Leinster division one club, click the links below
Peter Caruth and Conor Harte return this weekend to play their hockey on Irish shores following stints from Belgium and the Netherlands respectively, marking a sea change in attitude from Ireland’s top international players.
Under former Irish coach Paul Revington, players were encouraged to seek out paid opportunities in Europe’s top leagues to help raise their standard.
It led to upwards of 15 Irish players scattering themselves in leagues across the continent. The upshot of these moves, however, made it increasingly difficult for the national side to train together and new coach Andrew Meredith has voiced his desire to have more players back in Dublin to reduce the costs of players’ travel for this purpose.
As such, he will be pleased that Harte has returned to Pembroke while former Annadale man Caruth – Ireland’s best performer in August’s European championships – has joined reigning national champions Monkstown.
Those two sides will certainly be in the title hunt along with UCD and Three Rock Rovers in a league that looks set to improve markedly in quality.
There are quite a number of top players on the move. Pembroke have brought Harte back into their panel after a couple of years plying his trade with SCHC in Holland. The sweeper will line out against YMCA who appear to be vulnerable this term due to a couple of departures.
Johnny Bruton has switch to Three Rock, Ian McHugh has gone back to Australia while Polish international Krystian Makowski has also departed. It means that breaking back into Leinster’s top five could be tough for them.
Three Rock open up with a derby date against Corinthian who have four South African players back in tow for the season under the coaching of compatriot Brendon Carolan. The pick of them is Jethro Eustice but he will be called away during the campaign for African Cup of Nations duty.
Rathgar, meanwhile, make their division one debut with a key tie against Glenanne. Formed just four years ago, Graham O’Neill’s team have not gone down the route of many promoted sides and have recruited minimally from abroad with just Dutchman Lennaert Bakker added to their ranks.
They have a reasonably experienced panel with former Fingal man Gary Sharman their talisman in midfield. Getting points off the Glens will be key to their ambitions but the Tallaght club will have a renewed zeal with Alan Browne rejoining the club as head coach after a spell with Weston.
Railway Union meet Fingal in the other tie in a tie that will mark both sides intentions for the season. Both sides have thinned panels due to emigration and departures with the former looking to have done slightly better out of the summer exchanges.
Monkstown and UCD’s start to the season is delayed by a week. The students have bolstered significantly from the side that produced their best ever league finish, fourth, last term with internationals Kirk Shimmins (from Pembroke) and Peter Brown (Banbridge) added to their roster.
Full men’s Leinster division one previews
– Corinthian – South African imports bolster reds IHL bid
– Fingal – goalkeeper quandary solved for Bane’s thinned squad
– Glenanne – Browne back to reverse the tide for Glens
– Monkstown – marquee Caruth signing adds to immense firepower
– Pembroke – lack of coach offset by Harte’s return
– Railway Union – juggling player commitments a concern for Denham
– Rathgar – early season key for division one debutants
– Three Rock Rovers – Brennan and Fitzpatrick seeking silverware
– UCD – three major additions adds to embarrassment of midfield riches
– YMCA – high profile departures makes for a tough season ahead
Leinster Men’s Division One: Three Rock Rovers vs Corinthian, 1pm, Grange Road; Railway Union vs Fingal, 2.30pm, Park Avenue; Rathgar vs Glenanne, 1pm, High School; UCD vs Monkstown, PP, Belfield; YMCA vs Pembroke Wanderers, 3pm, Alexandra College
Leinster Men’s Division Two: Suttonians vs Weston, 3pm, Sutton Park; Kilkenny vs Avoca, 1pm, Kilkenny College; Monkstown II vs Clontarf, 1.30pm, Rathdown School, Pembroke Wanderers II vs Three Rock Rovers II, 3.30pm, Serpentine Avenue
Leinster Men’s Division Three: Railway Union II vs Fingal II, 4pm, Park Avenue; Naas vs Glenanne II, 11am, St Marys; Mullingar vs Corinthian II, 2pm, Loreto College Mullingar