The men’s Leinster division one looks set to be virtually decided on Sunday when Monkstown play Three Rock Rovers at Rathdown with the former looking to be the first side to beat the Rathfarnham side this term on Sunday.
For the Town, they are hoping to annex their first Leinster league title since 1982 having won each of the other major titles in recent years, including last year’s Irish Senior Cup and Irish Hockey League double.Former Glenanne greats Graham Shaw and Joe Brennan – despite only having 18 months of a coaching rivalry – have already built quite a bank of games between the sides with the former in the box seat in season one. During that time, Shaw’s Town produced two strong comeback wins, once in the Mills Cup final, the other in the Irish Senior Cup decider, to give them the laurels last season.
Rovers are bolstered this term, however, with Jonny Bruton the province’s top scorer to date this season, making him a key addition. They also have another Mills final to look forward and won the initial tie between the sides 2-1, a tie that Monkstown felt they might not have received the rub of the umpiring green.
The Dublin 16 side, though, have a few injury concerns this time around with Peter McConnell missing the last couple of weeks with a broken nose, Luke Madeley an ongoing concern and Joe Brennan out with a shoulder injury. Shane Madeley also departed this week for Hong Kong on Erasmus.
It means they continue to shake up their back line. Corners cost them dear a year ago and so limiting the opportunities for Andy Ewington will be a key factor while taming the likes of Kyle Good, Davy Carson and the rejuvenated Gareth Watkins will be key.
Both like to play with a lightning fast counter-attack style. Which side is allowed to utilise their pace better could be the defining factor. For Town, they also play Corinthian on Saturday and, combined with a double weekend for their second team, means that managing their squad could also be a tricky task.
It is the highlight of another hectic weekend of top tier hockey with six more games on the card allied to the second round of the IJC.
Pembroke’s hell week continues as they run up an incredible five league games in eight days. In midweek, they were 5-1 victors over Corinthian, bouncing back from their narrow loss to Monkstown last Sunday.
They start off on Saturday with a home date with Fingal before playing UCD on Sunday. Should they win both, it will keep alive their outside chances of winning the title but it looks a forlorn shot at this moment and would rely on favours from sides in the lower reaches of the division.
UCD strengthened their hold on an IHL place in midweek with a 2-0 win over Fingal with Ravin Nair and Shane O’Donoghue on the mark in ALSAA on Tuesday night. It gives them a five-point buffer over Railway, a side they meet on February 1 on a day when they could all but secure their place in the marquee competition.
From that perspective, Corinthian are in the last chance saloon and really need to repeat their 4-2 win against Railway of earlier in the season when they meet on Sunday. Despite playing some tidy build-up hockey on Tuesday against Pembroke, they looked blunt up front with twin drag-flickers Matt Brown and Matt Fairweather back in South Africa.
Railway, meanwhile, will be seeking a first win of 2014 having been overtaken by UCD and Glenanne in the weeks since their draw with Three Rock.At the bottom end of the table, Fingal’s squad will be put to the test by a run of three games in six days when they follow up the Pembroke game at Serpentine Avenue with a home date against Glenanne. As part of a tough run-in, David Bane’s side will hope to land a first league win since September to avoid any jitters in the closing weeks of the season.
Due to Pembroke II’s run of form, the bottom placed side in the division looks set to playoff against either Avoca or Kilkenny with automatic promotion likely to be off the table barring a change in fortunes.
Rathgar, meanwhile, will be hoping that Fingal are still in range going into their Tuesday date with YMCA. While they have beaten the Y in cup action this term, this game comes at the wrong time for them as skipper Jonny Orr is out with a shoulder injury while Dan Needham is struggling with his hamstring.
YM captain Andrew Walker has been in and out with injury on the other side but will hope their recently arrived South African duo Dirk van der Spuy and Dylan Swanepoel can fire.
Most of those division one games are on Sunday due to the Irish Junior Cup in which six Leinster sides are in action. There are quite a few well matched ties on paper with Instonians against Cork C of I one of the more interesting games on the roster while Cork Harlequins’ date with YMCA is another that will give an idea of the respective provincial strengths.
In Leinster’s division two, Weston took a huge step to escaping the drop when they beat Dublin University 3-1 on Tuesday evening. They took the lead 25 minutes in when Tom Robinson nailed a drag-flick after the students had started slightly the better.
After a flurry of cards, the half closed at 1-0 and stayed that way until Nick Zubrowski won a short and Robinson potted his second goal from the rebound. Trinity pulled their keeper for the closing phases, however, and were given a lifeline when Scott Beattie was yellow carded.
Conor Stephens netted a corner switch during this phase while Ronan Walsh had to pull off a double save to keep his side ahead. With the keeper still on the sideline, however, Weston killed off the game when Adam Clayton tapped into an open goal.
Next on the agenda for them is a Saturday game with Avoca on home turf where a win could move them into a share of fifth place. The Blackrock club, though, have a fight on their hands to at least secure a playoff berth, making the stakes high for both sides.
Pembroke II face a tricky tie against Clontarf on Sunday while YMCA II and Monkstown II will battle to escape the lower reaches of the table, as will TRR seconds against Suttonians.
Leinster Division One
Midweek results: Corinthian 1 (Jethro Eustice) Pembroke 5 (goalscorers tbc); Fingal 0 UCD 2 (Ravin Nair, Shane O’Donoghue)
Saturday: Pembroke vs Fingal, 2.30pm, Serpentine Avenue; Monkstown vs Corinthian, 3pm, Rathdown
Sunday: Corinthian vs Railway Union, 3pm, Whitechurch Park; Monkstown vs Three Rock Rovers, 2.15pm, Rathdown; Fingal vs Glenanne, 2.30pm, ALSAA; Pembroke vs UCD, 4pm, Serpentine Avenue
Tuesday: Rathgar vs YMCA, 7.15pm, High School
Midweek results: Weston 3 (Tom Robinson 2, Adam Clayton) Dublin University 1 (Conor Stephens)
Saturday: Kilkenny vs Dublin Uni, 2.30pm, Kilkenny College; Weston vs Avoca, 12.45pm, Griffeen Valley Park
Sunday: Clontarf vs Pembroke II, 2.30pm, Mount Temple; YMCA II vs Monkstown II, 2pm, Claremont Road; Three Rock Rovers II vs Suttonians, 4.30pm, Grange Road
Irish Junior Cup, round two (all Saturday)
Banbridge vs Portadown, 1pm, Havelock Park; Belfast Harlequins vs Three Rock Rovers, 1pm, Deramore Park; Cookstown vs Annadale, 1pm, Steelweld Park; Instonians vs Cork C of I, 1pm, Shawsbridge; Lisnagarvey vs Glenanne, 1pm, Comber Road; Monkstown vs Railway Union, 1pm, Rathdown; Pembroke vs Mossley, 1pm, Serpentine Avenue; Cork Harlequins vs YMCA, 3pm, Harlequin Park