Round three of the Irish Hockey League often has a make or break nature to it and, on the men’s side, there is a sense of last chance saloon for the likes of Corinthian, Cork C of I and Cookstown of they are to get into the mix for the playoff places.
With significant gaps already emerging in both pools, should the likes of Monkstown, Banbridge and Pembroke win again then it would looks odds on that they will progress with something to spare.For Irish Senior Cup winners Three Rock Rovers, their group games are getting progressively harder and they face a big game against Cookstown on Saturday that they need to garner something from ahead of big dates with Lisnagarvey and Pembroke.
With a couple of injuries in the camp, theirs is a tricky weekend to manage with the Leinster Senior Mills Cup final on Monday on St Patrick’s Day. Add in that some of their fringe players – especially from the 18-man squad they can use in the IHL – will be playing a part in the Railway Cup final on Sunday while Daragh Walsh is also eligible for the Benny Atkinson U-16 Cup final and there is plenty to manage for coaches Joe Brennan and Paul Fitzpatrick.
Rovers laboured to victory over Instonians last time out with Brennan nabbing a late goal while Stephen West had a stormer, keeping out a William Robinson stroke in the key moment. Nonetheless, the first team have endured just one loss all season and if that remains the case by the end of the weekend then they will be in a strong position in the IHL and have two trophies in their cabinet.
Of the chasers, Lisnagarvey will hope that they do not falter against Cork Harlequins who will be glad of home advantage after two galling trips out of Munster, conceding 19 goals in total. With travel out of the equation, they will hope to have their strongest panel available.
For Inst, they will be slightly aggrieved to be sitting in the bottom two in the pool after two decent showings against Rovers and Garvey. It leaves them pretty much out of contention but they could cause Pembroke some problems at Serpentine Avenue.
In Pool B, it is judgement day for Cork C of I’s as they bid to break the Leinster/Ulster duopoly as they face a huge test of their mettle. They host reigning champions Monkstown at Garryduff tomorrow in a tie that pits the Munster league winners against their Leinster equivalent.
Should CI falter, it will almost certainly seem them eliminated from the competition and continue the province’s wait for a male semi-finalist.
The Dublin side have been in imperious form to date in this competition, running up big wins over UCD and Annadale. They also have senior international Peter Caruth available to them after an eight month spell on the sidelines since returning to Ireland from a professional spell in Belgium.
Taming his nimble skills is one of the major tasks. C of I’s win over Corinthian last week in Dublin was encouraging and David Hobbs’ side will aim to build further on that performance.
For Brendon Carolan’s reds, they have three points from their two games but face an imposing trip to Banbridge who have been untouchable so far in the competition with heavy wins over Cork C of I and UCD. Should they be able to eke out a win, they could be back in the mix but if they fall, that will probably be the death knell of their semi-final chances.
After back-to-back 4-1 losses, UCD, meanwhile, will be eyeing three wins from their remaining games in the group against what would be perceived as more friendly competition than Town and Bann. They start with a second successive trip north and the likes of Shane O’Donoghue and Nick Burns will hope to prosper against Annadale at Carryduff.The highlight of their weekend, though, is likely to be the Mills Cup final date with Three Rock in Grange Road on St Patrick’s Day. Former Rovers’ Ross Canning and Conor Quinn have fond memories of this date having previously landed the title in the Benny Atkinson final, playing in the same team as potential opponents Alan White and Luke Madeley in 2009.
It is the students second chance in recent years to claim a first ever senior title having come close in the Neville Cup final against Railway Union a couple of seasons ago.
Sunday sees four more Leinster men’s cup finals as the season comes to an incredibly early end all round with Mount Temple the venue for four finals. David Bane and Adrian Sweeney will look to inspire Fingal II and Rovers II in the Railway Cup final
Pembroke III, led by David Wilson, take on reigning champions Corinthian III in the Intermediate Cup final with the latter looking to livewires like Stephen Reid and Ciaran O’Shea in combination with Dave McFeely and Gordon Lindsay’s experience.
Rathgar III face Clontarf III in the Junior Cup final while YM V take on St Brendan’s/Phoenix Park in the Minor Cup final.
Men’s Irish Hockey League (all Saturday)
Pool A: Cork Harlequins, vs Lisnagarvey 1.30pm, Farmer’s Cross; Three Rock Rovers vs Cookstown, 3pm, Grange Road; Pembroke Wanderers vs Instonians, 3.30pm, Serpentine Avenue
Pool B: Annadale vs UCD, 2.30pm, Lough Moss; Cork C of I vs Monkstown, 3pm, Garryduff; Banbridge vs Corinthian, 4.30pm, Havelock Park
Leinster Men’s Cup finals
Sunday, at Mount Temple)
Minor Cup final: YMCA V v St Brendans Phoenix Park II, 10am
Junior Cup final: Rathgar III v Clontarf III, 12pm
Intermediate Cup final: Pembroke III v Corinthian III, 2pm
Railway Cup final: TRR II v Fingal II, 4pm
St Patrick’s Day, at Grange Road
Mills Cup final: TRR v UCD, 4pm
Benny Atkinson U-16 Boys Cup final: Railway Union/Monkstown vs Three Rock Rovers, 12pm