Against the backdrop of the Irish Hockey League debate on Sunday, the women’s Irish Senior Cup gets underway bright and early in the new season with a big name or two set to fall.
Railway Union, winners in 2013, face 2010 winners and 2012 finalists Loreto at Park Avenue in the biggest tie of the round with both fielding new look sides, making this a big test.
The hosts have fielded a number of young players in recent weeks including the Heisterkamp and Carey sisters along with Emer Clarke. They have come in after established stars like Orla Fox moved to Leuven in Belgium, Alex Speers to Pegasus and Jean McDonnell took a year out.To date, they have shown a bit of that transition against North Kildare and Trinity but have come away with four points from six to date but will look to find a bit more of their sharpness up front.
Loreto have a same return from games against Glenanne and Corinthian but they cut loose in the latter tie. Like Railway, they have a very young panel after a number of players retired.
As such, it is a fascinating test of where both teams are at following the changes they have taken in. It is one of six ties taking place in Leinster on Saturday with UCD’s battle with Ards another one to catch the eye.
Ards have bolstered their panel that came so close to landing the Ulster Premier League last year with American Kendall Deck along with Emma Reid while Kerri McDonald is also back after a few years with the Richmond Spiders stateside.
They will look to garner revenge for last year’s 2-1 defeat by the same opponents but know UCD, as reigning double national champions, are the biggest challenge going.
Hermes and Queen’s looks to be another well matched game at Booterstown with the Dublin side fresh from their 8-1 win over Old Alex. Sinead Loughran and Aisling Naughton dove-tailed well and more of the same could see them over the line against a student side who come into the tie on the back of a 1-0 win over Randalstown.
Glenanne enjoyed their run in the Senior Cup last year, getting the better of Pegasus, and they will be looking to score another big result when IHL side UCC come to Tallaght.
They have endured a lot of turnover during the summer with Irish international Miriam Crowley moving to Bristol, Aine Curran to the Ulster Elks and Antonia McGrath has gone on Erasmus.
Clodagh Moloney is a strong addition in defence while Amy-Kate Trevor is a central figure but both Loreto and UCD have found the Glens a tough battle.
After a pair of 1-0 wins, Pembroke will be aiming to continue their fine defensive work for the visit of Randalstown while Trinity host Ballymoney at Santry Avenue.
North Kildare are the one Leinster side who are on the road as they go up to Lurgan, a side in a similar position to them with two losses on their record to date.
Munster champs Cork Harlequins make the long trip north to Portadown while Belfast Harlequins go south to meet Catholic Institute in Rosbrien.
Corinthian, Cork C of I, Greenfields, Lisnagarvey, Old Alex, Pegasus and Ulster Elks all have byes while the draw for the second round will take place on Monday morning in the IHA offices.
Women’s Irish Senior Cup, first round: Catholic Institute v Belfast Harlequins, 1pm, Rosbrien; Glenanne v UCC, 1pm, Glenanne Park; Hermes v Queens, 2pm, St Andrews; Lurgan v North Kildare, 2.30pm, Lurgan JHS; Pembroke Wanderers v Randalstown, 2.15pm, Serpentine Avenue; Portadown v Cork Harlequins, 2.30pm, Edenvilla; Railway Union v Loreto, 2.30pm, Park Avenue; Trinity v Ballymoney, 3.30pm, Santry Avenue; UCD v Ards, 2.45pm, Belfield.
Leinster Women’s Division Two: Rathgar v UCD II, 12.45pm, High School; Genesis v Old Alex II, 1pm, St Raphaela’s; Muckross v Pembroke II, 1.30pm, Muckross Park; Railway Union II v Hermes II, 4.30pm, Park Avenue; Loreto II v Avoca, 5pm, Beaufort