The first tranche of the Leinster league season comes to an end this weekend with three well-matched ties in men’s division one, two of which will have a big effect on the potential IHL placings.
At the top, leaders Monkstown host fourth placed Glenanne in a tie that doubles as the Gerry McCabe Memorial Trophy match.
Victory will assure Graham Shaw’s side top spot over Christmas. The Glens, though, are the only side to have taken points off Town and if they can snatch a result, they can move into a share of first.
Town have been without Irish international goalkeeper David Fitzgerald through injury for much of the past month but Jamie Carr has been an able deputy between the posts.He is one of a series of St Andrew’s boys who have lined out in recent weeks with David Nolan and Jazze Henry joined by Geoff Cole last time out in the impressive IHL win over Pembroke.
The Glens, though, are building up to a busy festive period with the Neville Cup final title defence on St Stephen’s Day and have been unbeaten in the league since September 20, winning six times in succession after a slow start.
That has occurred in spite of a big injury list. Eddie O’Malley is back in action though Rowland Rixon-Fuller and Gary Shaw both picked up broken bones and are long term absentees.
Pembroke host Railway Union in another key battle for the top four placings. On the opening day of the season, the Serpentine Avenue side showed a more clinical edge to see off their Dublin 4 neighbours who held lots of possession but could not convert their chances.
Peter English’s presence has been missed for Railway at corner time due to his tennis elbow but the side have had more consistent use of Spanish player Miguel Villar in recent weeks while Australian James Dick is back from injury, too.
Mick O’Connor missed out last week for Pembroke but could return for a Pembroke side who scraped to wins over Avoca and Corinthian in their past two outings, both times coming from a goal down to grab the win.
On Sunday, meanwhile, Avoca face UCD in a bottom of the table clash on Sunday. Uruguayan Maxi Tixe has given the Blackrock side plenty of impetus in recent times but they will need to tame Kirk Shimmins and keep tabs on Shane Madeley and Ben Dobson if they are to get off the mark for the season.
Elsewhere, the Irish senior men’s team have opted for warm-weather training in South Africa in January, rather than Alicante this week, as their key preparation camp ahead of next February’s World League Round Two competition in San Diego.
That tournament in California marks the first phase in the Olympic qualifying process with a top three finish required to go through to the all-important round three where tickets to Rio 2016 will be doled out.
Craig Fulton’s charges were due to play four games each against Poland and Spain this week but the decision was taken to cancel this trip in favour of Cape Town in the New Year.
There, they will meet three sides that competed at the 2012 Olympic Games – world number two side the Netherlands, fourth ranked Belgium along with the South African hosts.
Speaking about the trip, Fulton said: “It is the perfect training environment and we couldn’t ask for better opposition. It has been an exciting past nine months [since taking the job] and we are really looking forward to achieving in 2015”.
Men’s Leinster Division One
Saturday: Monkstown v Glenanne, 1pm, Rathdown; Pembroke v Railway Union, 1pm, Serpentine Avenue
Sunday: Avoca v UCD, 12.30pm, Newpark
Leinster Indoor League
Sunday, December 21 (at St Columba’s): Railway Union v Wicklow, 6.10pm; Avoca v Three Rock Rovers, 7.10pm