Most eyes will be on Serpentine Avenue as the battle for the final Irish Hockey League semi-final place will be played out by Pembroke and Instonians, bidding to join Three Rock Rovers and all-but-qualified reigning champions Monkstown in the final four.
Both sit on 12 points after four rounds of group matches with three out of four wins to date but Inst will be acutely aware that their least trip to Dublin 4 ended in a harrowing 6-1 defeat in October in the Irish Senior Cup.Nick Burns got a hat trick that day as they proved far too good that day. Once IHL hockey was secured in the Leinster league, Pembroke’s form tailed off a little bit with just one win in their last four games but they have shown a passion for the big games this season and Dave Passmore and Paddy Conlon will be plotting a method for peaking for an assault on two national fronts.
The Belfast Newsletter reports that Instonians will be understrength for the trip that they need to win to progress.
Town are mathematically not fully there but need to avoid a highly unlikely 13-goal defeat to Annadale and a draw between Pembroke and Inst to ensure that they return to the final four. Cookstown and UCC play in the other tie at Steelweld Park.
In Pool B, Banbridge and Lisnagarvey will battle for the second spot in the semi-finals behind Three Rock Rovers who are the tournament’s only perfect record.
Bann need a point to go through but a two-goal loss could open the door for Garvey who must target at least a four-goal win over Cork C of I to put them in the frame on goal difference – no mean feat against a side they lost to in the Irish Senior Cup.
At Havelock Park, a draw for Rovers against Bann would see them top the rankings going into the finals weekend. The sides will play Under-14 challenge matches as part of the occasion. Railway will use their tie against UCD as practice for their Irish Senior Cup semi-final a week later.
Clontarf beat Avoca 4-1, meanwhile, in a precautionary Leinster division one/two playoff game, becoming just the second first division two side to win such a tie.
Tom Noonan scored early on before the Blackrock side equalised from a penalty corner rebound via Cliff Bailey. The Bulls restored the lead and were 3-1 up by half-time via Kevin Mullins and Noonan’s second goal.
Luke Hayden scored off the back of a long corner move five minutes into the second half before a string of cards made for a messy second half of few chances.
Men’s Irish Hockey League (all Saturday at 2pm)
Pool A: Cookstown v UCC, Steelweld Park; Monkstown v Annadale, Rathdown; Pembroke v Instonians, Serpentine Avenue
Pool B: Banbridge v Three Rock Rovers, Havelock Park; Cork C of I v Lisnagarvey, Garryduff; Railway Union v UCD, Park Avenue
Leinster division one/two playoff: Clontarf 4 (T Noonan 2, K Mullins, L Hayden) Avoca 1 (C Bailey)