Six national finals down for decision at Belfield

Six national finals provide the grand finale to the Irish hockey club season with the Irish Junior, Trophy and Challenge finals all playing out at Belfield over the weekend.

Dublin University will look to complete the perfect season when they meet Armagh in the men’s Irish Hockey Challenge in the first match of the jam-packed schedule.

Clontarf's Tom Noonan in semi-final action against Fingal. Pic: Deryck Vincent

Clontarf’s Tom Noonan in semi-final action against Fingal. Pic: Deryck Vincent

The students had endured a rough time of it in recent years, dropping down to division three in Leinster. But Simon Filgas’s side added a string of players with top level experience like Philip Byrne, Robbie Clarke and Jonathan Lewis along with the key addition of a formal goalkeeper in Niall Twaddell.

They won their league with 18 wins from 18 while they also claimed the Railway Cup, beating three higher division oppositions en route. UCC and UCD were also beaten in Intervarsities to suggest Trinity should compete at a higher level.

As such, they perhaps have the favourites tag against an Armagh side that finished second in Ulster’s Senior 2, especially based on IHC results where they shaded ties with Leinster division five side St James’s Gate and four’s Naas 3-2.

Next on deck is Pembroke against Bandon in the women’s Irish Junior Cup final. The Dublin 4 side are in their fourth successive decider with one win from the previous three ties.

The back-to-back Leinster division two champions have a side packed with top level experience with Shona Doyle leading the way while Alice Ward, Rachel O’Reilly and Jessie Elliott are others who can propel them to a ninth IJC title.

Bandon, meanwhile, have never been on this stage but this season’s competition has seen them lay waste to Leinster sides Hermes, Old Alex and Railway Union already as well as Cork C of I.

It is their second successive strong run for John Dennis’s side having reached the semi-final last term. They have added the Munster division two title, too, giving this tie the makings of a potentially cracking tie.

Indeed, it could be a day to remember for the west Cork club as their men are back in the Irish Hockey Trophy for a second successive year.

They meet Clontarf, a side they beat 3-1 last year in the semi-final with Ali Smith scoring a hat trick. The Bulls, though, are looking to be the first Leinster side to win in the competition.

Taming the Mullins brothers Kevin and John will be a pivotal task for Bandon with the former having broken a series of club goalscoring records. They have plenty of other know-how with Gareth Borland, Tom Noonan and Rob Kelly under-pinning the side while they have a top class keeper in Stephen Cairns.

They finished the Leinster league with six straight wins but face a Bandon side used to facing top tier sides like Cork C of I, UCC and Harlequins which could prove a factor.

Sunday’s fare begins with the women’s Irish Hockey Challenge with NUIG facing Wexford with both sides looking for their first title in the competition.

The women’s Irish Hockey Trophy follows with Cork C of I looking to defend the title they won a year ago when they got the better of North Down.

Pembroke's Shona Doyle. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Pembroke’s Shona Doyle. Pic: Adrian Boehm

This time around, their opponent is a Galway side who finished second in Connacht behind Greenfields this year with 10 wins out of 12 in the league.

The weekend concludes with the men’s Irish Junior Cup where Leinster’s top two Monkstown and Three Rock Rovers meet for the third time this season. Like their first team counterparts, Town have shaded their previous games in high-scoring affairs.

The sky-blues won on home turf 4-3 before the sides drew 2-2 in a critical tie in February as Monkstown ended up winning the league by two points.

It is Rovers first final since 2000 – the last of their six titles coming in 1998 – while their opponents have won the competition twice since 2010 and have played in the last two finals.

This year, their side is packed with young players from St Andrew’s like Rory Nichols, Patrick Temperly, Andrew Fogarty, Jazze Henry and Jamie Carr.

Rovers have a similar blend with their Andrew’s team mate James Walker, Sam Grace, Harry McMahon and Ben McCrea offer youth to work with the experience of Paul Fitzpatrick, Alan Bothwell and Peter McConnell. Jonathan Roberts is their one player with a winner’s medal already having played for Corinthian in the 2012 edition.

Weekend fixtures (all at Belfield)
Men’s Irish Hockey Challenge final:
Dublin University vs Armagh, 12.45pm
Women’s Irish Junior Cup final: Pembroke vs Bandon, 3pm
Men’s Irish Hockey Trophy final: Clontarf vs Bandon, 5pm

Women’s Irish Hockey Challenge final:
NUIG vs Wexford, 12.45pm
Women’s Irish Hockey Trophy final: Cork C of I vs Galway, 3pm
Men’s Irish Junior Cup final: Three Rock Rovers vs Monkstown, 5pm

Partners of The Hook