The new look men’s Leinster Division One gets underway tomorrow with the battle to claim a place in the EY Hockey League a key target for a number of last year’s remaining Division One side.
To this end, YMCA, Corinthian and UCD look the best placed side in the division to push for the three places in the EY Provincial Playoffs from which promotion to the national league can be achieved.
With the level potentially being wildly divergent due to clubs being drawn from last year’s Division 1, 2 and 3, the season will be split into two phases. Each side plays each other once before splitting into a top five and a bottom five who will contest a pair of mini-leagues.
YM were the closest to the top level last season and have undergone their usual ins and outs between here and the southern hemisphere with Jaco Fourie and Kurt Hensburg returning to South Africa with country man Andrew Buckley and Gabriel Grandis from Brazil moving the other way. Retaining Australians Thom Ritchie and Ed Lawler, though, is an important boon for a young side.
Trevor Dagg’s Corinthian have had a much steadier summer than 12 months ago. though they will miss Karl Smith who has switched to Monkstown. Their cup form last term suggests they can beat anyone on their day.
As is usual for UCD, there have been a large amount of comings and goings with Elun Hack arriving to take on the coaching reins. Several underage internationals have bolstered their ranks though Kirk Shimmins’ switch to Pembroke is a big blow.
Avoca and Rathgar are the other two remaining sides in the top tier in the province with the former’s opening game against Clontarf likely to be informative.
The Bulls won their ultimately unimportant Division 1-2 playoff game last spring against the boot boys and if they can repeat the feat, it could indicate a prolonged push for the upper echelons of th table.
No major departures and the additions of Stephen Ludgate and Stuart Bradley make for an improving outlook. Avoca’s panel has had quite a few changes – underage internationals Andrew Ramsay and Ziggy Agnew have moved on while work commitments have also trimmed their panel but Jonny McCormack is a strong addition.
Rathgar, meanwhile, have had a disjointed preseason with Niall Denham initially committing to coaching the club before being lured back to his boyhood club Three Rock Rovers.
Alan Browne has come in to take on the coaching job for a team whom Stu Cinnamond and Jonny Orr represent the experience.
Fingal host their first fixture at their new home at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown when Kilkenny come visiting. Paddy Gahan, from Glenanne, is the key addition for the hosts while Kilkenny will miss Derek O’Gorman and Tom Manning for hurling season for the next few weeks.
It will be interesting to see how they adapt to the new surrounds as it will for last year’s third tier sides Dublin University and Weston. The students look better placed, especially after their perfect season last time around with league, Irish Hockey Challenge and Railway Cup titles to their name.
Phil Baron and Matt Pluck return to Weston but they will be in a serious battle this season to stay away from the lower reaches of the table.
***Men’s Leinster Division One fixtures (Saturday): Avoca v Clontarf, 12.30pm, Newpark; Rathgar v UCD, 12.30pm, High School; Fingal v Kilkenny, 1pm, NSC; Corinthian v Dublin University, 2.45pm, Whitechurch Park; Weston v YMCA, 3pm, Griffeen Valley Park
Team-by-team breakdown (all based on information received, apologies in advance for any errors and omissions, email email@example.com with updates!)
Last season: 10th Leinster Division One (lost division ½ playoff to Clontarf)
Coaching team: Mark Cullen (sixth season) Allen Richardson (manager)
Players In: Simon Lowry (Railway Union), Jonny McCormack (TRR), Sean Brennan (Bray), Maxi Tixe (Uruguay), Stefan Gallagher (Erasmus, Madrid)
Out: Isaac de Boe Agnew (Monkstown), Andrew Ramsay (UCD), Peter Haughton (studies, Barcelona), Mark Haughton (work, New York), Rob Pearson (work commitments)
The lowdown: A big turnover during the summer with Irish underage internationals Ziggy Agnew and Andrew Ramsay making moves to Monkstown and UCD, respectively, while regulars Rob Pearson Mark and Peter Haughton are also away for the season and Johnny Byrnes is working abroad for four months, too.
On the flip side, Mark Cullen has brought in former Newpark students Jonny McCormack and Simon Lowry, the former adding serious dynamism to the midfield. Stefan Gallagher is a big returnee in goal while Uruguayan player Maxi Tixe is in for a second spell with the club. They have plenty of young players coming through but will need to make a quick impact if they are to make a sustained push for an IHL playoff.
Last season: 3rd Leinster Division 2 (won the Division 1/2 playoff); Irish Hockey Trophy winners; Neville Davin Cup winners; Railway Cup Semi-Final
Coaching team: Head Coach – Gareth Borland (6th season), Assistant/GK Coach – Donal Halpin, Manager – Ian Smyth
Players in: Stuart Bradley (Kilkenny), Stephen Ludgate (Returning from Trinity)
The lowdown: After last years successes, Clontarf will be hoping their young talent can push on again. For the first time in the club’s history, there will be a large proportion of the squad with underage age representation appearances such as underage internationals Kevin Mullins, John Mullins and Dave Power, as well as Luke Hayden and Stephen Ludgate both former Leinster U-21 players.
The next wave of young talent, current Leinster U-16 and U-18 panelists David Lawless, Sean Harper, Oran O’Donnell and Michael Fulham will back up the squad and will push for some Division 1 pitch time during the season.
Stuart Bradley adds extra strength to the squad while Clontarf will blend their youth with the likes of the experienced Steven Cairns, John Lennon, Gareth Borland and Tom Noonan.
Preseason games have included matches against IHL sides Railway Union, Lisnagarvey and Annadale and Clontarf will be aiming to hit the ground running.
Last season: 7th Leinster Division One; Neville Cup Final; Mills Cup Winners
Coaching team: Trevor Dagg and Gordon Elliott (second season)
Out: Karl Smith (Monkstown), Dan Poff (Monkstown)
The lowdown: Last year was a difficult year for the reds as they rebuilt the first team due to nine players departing the squad but produced the goods in the cup competitions, landing the Mills Cup title.
This year, Trevor Dagg is optimistic with a more settled squad, augmented by the return of Johnny Roberts and new recruit George Dagg. This is tempered by Karl Smith’s move to Monkstown while Dan Treacy will be injured for the first few weeks of the season but they are hoping to have him back before Christmas.
Alex Henry has joined the first team panel as number two goalkeeper this year following his involvement with the Irish Under-16s this year at the European Championships.
David Howard and Ian Stewart have been playing for the Joonalup Lakers in Australia who made play offs and return just in time for the start of the season.
Coach Dagg said: “Like many teams in Division 1, our goal is IHL qualification but we understand that’s going to be very difficult with the new league structure. It’ll be interesting to see how that works.”
Coach: Simon Filgas
Last season: 1st Leinster Division 3; Irish Hockey Challenge winners; Railway Cup winners
Players in: Wilf King (Monkstown), Eoin Buttanshaw (Three Rock Rovers), Hugh Lavery (Pembroke), Cillian Hynes (Pembroke)
Out: Philip Byrne (Glenanne), Jonathan Lewis (Erasmus), Stephen Ludgate (Clontarf), Steven Nolan (work, London)
The lowdown: Having got themselves into a sticky predicament, Trinity bounced back in style last year and earned a jump of two divisions with a perfect season last time around. Skating through Division 3, the Irish Hockey Challenge and Railway Cup were also achieved, the latter while defeating a trio of higher division sides.
The summer has seen the usual graduations and assimilations but they will miss the cool head and experience of Philip Byrne and the exuberant skills of Steven Nolan. Their absence – along with Jonny Lewis who is on Erasmus – may stall their push for the top half of the league but they still have plenty of solid performers in Aran Rooney, Conor Stephens and Robbie Clarke. A quartet of additions with knowledge of the higher tiers of Leinster hockey aids their cause.
Last season: 5th Leinster Division Two, Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals
Coaching team: Gerry Wheeler and Eoin Connolly
Players in: Paddy Gahan (Glennane), Tom Fee (Railway Union), AJ Beatty (Monkstown)
The lowdown: Gerry Wheeler is joined on the coaching team by former first team goalkeeper Eoin Connolly who will share the duties for his first season as the club moves from ALSAA to the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown for the coming season. The beach had lost some its fortress qualities in recent years and so they will hope the new surroundings will provide a similarly forebeoding atmosphere for visiting sides.
Paddy Gahan is their key addition while the arrival of Tom Fee and AJ Beatty gives them cover in the goalkeeping department that was an issue last season.
Last season’s captain Shane Dempsey will be a central force while there is plenty of experience to go around in Conor Connolly, Eamonn Bane, Ben Chillingworth, Jim Dunne and Chris Neville on the books.
Last season: 6th Leinster Division 2
Coaching team: Emmett Hughes (player-coach/captain), George Smyth vice-captain (fairly democratic coaching structure)
Players in: David McClure (UCD), Billy Dore (UCD)
Out: Probably Stu Bradley (Clontarf)
The lowdown: Kilkenny are excited about the challenge of being competitive in Leinster League Division 1. It will test their resources as the club move down to one men’s league team with a second team looking for friendlies and participating in cup hockey post christmas (probably at Minor and Walters cup).
The first team hope to be able to pick from 20 to 25 players but this is often very changeable. Emmett Hughes is hoping to further integrate young players into the squad such as Bill McDowell and Louis Bourke and the return of Dave McClure from UCD is very welcome.
Currently, they have no retirements but the logistical difficulty involved in regular distance travelling means that player availability is constantly compromised. Waterford native and potential Munster U-18 player Matthew Treacy has a broken bone in his hand and is the one current injury.
Derek O’Gorman and Tom Manning will be hurling for first few weeks so their availability for first couple of league games is currently unknown.
Last season: 9th Leinster Division 1; Mills Cup quarter-final; Neville Cup quarter-final; Irish Senior Cup second round
Coaching team: Alan Browne (1st season)
Players in: Neal Megarity (Dublin University), Steven Roberts (Three Rock), Paddy O’Connor (YMCA) and Peter Collins (Pembroke)
Out: Max Prendergast (emigrated), Arjen Van As (Pembroke)
The lowdown: Alan Browne took over the reins at short notice, stepping in when Niall Denham made the decision to move to boyhood club Three Rock Rovers. He takes on a side that will again look to the likes of Jonny Orr and Stu Cinnamond to lead the way but will miss the experience of Gary Sharman and Stephen Thompson who will most likely take a step back from the first team this season. Freddie Hill will be more available while Shane Gould is set to return in the New Year after a year travelling. A couple of decent additions, notably former Trinity and Three Rock player Steven Roberts, strengthens their hand but Corinthian, YMCA and UCD will probably be out of reach in the battle for a shot at the IHL.
Last season: 8th Leinster Division One
Coaching team: Elun Hack and Gavin Bourke (first season)
Players in: Jazze Henry (Monkstown), David Nolan (Monkstown), Ben McCrea (TRR), Leo Micklem (YMCA), Stephen Dawson (TRR), Andrew Ramsay (Avoca), Rob Browne (Monkstown), Iain Styles (Monkstown)
Out: Conor Quinn (TRR), Kirk Shimmins (Pembroke), David McClure (Kilkenny), Billy Dore (Kilkenny), George Dagg (Corinthian)
Elun Hack, though, may be working off a wider base of talent this season with Jazze Henry, David Nolan, Ben McCrea and Andrew Ramsay all bringing plenty of representative honours to the table. Jeremy Duncan, Shane Madeley and David McCrea are still around for another season and they look to be in good shape for a top three push in the league.
Last season: 5th Leinster Division 3
Coach: Rory O’Donoghue (first season)
Players in: Matt Pluck (Railway Union), Philip Baron (Railway Union), James Murtagh (Suttonians), Joey Benzies (returns from UK), Rhys Coleman (Glennane)
Out: Ricthie Bagnall (studies), Paul Lawson (gap year abroad)
The Lowdown: At Griffeen Park, Weston welcome new coach Rory O’Donoghue on board for their Division 1 campaign. He is under no illusions that this is going to be a very tough year, after Weston find themselves in illustrious company in Division 1 after the IHL shake-up, moving up from mid-table in Division 3.
The loss of captain Paul Lawson is neutralised by the return of Phil Baron and Matt Pluck from Railway, bringing with them experience of hockey at this level. Once again, the backbone of the team will be provided by King’s Hospital old boys Karl Goodwin, Adam Clayton and Nevan Jio, with current KH captain Conor Murphy adding youthful energy to the midfield.
A good start is vital with two home games in the first three league fixtures. Realistically? The Reds would bite your hand off if you offered them a third from bottom finish today!
Last season: 6th Leinster Division One
Coaching team: Jason Klinkradt (second season), Peter Chadwick (Manager)
Players in: Andy Keane (TRR), John Pearson (Railway), Gabriel De Grandis (Brazil), Andrew Buckley (South Africa)
Out: Luke Chadwick (TRR), Jaco Fourie, Andrew Meates (UCD), Korbi Grisel, Kurt Hensberg
The lowdown: As usual it’s been an up and down off season for YM with the new challenge of Division 1 on the horizon, approaching it with a young-looking side that is giving cause for optimism.
Jason Klinkradt returns as coach for a second season, joined by fellow South African Andrew Buckley replacing Jaco Fourie and Kurt Hensburg who return to their homeland. Australian duo Thom Ritchie and Ed Lawlor are also back and will look to step up again with a season under their belt in Ireland.
There is exciting young talent in the side and, with the unflappable Iain Walker between the sticks, YM will no doubt be in the mix for the Division 1 title