In the week when Olympic qualification was assured after a 108-year wait, Hockey Ireland will hope the sport can capitalise on the marquee acheivement with an upsurge in interest in the sport.
For the clubs, the first chance to provide a showcase for the game is Saturday’s opening round of the Irish Senior Cup – the world’s oldest formal hockey competition dating back to 1894 – with 26 teams lining out.
The competition, though, this year does not offer a direct route into Europe as in previous years. The winner of the Irish Senior Cup qualifies for the end of season EY Hockey Champions Trophy with the top three finishers of the EY Hockey League where they can subsequently fight for a Euro place.
It is also a first chance to see if a gap is developing between the sides playing in the EYHL national division and those who are still playing at provincial level.
The way the fixtures have fallen, though, would not suggest any ties that are particularly ripe for cup upsets. Reigning champions Banbridge return to the scene of their victory in the spring as they take on UCD in round one.
It is one of eight games between EYHL sides and provincial division one teams. Corinthian will look to bring their decent form from the Leinster league into their tie against Cork C of I, a side with three wins from three to date.
Railway Union host Raphoe, Lisnagarvey play NICS, Annadale take on Belfast Harlequins Monkstown go to Weston and Pembroke are at Clontarf in games that look to heavily favour the national league side.
Glenanne’s tricky start to the season continued with a 3-0 loss on Tuesday evening to Three Rock Rovers in the Mills Cup – Luke Madeley, Luke Chadwick and Garry Ringwood on the mark – but will hope to get back on the horse at Newry.
As such, the more interesting ties may well come from the games featuring sides outside the top tier. UCC play Trinity for the second time this week having won the Intervarsities battle 5-0 last weekend at the Mardyke with Fionn O’Leary, Gary Wilkinson and Wes Brownlow to the fore and they will look for a repeat performance.
Rathgar and Mossley is an evenly balanced fixture on the face of things with Alan Browne having more time to work with the the High School outfit.
High-flying YMCA will look to make it five wins from five when they travel up to North Down.
On Sunday, Monkstown and Pembroke play their refixed EYHL tie from October 10 in their first game at the Merrion Fleet Arena in Rathdown in the highlight of the weekend’s fixtures.
For Town, after two away wins, they are looking to keep pace Cork C of I at the top of the table. Pembroke, meanwhile, will be keen not to lose further ground on the leaders after an early loss to Lisnagarvey.
It’s a game loaded with international talent with Jonny Bruton, Lee Cole, Stephen Cole, Peter Caruth, Kyle Good and Peter Fitzgerald featuring in the recent series against Argentina.
Alan Sothern was Pembroke’s sole inclusion on that front and he will need to be kept quiet. Last year’s battle in this fixture in the Leinster league was an angry block-buster with Pembroke prevailng 3-2 despite five players serving suspensions during the game.
Jason Lynch could be a key influence in midfield following his performances for Ulster Elks in winning the Varsities, beating DIT – who featured Davy Carson – 8-2 in the final.
Men’s Irish Senior Cup (Saturday): UCD v Banbridge, 2.45pm, Belfield; Belfast Harlequins v Annadale, 2.30pm, Deramore Park; Instonians v Avoca, 2.30pm, Shaw’s Bridge; Kilkeel v Cork Harlequins, 2.30pm, Kilkeel HS; North Down v YMCA, 2.30pm, Comber LC; Corinthian v Cork C of I, 2pm, Whitechurch Park; Weston v Monkstown, 2pm, Griffeen Valley Park; Rathgar v Mossley, 1.45pm, High School; Railway Union v Raphoe, 12.30pm, Park Avenue; Clontarf v Pembroke, 11.30am, Mount Temple; Lisnagarvey v NICS, 3pm, Comber Road; Newry v Glenanne, 2.30pm, Newry Olympic; UCC v Dublin University, 3pm, The Mardyke
Byes: Cookstown, South Antrim, Three Rock Rovers
EY Hockey League (Sunday): Monkstown v Pembroke, 3pm, Merrion Fleet Arena