Top four now the target for Champions Trophy slots

With Monkstown and Lisnagarvey winning through to the Irish Senior Cup final, it means that the top four in the men’s EY Hockey League will now all qualify for the end of season’s Champions Trophy.

Initially, three tickets were on offer from the league with the fourth going to the Cup winner. But, with the league’s top two safely through to that final and looking all but assured of a place in the leading places, it means that the fourth place now offers a place at Havelock Park at the season finale.

Railway Union's Mark English. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Railway Union’s Mark English. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Opening up that space means there is likely to be a mad scramble between a series of clubs who have an interest in those playoff places, adding plenty of signifance to some ties.

It means Railway Union and Glenanne’s games against relegation threatened Cookstown and Annadale are important ones that they need to take full points from.

The Glens season has gone off the boil in recent times with three home defeats in succession, falling to Cookstown, Pembroke and Monkstown.

Despite this, they are just two points away from the top four and they have shown a penchant for road trips, winning four times away from home in the league and twice in the Senior Cup.

Sam O’Connor has been one of the stand-out performers of the season and will look to bring his influence to bear on the tie. Dale have a doubt over Michael Robson who spent Ireland’s two games in midweek against France on the sidelines despite being named in the initial panel.

Their need is great for points following just one point from two games against Cookstown, leaving them three points off the Co Tyrone side at the bottom.

Cookstown travel to Railway looking to continue their form that has yielded seven points from their last three games to have them looking upwardly mobile.

Railway won the first meeting of the sides at Steelweld Park with Mark English and James Dick going wild with some great goals and will be ones to watch.

In the current top four, Monkstown have a slight doubt over Gareth Watkins for their tie against Three Rock Rovers at the Merrion Fleet Arena. He picked up a twinge in his leg on Tuesday evening in the Irish game against France.

The last time the two sides met, it was relatively chanceless in a very dour 0-0 draw with neither goalkeeper particularly tested. Monkstown were irresistible at times against Glenanne last weekend and it would seem unlikely that they would not create a number of good chances.

Rovers’ young side, meanwhile, will try and look to the positives from their performance last week against Lisnagarvey in which they produced some superb hockey for much of the tie, building a 3-0 lead.

The downside was that they could not see it out but they were the first side to hold Garvey in normal time since the first week of October.

Garvey, for their part, look to be clear favourites against a Cork C of I side that really needs to get back on the winning trail. Without a win since October 11, David Hobbs’s side have been hauled back into view by Cookstown’s recent run of form.

John Jermyn returned for the second half of their tie against Railway Union a couple of weeks ago and if they can get him back to full fitness, he can make an impact.

Pembroke’s good form, meanwhile, will be put to the test by Banbridge who have been something of a mixed bag of late. Peter Brown has earned rave reviews for his form in recent weeks in midfield, making for a good match-up with Kirk Shimmins.

Pembroke are four points outside the playoff places but will hope that they can close the gap in the coming weeks.

Men’s EY Hockey League (Saturday):
Annadale v Glenanne, 2.30pm, Lough Moss; Lisnagarvey v Cork C of I, 2.30pm, Comber Road; Railway Union v Cookstown, 2.30pm, Park Avenue; Monkstown v Three Rock Rovers, 4pm, Rathdown; Pembroke v Banbridge, 4pm, Serpentine Avenue

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