Hampstead & Westminster has the look of an Irish corner in London with five people from the island getting their season underway on Sunday against Canterbury.
Stu Loughrey and Neil Hamilton both played for the club last season and have been joined by Olympians Chris Cargo and Mikey Watt along with Geoff McCabe as part of heavy recruitment, including star coach Kwan Browne.
Cargo moves back to London after a couple of seasons with Racing Club de Bruxelles; Watt switches after six successful months at Lisnagarvey while Geoff McCabe moves across town from Surbiton.
Speaking about the move, McCabe said: “I am very excited by the appointment of Kwan Browne as head coach and joining a squad full of experience and top quality international players.
“I want to win the league and qualify for EHL. I’d also like to thank Surbiton for three good years and look forward to competing against them this season.”
They are among a large number of Irish players who either began or begin their seasons across the various different leagues. Also in the Premier League in England, Rowan Poots – following last week’s interpros with Ulster – will be part of the Brooklands MU squad who start with a big tie against reigning champions Wimbledon.
In the Conference East, John Jackson starts a new role with Team Bath Buccaneers where he will play against EHL-bound Cardiff & Met on Sunday. He will coach the women’s first team and play for the men having transferred from Premier Division outfit Reading. He will also be Head of Hockey at Prior Park College in Bath.
In the Netherlands, two Irish men came head to head last Sunday in the opening round of the Hoofdklasse when SV Kampong and Almere played out a scoreless 0-0 draw.
Kampong’s David Harte made a couple of smart saves but was by far the less busy goalkeeper (click here for highlights) in what was Almere’s first ever game in the top division – indeed, they are the only club to have played in each of the top four leagues in the Netherlands.
Three Rock Rovers’ Fred Morris switched to the club a week earlier; Almere is home to Huub de With who helped Rovers win the Irish Senior Cup a couple of seasons ago and served as the link for the teenager to make the switch.
Andy McConnell’s Hurley, meanwhile, drew their season’s opener in a derby with Pinoke. Next up for them is a date with Tilburg. Kampong meet Amsterdam on Sunday in a huge clash on Sunday; Almere travel to fellow promoted side Qui Vive.
Over the border in Belgium, it was a productive day for defenders Conor Harte and Brian Doherty. Harte scored twice for Racing Club de Bruxelles, his club’s third and fourth in a 4-3 win over Herakles.
Doherty, meanwhile, scored a corner in a thrilling 5-4 win over Leuven. The Belgian league now has a massive 50 foreign players playing in the Honour Division but has been rocked by a seismic registration to one of the competition’s star men.
Dutch international Sander Baart was Royal Antwerp’s marquee signing, linking up with his brother Jeroen who is the club coach. But despite his move from Oranje Zwart being sign-posted for many months, it was discovered on the morning of their first game against Oree – a 5-2 loss – that he was not on their formal registration list.
The punishment for this sees him currently barred from playing for the entire season with precedent occurring a few seasons ago for a player at Racing Bruxelles.
In Germany, the Bundesliga starts with a double weekend with Ronan Gormley’s Crefelder taking on Uhlenhorst Mulheim on Saturday before hosting Nuremburg on Sunday.
Megan Frazer starts life as a Mannheimer player on Saturday against Gross Flottbek on Saturday before meeting UHC Hamburg; Zoe Wilson’s Harvestehuder THC face Lichterfelde first and then they meet Berliner.