Pembroke and Lisnagarvey meet for the second time in three weeks at Serpentine Avenue as one of the major contenders for the men’s Irish Senior Cup will fall at the first round stage on Saturday.
It marks the clear tie of the round in the world’s oldest club hockey cup competition, dating back to 1893. Pembroke – with six wins – and Lisnagarvey – 23 – are among two of the more decorated sides in the competition but both have had a little break from the top prize.
For Pembroke, their last win was in 2009 while Garvey are on a drought of sorts, dating back to 2005, and they were frustrated to miss out last term in a penalty shoot out in a controversial final.
It was one blot on an otherwise spectacular season and they have not lost in normal time in 12 months at this stage. Nonetheless, coach Errol Lutton says there is little likelihood of his side running away with things this year and that the top clubs are closer than ever.
When they met in the EYHL two weeks ago, there was the rare sight of Alan Sothern having a penalty stroke saved by James Milliken, the new number one at Garvey. The Ulster side eventually prevailed 2-1 in something of a battle.
Incredibly, Sothern has scored three strokes since that moment and shown superb form around the field to galvanise a new look Pembroke. How much Lutton and Jonny Caren have learned from their previous meeting is fascinating sub-plot.
Otherwise, perhaps the main interest is how some of the Leinster league sides front up, in particular Clontarf’s meeting with YMCA is an interesting one. Both have ambitions of emerging from the provincial league and reaching the playoff stages of the EYHL promotion battle at the very least.
The Y featured the hugely experienced Shane Davey in goal last week against Corinthian with Iain Walker unavailable. He has been a key component in the club’s third team for the past season and a bit having previously played for Three Rock Rovers and, for a time, with Monkstown at the top of the game over a decade ago.
For Tarf, the absence of Kevin Mullins has stymied their sharp edge in front of goal while Gareth Borland has stepped back from playing for the moment. They are unbeaten but two draws compared to two high-scoring wins for YM suggest the momentum is with the visitors to Mount Temple.
Bar a mauling by YMCA, Rathgar have had a reasonably fruitful start to the season with Alan Browne’s side relishing their hosting of UCD – also in upbeat form – in High School.
The Belfielders, bolstered by the arrival of Ziggy de Boe Agnew, have plenty of weapons to hurt the Chiefs but there are enough former Trinity members in their panel to want to get one over on their colours rivals.
Mark Cullen’s Avoca travel to Ulster Premier side Mossley off the back of wins over Kilkenny and Weston. The Ulster side has one win from three to date in the current campaign and so this is a decent match between mid-table in the respective leagues.
Corinthian’s high fliers face a struggling Raphoe at Whitechurch Park while Portadown meet Inst in an all-Ulster clash.
Cookstown’s trip to Kilkeel is another interesting one. The Mourne men have won all three of their Ulster Premier ties to date but Cookstown are also going well with two wins and a draw.
German goalkeeper Tobias Depperman has come in for them in place of long-serving net-minder Ian Hughes while Greg Allen is still as dangerous as ever, scoring the key goal in victory over Newry last weekend.
Three Rock Rovers will fancy their chances on the road to NICS, meeting a side yet to win in the Ulster league. Likewise, Cork C of I travel with confidence to Belfast Harlequins after three big wins in a row in the EY league.
A number of the big guns have received a pass to the second round with reigning champions Monkstown and 2015 winners Banbridge getting a bye. Potential outside shots Railway Union and Glenanne are also through along with Leinster Division One duo Kilkenny and Dublin University as are Ulster Premier side Annadale who are unbeaten in all competitions to date.
On the women’s side, Glenanne face Trinity in a Division One game brought forward due to the intervarsities.
Men’s Irish Senior Cup, first round (all Saturday): Rathgar v UCD, 3pm, High School; Belfast Harlequins v Cork C of I, 2.30pm, Deramore Park; Kilkeel v Cookstown, 2.30pm, Kilkeel HS; Mossley v Avoca, 2.30pm, The Glade; NICS vs Three Rock Rovers, 2.30pm, Stormont; Pembroke v Lisnagarvey, 2.30pm, Serpentine Avenue; Portadown v Instonians, 2.30pm, Edenvilla; Clontarf v YMCA, 12.30pm, Mount Temple; Corinthian v Raphoe, 12pm, Whitechurch Park
Byes: Railway Union, Monkstown, Glenanne, Kilkenny, Dublin University, Annadale, Banbridge
Women’s Leinster Division One (Saturday): Glenanne v Trinity, 3.30pm, Glenanne Park