Ulster Elks begin their bid for three Irish Senior Cup titles in succession but there are precious few of the panel around who played a role in the previous two ground-breaking successes.
The Elks begin their campaign on Saturday against Railway Union, the side they eliminated from last year’s semi-finals in a penalty stroke competition.
Since then, they have undergone an overhaul with Irish internationals Megan Frazer, Gemma Frazer and Rebecca Barry all moving on to new pastures as have Robyn Chambers, Dawn Axon, Jessica McMaster, Lyn Brown, Kirste Lammey and Danielle Wilson.
Indeed, goalkeeper Rebecca Davidson and Shirley McCay are the only two common threads between the last two seasons’ finals still in situ.
As such, they will be the ones Elks will look to pass on their experiences of the competition as they bid to become the first side since Pembroke – between 1947 and 1950 – to win the competition three years in a row.
Railway come into the tie off the back of two losses and keen to get back on the winning trail while Elks have one win from three outings to date. It is the sole tie between two EYHL sides.
Otherwise, the main interest will probably come from Leinster league sides going well and looking to pick off a scalp against higher tier opposition.
Muckross will be chief among these hopefuls, going to an Ards side with one win from four games. Nicci Daly is back in Ireland after six months in the US and could return to a confident young squad that with Sophie Barnwell lashing in the goals – five to date – alongside Niamh Gowing and Natasha Twomey.
Ards will have the edge in experience and know-how having reached last season’s Senior Cup final while Chloe Brown is, as always, the key player to keep tabs on.
Old Alex will view their trip to UCD as something of a shot to nothing as they aim to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Trinity in the Leinster league.
At Farmer’s Cross, the diverging paths of Cork Harlequins and UCC will be laid bare. UCC got a significant win over Quins last year but ultimately could not stay in the EYHL and have seen a number of players move on in the wake of that relegation.
Quins, meanwhile, have added significantly with Lina Geyer, Rebecca Barry and Naomi Carroll adding international class and they go into the tie as big favourites to advance following four wins from four in the national division.
Trinity and Lisnagarvey’s meeting will be another potentially close run thing. The Dublin students have yet to concede in three games and face a Garvey side with mixed results in their early phases of Ulster league and cup competition.
Loreto travel to Dungannon and should be clear favourites while Limerick face Belfast Harlequins. Hermes-Monkstown’s hosting of Corinthian could be a matter of damage limitation for the latter against the free-scoring national champions.
Irish Senior Cup, round one (all Saturday): Cork Harlequins v UCC, 1pm, Farmer’s Cross; UCD v Old Alex, 1pm, Belfield; Ards v Muckross, 2pm, Londonderry Park; Limerick v Belfast Harlequins, 2pm, Villiers; Ulster Elks v Railway Union, 2pm, Jordanstown; Dungannon v Loreto, 2.30pm, Dungannon; Lisnagarvey v Trinity College, 2.30pm, Comber Road; Hermes-Monkstown v Corinthian, 2.30pm, Merrion Fleet Arena