The men’s EY Hockey League enters its final phase after a three-week international break with the regular season title – and a place in Europe – still very much in the mix.
Banbridge face a testing trip down to Cork C of I to see if they can maintain their slender two-point advantage ahead of Three Rock Rovers. Indeed, Rovers could end the weekend top if they win both their ties, starting on Saturday against Pembroke before travelling to Instonians on Sunday.
Bann will hope their international quartet will have suffered no fatigue issues from World League Round 2 and can use the sharpness of Matthew Bell, Jonny McKee, Eugene Magee and Jamie Wright from that event.
C of I’s John Jermyn missed that tournament as a result of a gash in his leg, sustained as he flipped off a road bike when looking to get back home in a hurry in time to protect his dinner which he had left on the boil.
The injury was sustained in February but a risk of infection meant he was advised to step out of the World League tournament. If that risk has subsided sufficiently, he could return to play an important role – something they need if they are to stave off Monkstown.
Town face UCD in the wake of their Mills Cup final defeat to Glenanne. Gareth Watkins’ shoulder injury has him out while Andrew Ward’s back issues meant he missed that cup tie, adding to Richard Sykes on the absentee list.
They do have a goalkeeping decision to make. David Fitzgerald made his first appearance on St Patrick’s Day and he will vye with Max Maguire for the keeper’s smock for the remainder of the season.
Glenanne, meanwhile, travel to Lisnagarvey for whom Michael Robson remains on the sidelines. The Glens won the return fixture earlier in the campaign – one of just three victories in the competition – but will be bouyed by their all-action win over Monkstown with starring roles from Leo Micklem, David Keogh and Richard Couse.
At the bottom, Instonians travel to nearest rivals Railway Union needing a victory to have any chance of avoiding the drop. Five points adrift, a win could reignite their push; lose and they will have seven points to make up at a minimum with four games to go.
Three Rock have a busy weekend with an Irish Junior Cup final date against Cork C of I on Sunday to test their squad to the limit.
Rovers IIs have been bolstered in recent weeks by former international Peter Blakeney. His battle with David Hobbs in midfield could be a big factor. C of I are the reigning champions but meet a Rovers side who are likely to feature Irish Senior Cup winners like Peter McConnell and Alan Bothwell.
Bray are the reigning champions in the Irish Hockey Challenge and they play Catholic Institute, the 2013 champions in Saturday’s final. Former Glenanne and Monkstown man Alan Lewis – a former Senior Cup winner – provides the guile up front for the Leinster Division 3 side.
South Antrim and North Down meet in an all-Ulster Irish Hockey Trophy final. The former won the title in 2011, the latter in 2009.
In Leinster Division One, Dublin University’s 7-0 win on Tuesday – with four goals from Robbie O’Hanlon – piles the pressure on Clontarf. The results lifts them into third place in the table, marking them as the current side destined for the EYHL promotion playoffs.
Tarf, therefore, need a win over champions Corinthian if they are to make a return visit to the playoffs. YMCA face bottom side Weston with little on the line while Rathgar face Kilkenny.
Men’s fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
EY Hockey League: Monkstown v UCD, 2.15pm, Merrion Fleet Arena; Railway Union v Instonians, 2.15pm, Park Avenue; Cork C of I v Banbridge, 2.30pm, Garryduff; Pembroke v Three Rock Rovers, 2.30pm, Serpentine Avenue; Lisnagarvey v Glenanne, 3pm, Comber Road
Sunday: Instonians v Three Rock Rovers, 3pm, Shaw’s Bridge
Leinster Division One
Tuesday: Fingal 0 Dublin University 7 (R O’Hanlon 4, R Nichols 2, C Hynes)
Saturday: YMCA v Weston, 1.30pm, Wesley College; Corinthian v Clontarf, 2.15, Whitechurch Park; Rathgar v Kilkenny, 4pm, High School
Irish Junior Cup (Sunday): Three Rock Rovers II v Cork C of I, 3.30pm, Belfield
Irish Hockey Trophy: South Antrim v North Down, 12.30pm, Belfield
Irish Hockey Challenge: Bray v Catholic Institute, 2.30pm, Belfield