With the Irish squad in camp this weekend, the men’s EY Hockey League is reduced to one back fixture with Railway Union hosting Monkstown at Park Avenue on Saturday.For Town, the aim is to end their bizarre run of four successive league defeats in the competition against the other four sides in the top five. Away from the league, they have been flying, reaching two cup finals with their 6-1 win on Tuesday over Fingal setting up a Mills Cup final date against Glenanne.
Those results have seen Town drop ten points off third place and the automatic EY Champions Trophy playoffs though they can qualify directly for the competition if they win the Irish Senior Cup final against Banbridge.
Railway, for their part, are under pressure to avoid the relegation playoff place, especially with a tough run-in that also features ties against Banbridge, Three Rock Rovers and Pembroke.
The Sandymount side’s Mateusz Nowakowski played last week in the Netherlands with the Polish Under-21 squad for a couple of friendlies and was placed on the Poland long-list for World League Round 2.
In the Mills Cup, the Glens, for their part, produced a stunning performance to beat Pembroke 5-1 on Thursday evening to keep alive hopes of first Leinster Senior Cup title since 2008.
It was refix after an initial meeting was abandoned due to dangerous playing conditions. Pembroke had led 3-0 in that first meeting but succumbed to two goals from Clive Kennedy along with efforts from Stu Ronan, Joe Brennan and Shane O’Donoghue.
Kennedy squeezed home the first to set them on their way before O’Donoghue dragged in the second. Brennan made it 3-0 from another set piece before Harry Spain reduced the gap to 3-1 at half time.
Stu Ronan added a stroke in the second half before Kennedy completed the win.
For the Irish panel, they will play a couple of challenge matches with an Irish Under-21 selection on both Saturday and Sunday before final selection takes place for World League Round 2 which starts on March 11 in Stormont.
Peter Caruth, however, has lost his battle for fitness, telling the Belfast Telegraph: “The specialist says my injured ankle isn’t healed enough and the advice is that I’m sidelined for a little longer, and out of the Stormont series.”
Of Ireland’s potential quarter-final opponents, Scotland have named former Irish Under-21 Ben Cosgrove in their panel for WL2. Wales signed off their preparations with a series win in France, recording their second win from three games over a side ranked 17 places above them.
Back in Leinster, YMCA can go back to the top if they beat Dublin University as Corinthian are not back in action until next Thursday – a tricky date at Rathgar who are unbeaten at home.
Rathgar meet Clontarf in a pivotal game in the EY promotion playoffs race; Fingal meet Avoca and Weston play Kilkenny in the other Saturday ties.
Men’s fixtures (all Saturday)
EY Hockey League: Railway Union v Monkstown, 2.15pm, Park Avenue
Leinster Division One: Fingal v Avoca, 1.30pm, NSC; Rathgar v Clontarf, 12.30pm, High School; YMCA v Dublin University, 1.30pm, Wesley College; Weston v Kilkenny, 2pm, Griffeen Valley Park
Mills Cup semi-finals: Fingal 1 (D Brady) Monkstown 6 (D Poff, A Ward,D Carson, K Lynch, N Dee, R Quirke); Glenanne 5 (C Kennedy 2, S O’Donoghue, J Brennan, S Ronan) Pembroke 1 (H Spain)