While UCD and Hermes-Monkstown are mathematically assured of a place in the EY Champions Trophy – and Cork Harlequins one win away from joining them – the regular season silverware is still very much a target up for decision.
Indeed, the leading duo are both on the road for tricky away days that could have a bearing on the outcome of that piece of silverware. Hermes-Monkstown go to Cork for a serious test of their unbeaten record, especially after their ding-dong battle earlier in the campaign.
Indeed, Harlequins had a couple of chances to nudge ahead in the closing 10 minutes but eventually fell to a 3-2 loss when Nikki Evans pulled something special out of the bag in the closing minutes.
Quins are on a four-game winning streak in the league in 2017 to go with their run to the Irish Senior Cup final as their international quintet have raised their level markedly this season.
Bizarrely, though, the Cork side have been more efficient on the road with six wins out of seven but have dropped eight points at home. They also won three of their Senior Cup ties in Ulster, showing their appetite for the journey.
UCD, meanwhile, go to Pegasus. The Ulster side have been a mixed bag since the turn of the year but a 1-0 win at Loreto showed their potential with Alex Speers playing a key role while Hannah Grieve impressed at the back.
The students won the return fixture 3-2 in Dublin with top league scorer Sorcha Clarke showing her teeth with a pair of goals. Her side have won five league games on the trot to continue to hold a narrow lead at the top of the table.
It promises to be a busy weekend for Ards and Railway Union who play twice as their refix due to the EuroHockey Indoor Club Champions Trophy gets played on Sunday.
Ards play their first tie of the weekend on Friday evening with a short hop to Belfast Harlequins. The Londonderry Park side kept their outside playoff chances alive with a 2-1 win over Ulster Elks last week and will need six points from the weekend to keep those dreams going.
Belfast Quins, meanwhile, can pretty much assure their place in the division following promotion last term. Defender Claire Kilpatrick returns for them after three months out with two separate hand injuries.
Sixth placed Railway travel to Elks on Saturday before hosting Ards on Sunday. Like their latter opponents, they need a big haul from the weekend to try and close the gap on fourth place Loreto, four points ahead of them at the start of the weekend.
Loreto, for their part, have a Dublin derby against Pembroke at Serpentine Avenue where a win will keep the wolves at bay in the race for fourth for another week at the very least.
In Leinster, Trinity will win the title if they beat Genesis at St Raphaela’s. Unbeaten all season, conceding just seven times in 15 outings, they will be odds-on to do so against a Genesis side in mixed form.
Muckross can assure a playoff place if they beat Avoca; Old Alex have a little more work to do after last week’s loss to Avoca but remain in pole position to beat Glenanne and North Kildare to third place.
EY Hockey League
Friday: Ards v Belfast Harlequins, 8pm, Londonderry Park
Saturday: Cork Harlequins v Hermes-Monkstown, 2.30pm, Farmer’s Cross; Ulster Elks v Railway Union, 2.30pm, Jordanstown; Pegasus v UCD, 4pm, Queen’s; Pembroke v Loreto, 4pm, Serpentine Avenue
Sunday: Railway Union v Ards, 4pm, Park Avenue
Leinster Division One: Glenanne v Our Lady’s, 1.30pm, Glenanne Park; Rathgar v North Kildare, 2.15pm, High School; Corinthian v Old Alex, 3.45pm, Whitechurch Park; Genesis v Trinity, 2.45pm, St Raphaela’s; Muckross v Avoca, 1.15pm, Muckross Park
Irish Hockey Trophy, semi-final: Greenfields v Bandon, 2.15pm, Dangan