Munster Hockey gets late reprieve for season to start on time

Munster Hockey’s threat of a blanket cancelation of fixtures – as reported in Tuesday’s Irish Examiner – has been put on hold but the threat remains in place should no nominations for a vice-president of the provincial organisation be forthcoming.

The body had said no league matches would take place this weekend if the position was not filled but a meeting in midweek agreed to postpone the nuclear option.

Belvedere return to the top tier in Munster following an epic unbeaten 2016/17 season. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Instead, a mandatory meeting has been set for October 9th at the Firgrove Hotel in Mitchelstown where clubs can air their views and aspirations for their governing body. The branch hope the meeting can stimulate interest in the vice-president role but if the situation remains up to November 1st, “all Munster Branch activities will cease”.

“We have no wish to go that route and are relying on our clubs to take the necessary action in all our interest,” honorary secretary Sally Kavanagh said this week.

It means that women’s Munster Division 1 can get underway on Saturday with UCC prime contenders to retain the title and push for promotion back to the top tier EY Hockey League.

Led by Clodagh Moloney and Kate Harvey, they have recruited extensively with Quercus scholar Hannah Humphreys – from Ashton – a big addition among a glut of players trying out for the side

Former Irish women’s senior coach Denis Pritchard is an excellent appointment on the sideline. UCC go to Limerick in round one looking to set the tone for the campaign.

Cork C of I’s trip west to Bandon – regular contenders on the Irish Hockey Trophy scene – looks set to be the game of the weekend.

The Garryduff side is reasonably settled with Emily O’Hara and Abi O’Mahony among the youngsters adding to their line-up, though a trio are trying their hand with UCC. Graham Catchpole has moved across from Ashton to take up the coaching reins.

Les Ruddock is now in the hot seat with Ashton and they have an interesting crosstown battle with Belvedere on day one of the season following their return to the top table after a lengthy spell away.

Catholic Institute make the long trip across the province to face Waterford on Saturday. Insta club man Ollie O’Connor returns to coach the team after a long spell in Galway and will work with Ger O’Carroll as the Rosbrien side look to continue to promote from their strong youth section.

Team by team previews
Last season: 7th Munster Division 1

Coach: Les Ruddock (first season)

Players in: Wendy O’Morchoe (returning to hockey)
Players out: Kate Lenihan, Anna Kingston, Lorna McCutcheon, Hannah Humphreys, Rebecca Allen (all UCC), Stephanie Baker (Cork C of I)

Overview: Ashton had two preseason friendlies, both against C of I, which were great opportunities for new coach, Les Ruddock, to try players in various positions. Both games were tightly contested (0-0 draw and a 3-1 loss).  The club currently boasts three girls on the U-16 Munster team and, below that, plenty of talent on Munster development panels.

More experienced players like Cliodhna Murphy, Kate Gray, Ailse Holland and Louise Riordan will be pivotal as they look to push on from last year and develop their young charges. Mary-Claire Cummins will miss the first few weeks of the season, but will be rejoining the team after her wedding in October which will be a big boost.

Bandon – no details provided to date

Last season: Munster Division 1B champions; Irish Hockey Challenge champions, Munster Division 1B Cup winners

Players in: Emma Coleman (UCC)
Players out: Clare Lee (USA)

Overview: There is great excitement in Belvedere Hockey circles as their  Ladies first team make a welcome return to the top flight of hockey in Munster. This follows on from an incredible season last year when they went undefeated and won the Irish Hockey Challenge, Division 1B League and Munster Division 1B cup.

The team is made up of homegrown talent, players who have come through the vibrant juvenile section in Ballincollig. The club welcomes back Emma Coleman who has completed her studies in UCC and who played with all of the underage teams.

There are also some very promising young players looking likely to break into the senior team. One of the club’s younger stars, Clare Lee, is heading to the USA for study but her loss will be compensated by the return from the USA later in the season of Cliona Barrett. Anne O’Donovan is stepping down from senior hockey and will be a loss.

The team is captained by local Ballincollig girls Judy Murphy as captain and Aoife Barrett as vice captain and coached by former Belvedere and Munster star Joe Mulcahy. Mulcahy is hoping to continue his hugely successful record with this panel of players in the new season. He is ably assisted by Colette Coomey.

Kym Daly will lead Catholic Institute for 2017/18. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Catholic Institute
Last season: 3rd Munster Division 1; Munster Senior Cup semi-final

Players in: Laura Foley (Limerick), Muireann Scanlon (Limerick)
Players out: Jenny Clein (UCC), Bella Murphy (Old Alex)

Overview: Lifetime club member Ollie O’Connor returns to coach the side having coached up in Galway for the last few years. He has support from Geraldine O’Carroll with Brenda Moloney as manager – both are on the management of the Munster Under-18 girls as well.

Kym Daly captains the side and she is looking forward to seeing how the club’s young stars rise through the ranks over the course of the season:

“We pride ourself in Institute in putting a lot of time into young player development. Our seconds and thirds are both very youthful sides with 33 Under-16s moving up to our thirds this year and seven moving from our thirds to our seconds; and three players moving from our seconds to our firsts.

“Our goal this season is to compete for the Irish Trophy and to win Munster Division 1 with the long term goal to get back into the EHYL which we haven’t competed in since a few seasons back [in the old IHL format].”

Cork C of I
Last season: 2nd Munster Division 1.

Coach: Graham Catchpole (first season)
Players in: Stephanie Baker (Ashton)
Players out: Aoife Collins, Aoife Dunlea, Chloe Fenton (all UCC)

Overview: The squad is quite settled after a good finish last season but the side have lost a number of key younger players to UCC.  This has opened the door for a number of the younger players stepping up with Emily O’Hara and Abi O’Mahony impressing during preseason.

The club is hoping to continue to build this season with the goal of making IHL2.  The club will also be hoping for a strong cup run both in Munster and in the Irish Hockey Trophy.

In preseason, the side have played a series of friendlies to suggest they will be competitive once again, including the Munster U-18 boys (2-0 loss), Ashton (0-0 draw and 3-1 win) and Belvedere (5-0 win).

Limerick – no details provided to date

Last season: Munster Senior League Winners. Munster Senior Cup runners up.

Coach: Denis Pritchard and John McGrath
Players in: Hannah Humphreys (Ashton), Jenny Clein (Catholic Institute), Aoife Collins (C of I), Judy Mills (Harlequins), Kate Linehan (Ashton), Chloe Fenton (C of I), Lorna McCutcheon (Ashton), Anna Kingston (Ashton), Julie Poland (Harlequins).
Players out: Ciara Sexton, Alex O Grady (Harlequins), Emma Barber (Harlequins)

Overview: An influx of new arrivals mean UCC will have a much larger panel for new coaches Denis Pritchard and John McGrath to work with. Pritchard returns to UCC after many years away from the college group, including a spell as Irish women’s senior coach. He is accompanied by previous Munster Under-18 boys coach McGrath.

Clodagh Moloney is one of the leading lights with an ambitious UCC this term. Pic: Adrian Boehm

UCC began their 2017/18 season with their new coaching staff in Galway, winning the So Hockey preseason tournament, playing four games in two days. This was a great opportunity for the college side to come together as a team before the season begins.

With Rachel Foley out for the foreseen future with injury, the young college side will be relying on the experience and prowess of Kate Harvey and Quercus scholar Clodagh Moloney to lead the team. Combining this with the talented freshers like Jenny Clein and Quercus scholar Hannah Humphreys the college team will be looking to trump the Munster League again this year and go one further at the EHYL qualifiers, earning a spot in next years competition.

Waterford – no details provided to date
Last Season: 6th Munster Division One

Coach: Stuart Greene (first season)
Players out: Sue Ryan (Galway)

Overview: Waterford welcome Stuart Greene into the coaching role for the season having been a long-time key player in the development of the men’s side of the club. They travelled to Galway to the So hockey tournament in preseason which was a good experience for the newly introduced younger players and to gel as a unit. This year will be a transitional period for Waterford ladies first team introducing many of those rising players. That forms their ambition for this season, their development and integration with the club’s experienced players.

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