With wins over four of the other sides in the top six played to date, Lisnagarvey are already showing some ominous signs in the men’s EY Hockey League with the potential to be even stronger in the coming weeks.
Four wins from four in the league have been augmented by an Irish Senior Cup win at Havelock Park with many of their near rivals already beaten while last week’s 10-0 defeat of Cork C of I was another statement with Andy Williamson bringing his total to seven for the season.
Sean Murray said ahead of their game with Cookstown this weekend: “We have had an excellent run of results recently. After good wins against Monkstown, Pembroke, Banbridge and Three Rock, we have made the perfect start.
“The trick is to keep focussed and to give ourselves a chance to win games. There certainly hasn’t been a let up in training. Our short corners have been working well which helps take the pressure off.”
It comes in a week when Paul Gleghorne told the Belfast Telegraph he is coming close to a return to action after a hamstring has kept him out of action since the European Championships in August.
Cookstown, though, have had a good week with a first win of the league campaign backed up by a shoot-out win over Instonians on Tuesday evening in the Irish Senior Cup, setting up a date with Three Rock Rovers in round two.
“We started well, which is great, as that has been a real aim for us over the last two matches,” said striker Greg Allen.”Hopefully, the game sets us up in the best possible way for what will be a really tough match against Lisnagarvey.
“They’ve been going great guns this year, but we’ve put together back to back wins now, and are really keen to put in our best performance against them.
“We’ve a number of lads playing great hockey and hopefully, with a bit of luck, we can come away from that game with a positive outcome.”
In the cup game, Mark Crooks opened the scoring after great work down the right-hand side from Paul Thompson and Stu Smyth. Michael Kerr unleashed a thunderous for 2-0 after intercepting a loose pass.
Inst bounced back to level the tie at 2-2 only for Allen and Timmy Sloan to restore a 4-2 lead. Once again, Inst fought back for 4-4 and straight to a shoot-out. Smyth and Allen both scored and Josh McCabe proved the hero, getting out quick to force the final Inst penalty-taker to fire over the bar.
Elsewhere in the EY league, Banbridge will hope they can end their alarming run of form that has seen them lose five games on the trot – two in the league, two in Europe and one in the Senior Cup.
They host a Three Rock side that, while profligate in front of goals, did end their own dip in form to beat Monkstown 3-1. Rovers do not have a great record at Havelock Park but have Jamie Carr back in training and battling with Conor Quinn – who impressed against Town – for the number one shirt.
Pembroke will look to back up their impressive 3-1 win over Banbridge with a victory over an Annadale side that caused Glenanne plenty of problems last week. Alan Sothern became the first player to hit double-figures for the season with 10 already to his name in six national level competitions.
They have been free-scoring as a result but have also conceded the third most in the division, making for some potential fireworks.
Cork C of I need to make sure there is no psychological hangover from last Saturday’s chastening 10-0 loss to Lisnagarvey as they face a crucial double weekend
It came seemingly out of the blue with a win and a draw in their previous two games. As such, there is a need to bounce back when they meet Monkstown on Saturday and Railway Union on Sunday to make sure they can write it off as a blip.
Over the course of their next three games, C of I will meet three Dublin clubs in succession, all with players who came through their youth system who have since made their home up the M7.
On Saturday, they meet Karl and Jason Lynch who are part of a Monkstown team shorn of their usual bite up front with injured trio Gareth Watkins, Geoff Cole and Davy Carson all absent last weekend against Three Rock Rovers.
On Sunday, bogey side Railway come visiting with the intention of winning at Garryduff for the third successive season. In a much-changed Railway squad, Andy Colton will take on his boyhood club.
For Railway, their weekend starts with a Dublin derby against table-topping Glenanne. The Tallaght side – with Shannon Boucher and Richie Shaw on the sidelines – did not find full fluidity against Annadale but ground out a late winner to keep their lead over Garvey intact.
In Leinster, third plays fourth with Avoca hosting YMCA at Newpark with Adam Pritchard and his defensive partners looking to tame a free-scoring YMCA for whom Grant Glutz and Ben Campbell are among the top-scorers in Leinster at all levels.
Table-toppers Corinthian face Rathgar at home while second place UCD will anticipate adding to their impressive start with a Belfield tie against Weston.
Kilkenny, meanwhile, have been improving game-on-game, something Clontarf will need to be wary of when they meet at the bullring.
EY Hockey League
Saturday: Annadale v Pembroke Wanderers, 2.30pm, Strathearn School; Banbridge v Three Rock Rovers, 2.45pm, Havelock Park; Lisnagarvey v Cookstown, 3pm, Comber Road; Monkstown v Cork C of I, 2.30pm, Merrion Fleet Arena; Railway Union v Glenanne, 1pm, Park Avenue.
Sunday: Cork Church of Ireland v Railway Union, 2pm, Garryduff
Leinster Division 1 (Saturday): UCD v Weston, 11.15am, Belfield; Avoca v YMCA, 12.45pm, Newpark; Clontarf v Kilkenny, 12.45pm, Mount Temple; Corinthian v Rathgar, 1.45pm, Whitechurch Park; Dublin University v Dublin North, 2.30pm, Santry Avenue
Munster Division 1 (Saturday): Cork Church of Ireland B v Ashton, 3pm, Garryduff; Cork Harlequins v UCC, 1pm, Farmers’ Cross; Limerick v Bandon,1pm, Villiers.