Serpentine Avenue formally opens the new Pembroke turf on Sunday with a double-header as their men welcome Banbridge at 2pm – prior to the women’s against UCD at 4pm – amid a number of well-matched ties on the card.
For Pembroke, Cedric Mushiete has been injured for the last few weeks after an impressive debut against Cookstown since arriving from Wellington in Belgium. During the national league break, they recorded a healthy 4-1 win over Monkstown – at reasonably full strength bar Davy Carson and Geoff Cole – in the Neville Cup to set up a quarter-final date with Kilkenny.
They meet a Bann side who have had two extra weeks to try and get Eugene Magee and Jonny McKee back to full fitness which would give them an extra bit of punch up front.
At the bottom, Railway Union and Cookstown have a crucial tie at Steelweld Park as both look to record their first points of the season. Both are already four points adrift of safety and so impetus is needed quickly to make sure that gap does not widen.
Indeed, Railway have yet to score in the league as they build a new look side with the likes of Andy Colton, John McEvoy and Will Fernandez coming in this term for Alan Browne’s side, replacing a series of stalwarts who are in Australia.
For Cookstown, they are in no position to be complacent after their four successive defeats as captain Jon Ames points out.
“We have got to hit the ground running on Sunday. We can’t put in anything less than our best. Two years ago, when we last played Railway, I don’t think as a collective we gave them the respect they deserved and they taught us a lesson.
“Railway made their season off away wins that year, against teams who underestimated them. We cannot make that mistake again.
“People will look at their results so far – three home defeats – and think that we will be big favourites to win, but I will be urging our team to not let that talk distract them. Railway are past-masters at survival in this league and it will take an almighty effort for us to get a win over them. I’ve no doubt they will be targeting points from us.”
The Dublin derby between Three Rock and Monkstown is a repeat of last year’s EY Champions Trophy final with the latter looking for their first league win over the Rathfarnham side since the introduction of the national division.
Since the last round of EY matches, Luke Madeley has played in two cup games, scoring four times in wins over Avoca in the Neville Cup and Weston in the Mills and so looks set to make his first league appearance since the opening day against Annadale. Ravin Nair could also return after a few weeks away to add to their defensive options.
Rovers found out their Euro Hockey League schedule this week, knowing when they will meet French side Saint Germain on March 31, 2018.
With that date set, captain Jody Hosking said that it does bring a focus, particularly on the financial side of things, for the club.
“It’s a big year when you are preparing for the EHL and it takes massive commitment from the players and the club. We have a few fundraising events which can be found on our website, www.roversroadtorotterdam.com.
“There is a while to go before EHL but there is a buzz around the players and club. It’s always there in the back of your head.”
Lisnagarvey host Cork C of I in the sole Saturday game on the agenda with the Hillsborough side the ones to watch with three wins from three. Indeed, the calibre of opposition – Monkstown at home, Rovers and Pembroke on the road – makes them the early season favourites with Matthew Nelson, Neal Glassey and Sean Murray the ones to watch.
Leaders Glenanne host Annadale who have made a big impact since promotion with Australians Rhiley Carr and Oliver Flack adding extra power to Peter Caruth’s young side. Carr, indeed, gives them a serious option from corners that the Glens’ defence will need to wary of.
There is a full programme of Leinster league games with YMCA and Clontarf’s a highlight in the chase for a top three finish, two sides who have played in the EYHL playoffs for the past two seasons.
The Irish Junior Cup also starts with 10 first round matches around the country.
EY Hockey League
Saturday: Lisnagarvey v Cork Church of Ireland, 2.30pm, Comber Road
Sunday: Cookstown v Railway Union, 2.30pm, Steelweld Park; Glenanne v Annadale, 3pm, St Andrews College; Pembroke Wanderers v Banbridge, 2pm, Serpentine Avenue; Three Rock Rovers v Monkstown, 2pm, Grange Road
Leinster Division 1 (Saturday): Kilkenny v UCD, 2pm, Kilkenny College; Dublin North v Corinthian, 12pm, NSC Abbottstown; Weston v Dublin University, 12pm, Griffeen Valley Park; YMCA v Clontarf, 2pm, Wesley College; Rathgar v Avoca, 2.15pm, High School
Munster Division 1
Thursday: Bandon 3 (E Nyhan, C Sweetnam, F O’Leary) Ashton 1 (C Kavanagh)
Saturday: Cork Harlequins v Cork Church of Ireland B, 2.30pm, Farmer’s Cross; Limerick v University College Cork, 1pm, Villiers
Irish Junior Cup, first round: Clontarf v Dublin University, 12pm, Mount Temple; Kilkeel v Bandon, 2.30pm, Kilkeel HS; NICS v North Down, 1pm, Stormont; Cookstown v Monkstown, 2.30pm, Steelweld Park; Corinthian v Three Rock Rovers, 2.30pm, Whitechurch Park; Glenanne v Belfast Harlequins, 2.30pm, Glenanne Park; Railway Union v Portadown, 2.40pm, Park Avenue; Mossley v Annadale, 4pm, The Glade; South Antrim v Pembroke, 2.30pm, Friends; UCD v Rathgar, 11.15am, Belfield