Top four tussles lay stage for a Christmas cracker in men’s EYHL

A Christmas special in the men’s EY Hockey League sees the top four meet each other with the chance for something of a shake-up when Glenanne host Pembroke and Lisnagarvey play Three Rock Rovers.

For leaders Glenanne, they meet one of just two clubs to have taken points off them in the first half of the campaign when they meet at St Andrew’s.

Shane O’Donoghue on the attack against Lisnagarvey’s Ryan Getty. Pic: Sinead Hingston

The Glens incredible run so far this season has owed much to self-belief and their ability to dig out results no matter what the situation. Twice, they have come from two goals down to win; only one game has been won by more than a single goal while there have been last ditch winners, too.

Eddie O’Malley has enjoyed a new lease of life, leading the front line with his poacher’s instinct netting six times. Shane O’Donoghue’s influence in midfield, Sam O’Connor’s impetus from the back and the key signing of Iain Walker in goal give them strength through each line.

For Pembroke, Alan Sothern has once again piled on the goals, his 16 goal total more than double anyone else in the EY Hockey League. Tim Hill is back in Dublin and adds energy and experience to the line-up while Belgian Cedric Mushiete has been a strong addition since his return from injury.

The Ballsbridge club advanced to the semi-final of the Neville Cup in midweek with a 6-0 win over Kilkenny, setting up a date with UCD. Three Rock host Trinity in next Tuesday’s other semi-final for a place in the St Stephen’s Day decider.

At Comber Road, the pitch was playable on Friday evening and they will hope the turf can avoid the frost overnight to allow the Lisnagarvey get the go-ahead.

Rovers go to Garvey looking to make better use of their corners than their first meeting. In a 2-1 loss in their first meeting, they spurned nine set pieces as they missed the services of main flicker Luke Madeley.

He is one of three players to have returned since then including Ravin Nair and Jamie Carr but Richard Pautz and David Kane are both injured while Mitch Darling is also unavailable. Ross Canning is available after scoring three goals at the PSi All-Stars games in South Africa.

Paul Gleghorne was not involved the last time the sides played but is back for a Garvey side who look to be close to full strength for the tie. They aim to leap-frog from third into second in a repeat of last season’s Champions Trophy semi-final – the sides are the two top scorers in the division and so there could be fireworks.

Monkstown can close the gap to the leading quartet if they can continue to pile on the frustration for Banbridge. Bann are waiting for their first win in the competition since day two of the campaign, picking up just one point from their last five games with a lengthy injury list.

Monkstown’s form, though, has also been mixed with two points from their last nine available but – with Stephen and Geoff Cole back – they did score a good draw against Glenanne last week.

In the bottom half, Cookstown will be gunning for a little bit of revenge against Ulster rivals Annadale. Earlier in the season, the Reds were on the back of a 4-1 defeat to the Carryduff men at Steelweld Park.

“We are going into the match against Annadale in pretty good form,” said Cookstown skipper Jon Ames. “Our performance against Monkstown, particularly in the final quarter, should give us a lot of confidence as well as setting out the standards that we will need to get back to if we want to get a positive result from the game at Strathearn.

“Annadale showed a real threat on the counter-attack against Monkstown, and so we will have to be ready to nullify and disrupt that where we can. We can’t forget their strength at short corner time through Rhiley Carr either.”

Cork C of I will look to do the double over Railway Union to close out 2017 in mid-table in the men’s EY Hockey League table and well clear of any relegation thoughts.

It comes just five weeks since C of I rolled over the Sandymount club at Garryduff with John Jermyn scoring one of his seven goals to date with Alec Moffett also chipping in.

Neil Welch’s team have been inconsistent with heavy defeats punctuated by solid results against sides in the bottom half of the table.

Jermyn’s corners and Julian Dale’s wizardry are critical, giving them a bit of magic. Railway have been defensively robust for the most part but have lacked the spark and the set piece up front to get more from organised performances.

Elsewhere, there are a couple of Irish Hockey Trophy ties on the agenda with UCC facing Cork Harlequins in the first round while Weston and Newry try again after their second round game was frozen out last week.

The first series of Leinster indoor games takes place on Sunday. The competition will feature reigning champions Three Rock Rovers, Railway Union, Wicklow, Glenanne, Corinthian and Pembroke.

Men’s fixtures (all Saturday)
EY Hockey League: Glenanne v Pembroke, 2pm, St Andrew’s; Annadale v Cookstown, 2.30pm, Strathearn; Lisnagarvey v Three Rock Rovers, 3pm, Comber Road; Railway Union v Cork C of I, 3pm, Park Avenue; Banbridge v Monkstown, 3.30pm, Havelock Park

Irish Hockey Trophy, first round: UCC v Cork Harlequins, 3pm, The Mardyke
Second round: Weston v Newry, 1.30pm, Griffeen Valley Park

Munster Division 1: Limerick v Bandon, 11.30am, Villiers

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