Club hockey on a national level eases back into action on Saturday for the new year with a trio of refixed Irish Senior Cup ties at Ulster venues taking centre-stage while the Leinster focus is indoors and on the Jacqui Potter Cup.
For the Senior Cup, the competition’s most decorated side Lisnagarvey host Railway Union, looking to take a step towards a first title since 2005. Indeed, only Paul Gleghorne of their current vintage has a winners’ medal to his name, won while he was a schoolboy playing for Instonians.
With a half dozen of senior internationals, they will be heavy favourites against the EYHL basement side, especially after a reasonably comfortable 2-0 win in Dublin before Christmas.
Railway, though, will be buoyed by their positive sign-off to 2017 when they beat Cork C of I to finally grab their points of the season. Elsewhere, Pembroke – with the return of their Munster contingent – look well placed to take victory at South Antrim, mid-table in the Ulster Premier league.
Two other Premier sides – Mossley and Belfast Harlequins – square off in the other tie, ensuring the division will be represented in the quarter-finals. The other two outstanding Senior Cup ties – Three Rock against Cookstown and Queens against Glenanne – will be played on January 13.
At St Columba’s, the group stages of the men’s Leinster indoor competition comes to a close with 10 games being played in rapid-fire form. Perennial challengers Three Rock and Railway Union look to be all but assured of semi-final spots with Glenanne, Pembroke, Wicklow and Corinthian battling for the other two places.
There are four games in the women’s indoor competition split over Saturday and Sunday with January 14 the moving day for the eight runners riders in their competition.
Nine Jacqui Potter Cup ties are also divided between Saturday and Sunday with plenty of intrigue with Leinster Division Two sides looking to take down Division One outfits.
Div Two leaders Railway Union II will look to break down Genesis’s tight-knit defences with Pembroke waiting in round two.
Naas – second in the second tier – will hope their form will carry against Division One bottom side Clontarf at Caragh Road; the winner faces a battle with reigning national champions UCD.
Indeed, only one of the nine ties features teams from the same tier with Avoca looking to cause a shock against high-flying Old Alex on Sunday afternoon.
There are already a couple of enticing ties in round two confirmed with the draw pitting Hermes-Monkstown against Loreto while Railway Union’s firsts meet Trinity.
Elsewhere, David Harte had little to do on opening day of his latest adventure as his new UNIKL began their Malaysian Hockey League campaign with a thumping 10-0 victory over Selangor on Wednesday.
The winter break is usually a time for the Cork man to link up with Dabang Mumbai in the lucrative Hockey India League for the last few seasons.
The HIL, however, has been put on hiatus for 2018, leading to the Malaysian equivalent of the competition stepping into the gap in the market and has managed to attract a number of world stars with Harte joined at UNIKL by Australian World Cup winner Kieran Govers and Dutch superstar Sander de Wijn.
The goalkeeper – who is on the shortlist for FIH Goalkeeper of the Year for 2017 having won the award for the last two years – was co-opted by former Irish assistant coach Arul Anthoni who now heads up the Kuala Lumpur club.
“I’ve always enjoyed the style of hockey Malaysian teams play. Having played against Malaysia many times before, I am aware of their open play and expressive style,” said Harte.
“I have known Arul for many years. I was offered to play here before but I could not then due to other commitments.”
The competition will run until mid-February and Harte will likely be back in Malaysia later that month with the Irish side for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup before returning to his regular Dutch club SV Kampong.
Irish Senior Cup, round 2 (Saturday): Lisnagarvey v Railway Union, 3pm, Comber Road; Mossley v Belfast Harlequins, 2.30pm, The Glade; South Antrim v Pembroke Wanderers, 2.30pm, Friends School
Munster Division 1 (Saturday): Cork Church of Ireland B v Limerick, 2pm, Garryduff.
Leinster indoor (all at St Columba’s)
Saturday: Glenanne v Railway Union, 12.30pm; Corinthian v Railway Union, 1pm; Glenanne v Corinthian, 1.30pm
Sunday: Three Rock Rovers v Pembroke, 1pm; Wicklow v Pembroke, 1.40pm; Three Rock Rovers v Railway Union, 2.20pm; Corinthian v Pembroke, 3pm; Glenanne v Wicklow, 3.40pm; Wicklow v Corinthian, 4.20pm; Glenanne v Three Rock Rovers, 5pm
Jacqui Potter Cup, first round
Saturday: Naas v Clontarf, 12.15pm, Caragh Road; Railway Union II v Genesis, 1pm, Park Avenue; Loreto II v Corinthian, 2.45pm, Beaufort; Old Alex II v Glenanne, 3pm, Milltown; Pembroke II v Our Ladys, 3pm, Serpentine Avenue
Sunday: North Kildare v YMCA, 1pm, The Maws; Monkstown II v Bray, 2.30pm, Merrion Fleet Arena; Avoca v Old Alex, 3.30pm, Newpark; Muckross v Three Rock Rovers, 3.30pm, Muckross Park
Saturday: UCD v Three Rock Rovers, 2pm; North Kildare v Avoca, 2.45pm
Sunday: Railway Union v Glenanne, 6pm; Pembroke v Genesis, 6.45pm
Munster Division 1 (Saturday): Bandon v Catholic Institute, 1pm, Bandon GS