Eleven of Graham Shaw’s most recent Irish women’s squad will line out at Beaufort on Saturday ahead of their departure for Benalmadena for a warm-weather camp, combined with four games against Spain.
UCD account for seven of them with Ellen Curran rated as fit enough to be named in the panel for Spain after an ankle ligament issue sustained before Christmas.
She was among a couple of injury concerns along with Erin Getty and Chloe Watkins in Shaw’s panel of 29. Megan Frazer and Cliodhna Sargent, though, are not included just yet as they work their way back to full fitness.
Loreto’s Nicci Daly is a returnee to the panel having finished her latest stint in the US to stake her claim for a place in the final 18 for London.
It gives the Beaufort side an extra dynamic threat when they take on UCD alongside teenage flyer Sarah Torrans. They will try and punch a hole in the students form, unbeaten since the opening day of the campaign.
Free-scoring Pegasus host Pembroke with Alex Speers in red-hot form, backed up by Lucy McKee, to give Ailbhe Coyle and her defence plenty of different angles to cover.
While the top three have forged ahead, there is set to be a big battle for fourth and the potential final ticket for the EY Champions Trophy. Belfast Harlequins showed their relish for the fight with a battling away win over Loreto last time out.
They make the long trip to face their namesakes from Cork with Stephen Dale’s side looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the campaign. It is promises to be another high quality affair with a quintet of Cork Quins players named in the Irish senior squad for their trip to Malaga next week while Zoe Wilson and Lizzie Colvin are in that line-up, too.
Hermes-Monkstown’s upturn in form – with four points from their last six – takes them to Ards. After eight successive defeats, there is renewed optimism that they can escape the bottom rung of the table.
The Ulster side, though, are also on a high off the back of their seventh successive National Indoor Trophy title. Outdoors, their games have been exceptionally tight – barring their 5-1 defeat to Cork Harlequins – scoring nine and conceding eight in their other nine games. As such, a tight battle like their 1-0 success at the Merrion Fleet Arena is to be anticipated.
Trinity meet Railway for a third time this season, hoping for more of the performance from their draw in the league than their heavy defeat in the Jacqui Potter Cup.
Compared to last season, Brian Scully’s side have not been able to find the same defensive rigidity of their time in the Leinster league but have shown plenty of endeavour at the far end to nick points, meaning Railway need to be on their guard.
In Leinster Division One, Avoca finally found their scoring touch in the second half to run up a 5-0 win in midweek against Our Lady’s. It was scoreless at half-time before the Blackrock club cut loose, lifting them up to seventh place with their second win of the league campaign.
They go to Glenanne next, the side closest to them in the division, looking to carry that confidence forward.
Muckross, Corinthian and Old Alex are all but mathematically assured of places in the EY Hockey League promotion playoffs as well as tickets to the IHL2 next season.
Alex host Our Lady’s; Muckross face bottom side Clontarf while Corinthian have a tester away to North Kildare against a side who are famously hard to break down. Genesis, in fourth place, will hope for no slip-ups at Rathgar if they are to keep their nominal chances of a top three spot alive.
Elsewhere, UCD, Railway Union and Loreto hold up the Leinster representation in the quarter-finals of the Irish Junior Cup. In the Irish Hockey Challenge, Botanic are the Leinster side in action, going on the road to 2016 champions Blackrock in Cork.
On the men’s side, the schedule is curtailed due to the Irish senior international tour to Malaga with the final game taking place between Ireland and USA on Saturday afternoon (1pm, Irish time).
The one Leinster Division One tie on the card sees YMCA host Corinthian. The Y are looking for their first points of 2018 to keep daylights between them and fourth place Avoca.
Those defeats mean top spot looks out of reach with nine points between YM and leaders UCD and Corinthian. The tie features the three highest scorers in the league with Ian Stewart – with 18 in all competitions – Grant Glutz (17) and Ben Campbell (16) potentially providing the fireworks.
Pembroke host Lisnagarvey in the Irish Junior Cup while Glenanne and Monkstown showing down with all sides able to draw from the bottom end of their first team squads, adding some unpredictacility to affairs.
Mullingar and Wicklow host Armagh and Cliftonville in round one of the Irish Hockey Challenge.
Ireland women’s panel (February 6-11, Benalmadena, Spain): Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union), Emma Buckley (Cork Harlequins), Clodagh Cassin (UCD), Zoe Wilson (Belfast Harlequins), Erin Getty-(Queens), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Lena Tice (UCD), Chloe Watkins (HC Bloemendaal), Chloe Brown (Ards), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins), Anna O’Flanagan (HC Bloemendaal), Ellen Curran (UCD), Deirdre Duke (UCD), Nicola Evans (UHC Hamburg), Naomi Carroll (Cork Harlequins), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Emma Russell (UCD), Sarah Torrans (Loreto), Rebecca Barry (Cork Harlequins), Emily Beatty (Pembroke), Aisling Naughton (Pembroke), Gill Pinder (Pembroke), Shirley McCay (Pegasus), Leah McGuire (UCD), Roisin Upton (Cork Harlequins), Katie Mullan (UCD), Nicci Daly (Loreto), Kate Lloyd (Railway Union)
Weekend fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
EY Hockey League: Loreto v UCD, 1.15pm, Beaufort; Trinity v Railway Union, 2pm, Santry Avenue; Ards v Monkstown, 2.30pm, Londonderry Park; Cork Harlequins v Belfast Harlequins, 2.30pm, Farmer’s Cross; Pegasus v Pembroke, 4pm, Queen’s
Leinster Division One:
Tuesday: Avoca 5 (R Norris, S Treacy, L Spillane, J Ringrose, S Gardener) Our Lady’s 0
Saturday: Rathgar v Genesis, 12.30pm, High School; Glenanne v Avoca, 1pm, Glenanne Park; Muckross v Clontarf, 1.30pm, Muckross Park; North Kildare v Corinthian, 1.30pm, The Maws; Old Alex v Our Lady’s, 1.30pm, Milltown
Irish Junior Cup, quarter-finals: Queen’s v UCD, 2.30pm, Queen’s; Railway Union v Cork Harlequins, 2.40pm, Park Avenue; Loreto v Belfast Harlequins, 3pm, Beaufort
Irish Hockey Challenge: Kilkeel v NICS, 4pm, Kilkeel HS; Blackrock v Botanic, 1pm, Ursulines; Dromore v Athlone, 2.30pm, Dromore; Enniskillen v NUIG, 2.30pm, Enniskillen
Leinster Division One (Sunday): YMCA v Corinthian, 2pm, Wesley
Munster Division One: Bandon v UCC, 12.15pm, Bandon GS; Limerick v Cork C of I B, 12pm, Villiers; Harlequins v Ashton, 12.50pm, Farmer’s Cross
Irish Junior Cup, quarter-finals: Instonians v North Down, 1pm, Shawsbridge; Kilkeel v Banbridge, 2.30pm, Kilkeel HS; Pembroke v Lisnagarvey, 2.30pm, Serpentine Avenue; Glenanne v Monkstown, 3pm, St Andrew’s
Irish Hockey Challenge, round one: Mullingar v Armagh, 12pm, Loreto Mullingar; Wicklow v Cliftonville, 1pm, Nelson Park; Catholic Institute v Midleton, 3.30pm, Rosbrien; Waterford v Ballynahinch, 3.30pm, Newtown School