The current men’s EY Hockey League top four in the league are all present and correct for the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals as Glenanne take on Three Rock Rovers while Pembroke face Lisnagarvey.
For the Glens, they have the knowledge of two victories in the league over the Rathfarnham club this term, riding out periods of pressure to score the crucial goals when they mattered most.
For Three Rock, the big question is how they have recovered from a stomach virus that swept through their team last weekend at the Euro Hockey League in Rotterdam.
Ross Canning and Ravin Nair both sat out a fairly ridiculous 20-10 ranking match defeat on Monday against Belgium’s KHC Dragons – due to field goals counting double; it was a still mad 12-5 in old money – with Ben Walker, Luke Madeley and Mark Samuel all taking leave during the tie through illness.
All are key parts of their machine and will be required if they are to end Glenanne’s bid for a league and cup double. Player-coach Joe Brennan is hoping his side can end their eight year wait for the title though he did win in 2014 with Rovers.
Lisnagarvey host Pembroke at Comber Road following a 3-3 draw at the same venue when they last met two weeks ago. Pembroke had five players out that day and so will travel at fuller strength with plenty of confidence.
Garvey, the most successful side in the competition, are looking to end a relative drought as their last win was in 2005 while Pembroke last won overall in 2009.
The semis lead into Sunday’s final which takes place at 3.45pm with live streaming confirmed for the Hockey Ireland Youtube channel.
Portrane are bidding for national glory in the Irish Hockey Trophy when they face Bandon – finalists in 2014, 2015 and 2016 – in the decider.
The north county side are currently in mid-table in Leinster Division Two but have been boosted in midseason by the arrival of Sean Graham and Brian MacMahon from Skerries while Imran Khan has international caps with both Pakistan and Azerbaijan.
They meet a Bandon side, though, who have won Munster Division One and have provincial playoff finals to look forward to, showing their quality.
Cookstown will face a EYHL trip to Monkstown on Saturday without their talismanic captain Jon Ames. The midfielder departs for Australia on April 7 to attend the Commonwealth Games as a spectator before travelling down the coast to Melbourne where he will spend the next year. There, he will play for MCC Hockey Club in the Victoria Premier League.
“I reached out to a number of premier league clubs but the response received from MCC was incredibly helpful and thorough,” said Ames.
“They’ve also had a number of Irish players there in recent years – Brian O’Malley of Glenanne/UCD (now Hurley in Holland) and Kevin Mullins of TRR who highly recommended the club as a grass roots/family orientated club, similar to that at home.
“One of their players, Jon Bretherton, has recently started playing alongside my brother David at Holcombe so there are several links!
“I’m excited for the opportunity but ultimately disappointed to be leaving my hometown club, even if only for a year! We are knee deep in a relegation battle at the moment but I have every confidence in the squad to grind out some positive results a secure top flight hockey next season.
“Several of our guys are just hitting their prime and we have a number of younger players who are growing with experience and confidence every game.”
Cookstown HC coach Stephen Cuddy was the first to wish Jonny well on his Australian adventure.
“We’ll miss Jonny, there is no doubt about it,” he said. “There are few more committed, clever and athletic midfielders in our game and we are so proud to have brought him through the ranks at Cookstown.
“I don’t think there is anyone from our club who wouldn’t agree that Jon has been among our best players over the past three or four seasons. In fact most continue to wonder how on earth Jon hasn’t been rewarded for his efforts by an international call-up.
“The Australian league have a real player on their hands and we will watch on with great pride as he helps MCC towards a big season.”
Banbridge face Railway in another back match.
Men’s weekend fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
EY Hockey League: Banbridge v Railway Union, 2.45pm, Banbridge Academy; Monkstown v Cookstown, 2.30pm, Merrion Fleet Arena, Monkstown.
Irish Senior Cup – semi-finals: Glenanne v Three Rock Rovers, 3pm, St Andrews College; Lisnagarvey v Pembroke Wanderers, 3pm, Comber Road
Sunday: Final 3.45pm, Belfield
Irish Hockey Trophy Final: Bandon v Portrane, 2pm, Belfield.