The runners and riders in men’s Leinster Division One are under starter’s orders on Saturday, promising a very busy season ahead for the likes of UCD, Corinthian and Railway Union.
In addition to their 18 league games, they will contest at least six games in the newly introduced EYHL2, the second national tier that also acts as the promotion route to the top tier.
As such, managing the respective targets for that trio of clubs will be paramount as any slips on the local scene could scupper their chances of going up for another couple of seasons.
Following the summer moves, UCD would look to be the favourites with strong additions like Mark Samuel and Matteo Romoli while their rivals Corinthian – in Jonny Bruton – Railway (Mark English) and Avoca (Jonny McCormack) have seen key players move to EYHL1 clubs.
Portrane make their first appearance in the division since 1997 having dropped as low as Division 5 at one stage, rejuvenating their fortunes with an excellent home in the centre of Donabate.
They begin their campaign with a tester against UCD while there are plenty of other games on the northside of Dublin with Dublin North hosting Kilkenny and Clontarf up against Corinthian. Santry hosts Dublin University versus Rathgar and Railway Union take on Avoca.
Leinster Men’s Division One (all Saturday): Portrane v UCD, 2pm, Donabate LC; Dublin North v Kilkenny, 12pm, NSC; Clontarf v Corinthian, 1.30pm, Mount Temple; Dublin University v Rathgar, 3.20pm, Santry Avenue; Railway Union v Avoca, 4.30pm, Park Avenue
Last season: 4th Leinster Division 1; Neville Cup second round; Mills Cup first round; Irish Senior Cup first round
Coach: Mark Cullen (9th season)
Players in: Zack Waters (UCD), Ivan Cooke (Pembroke), Karl Chapple (Railway)
Players out: Jonny McCormack (Glennane), Jonny Codd (YMCA), Adam Pritchard (retired), Cian Funge, Daire Hibbert, Kevin Mellot (Study abroad), Greg Arrowsmith (Trinity), Ewan Ramsay (UCD)
Overview: It has been a difficult summer for the club with a number of high-profile departures from the first squad with Jonny McCormack and Jonny Codd pursuing EYHL hockey.
Karl Chapple’s return will be a big boost to the forward line alongside Leinster Under-18 player Evan Rankin. Simon Lowry will not continue as assistant coach to Mark Cullen having taken over as head coach of Monkstown Ladies 1st XI, however he will stay on as part of the playing panel.
Irish Senior Cup draw: second round v Belfast Harlequins (home)
Last season: 5th Leinster Division 1; Irish Senior Cup first round; Neville Cup second round; Mills Cup quarter-final
Coach: Craig Stewart (2nd Season)
Players in: Dylan Eustace (Pembroke
Players out: Michael Fulham (Railway Union), Max Harris (Camberwell, Melbourne)
Overview Clontarf are looking to build on a transitional 2017/18 season which saw the next wave of schoolboy players from Mount Temple establish themselves in the team. Following a very successful period under Gareth Borland, the side have now fully adapted to Australian Craig Stewart’s style and approach which the team are looking to build on as they strive to move up the league ladder again.
The early signs have been positive with encouraging displays against Leinster league rivals including Dublin North, Avoca and Trinity, as well as an opening round win against Enniscorthy in the Neville cup last Sunday.
The team will lean on Irish under 18 players David Lawless and Mark Duggan, the latter fresh off captaining the Leinster under 18 side in the interpros. Luke Hayden is back to captain the side for a third year and the team’s progress will be further aided by the return of former Irish underage captain David Power who missed the whole of last season through injury.
If things fall into place for them, Clontarf should be pushing for a position in the upper echelons of Leinster division one and the ambition is to get back to finishing in the top 3 to secure a potential IHL2 spot.
Irish Senior Cup draw: first round v South Antrim (home)
Last season: 2nd Leinster Division One; EYHL Playoffs; Leinster Mills Cup runners Up; Neville Cup quarter-final
Coach: Trevor Dagg (5th season)
Players in: None
Players out: Jonny Bruton (Cork C of I) Henry Micks (moved abroad)
Overview: Jonny Bruton’s move back to Cork to setup a second gym with wife Sarah is a big loss on two fronts: as a player and assistant coach to the side. Sean Stewart steps down after several years as first team manager and will be another big loss for us but the club wish them well.
On the plus side, influential sweeper Conor Moyter returns after a year out with injury and there are a number of good schoolboys pushing for places in the squad this year including Hugo Burns, Josh Greaney, Ross Howard, Andrew Canning, Euan MacKay and Henry Ellis.
The reds are looking forward to competing in the inaugural EYHL 2 competition this year and the goal remains IHL promotion after near misses in each of the last three seasons. They look forward to the campaign with a new water-based pitch and feedback from players is very positive about how it plays. Davy Howard captains the side and offers an excellent drag-flick option.
Irish Senior Cup draw: second round v Railway Union/Queen’s
Dublin University Hockey Club
Last season: 8th Leinster Division 1, Irish Senior Cup first round; Neville Cup semi-final; Mills Cup first round
Coach: Nasir Munir (3rd season), conditioning coach through Trinity Sport is Ross Hamilton
Players in: Calum Morrow (UCD), Daniel O’Donovan, Ben Mannion (both Monkstown), Alex Barlow (YMCA), Greg Arrowsmith (Avoca), Tom Cole (Weston), Colm Harris (North Kildare) Samuel Boggio (Lille), Felipe Camprodon (Real Club de Polo de Barcelona)
Players out: Rory Nichols (Monkstown) Cillian Hynes, Eoin Buttanshaw, Wilf King (all YMCA), Ian Marron (Glennane), Hugh Lavery, Owen Chambers, David Cardy, Robbie O’Hanlon (Erasmus)
Overview: Trinity have a very new look side having lost the bulk off last year’s starting side and have replaced the with a lot of first years as well French and Spanish exchange students from the second tier of their respective clubs. Robbie O’Hanlon of deflection viral video fame will return from an exchange in Melbourne after Christmas to head up the forward line. They are looking to improve on a disappointing run in towards the end of last season and bounce back by rebuilding a young team, targeting next season’s IHL2 and getting into play-off spots.
Irish Senior Cup draw: second round v Kilkenney (away)
Coach: Shane Dempsey (first season)
Last season: 9th Leinster Division One; Mills Cup first round; Neville Cup first round; Irish Hockey Trophy quarter-final
Players in: none
Players out: Ryan West
Overview: Shane Dempsey has stepped up as player-coach for Dublin North for their second season since amalgamation, moving over from the women’s section whom he helped rise from Division Four to Two. He takes on the role from Gerry Wheeler who has retired from coaching after many years with Aer Lingus and Fingal.
They have had an intense preseason so far and Dempsey feels the team is looking in good shape while a number of injuries to the likes of Dave and Eamonn Bane and Declan Brady, once cleared, will add to their panel.
The younger lads on the way up like Michael Gahan and Stevie Kieran are improving all the time and North hope to push toward a top half finish.
Irish Hockey Trophy draw: Waterford (away)
Last season: 7th Leinster DIv 1; Irish Hockey Trophy first round; Mills Cup quarter-final; Neville Cup quarter-final
Coach: Rob Morris (2nd season); Emmett Hughes
Players in: Dave McClure (returning from abroad)
Players out: Ben Johnson (Waterford), Alfie Jones (studying), Aaron Empey (UCD), Ben Wallace
Overview: Due to pitch constraints, the cats had a late start to preseason but have managed to fit in a few games, beating Enniscorthy and drawing with Waterford in the SE McBride Cup before beating Cork Harlequins 4-3 and UCC 5-2 in another double-header.
As ever, Kilkenny have a young squad, with several first-team players still being in school. However, they have matured over the last year and are well capable of competing at division 1 level. The key to their success will be availability as many of the young lads are in sixth year and will have study commitments.
Last season was one of underachievement in some respects after a slow start but they showed they can cause problems for anyone. The returning Dave McClure after a year freestyle kayaking in Nottingham will add to the forward line, and his goals will be needed to replace the departed Ben Wallace. James Feely looks like he will have a huge role to play in midfield. The experience of Emmett Hughes, Billy McEnery and Eddie Dore will also be key.
Irish Senior Cup draw: second round v Dublin University (home)
Last season: 6th Leinster Division Two (won playoff against Weston); Irish Hockey Trophy final; Neville Cup second round; Railway Cup second round
Coach: Mukhtar Ahmed; manager: Adrian Henchy
Players in: Cameron Shoebridge (Limerick); Derek Ledwidge (return from break)
Players out: none
Overview: It is a very special season for Portrane as they celebrate their centenary year in 2019 having made their long-awaited return to Leinster Division 1 for the first time since 1997. They had dropped down to Division 5 but have undergone a regeneration with a commitment to their youth section and culminated in the opening of our new water base pitch in the heart of Donabate in 2015, four years after it had been severely damaged in floods in October 2011 without a game ever been played on it.
They finished mid-table in Division 2 last season before winning a playoff opportunity against Weston to gain promotion with a comprehensive.
The team will once again play under player-coach Mukhtar Ahmad who is in his eighth season with Portrane. Chris Neville captains the side in a nostalgic nod given the strong Neville association with Portrane over their 100-year history. Another famous Portrane family is involved with Adrian Henchy managing the side, an integral man alongside his father – and former Leinster president – Percy in keeping the club rolling.
Cameron Shoebridge, a product of Portrane’s youth policy, returns following a year with Limerick where he is in University. Derek Ledwidge, another club veteran, returns following a few seasons out through injuries and work commitments.
They will give a large number of younger players like Rory Govan, Ossian Elminger, Sean Graham, Daniel Graham, Rory McKeon, Tom McKeon and Riley Shoebridge the exposure to adjust and adapt to the step up in pace. The spine of experience from Mukhtar, former Pakistan and Azerbaijan international Imran Khan, Brian McMahon and Chris Neville will guide their adaptation.
Irish Hockey Trophy draw: North Down (away)
Last season: 10th EY Hockey League; Irish Senior Cup second round; Mills Cup quarter-finals; Neville Cup quarter-final; Leinster Indoor Cup winners; National Indoor Trophy finalists
Coach: Kenny Carroll (1st season); manager Paul Keeley
Players in: Michael McKenzie (Vancouver Hawks , Canada), Michael Fulham (Clontarf) David Sheil (Weston), Andy McGregor (UCC), Gary Ruddock (UCD), Daithi Medcalf (Enniscorthy), David McCarthy (return from Australia), Adam O’Callaghan (UCC)
Players out: Mark English (Three Rock Rovers), Aran Rooney (Monkstown) Shomik Chakraborty (USA College),
Overview: Dual hockey and cricket international Kenny Carroll heads up a Railway Union side looking to bounce straight back from relegation from the national league. They will try to do so without regular talisman Mark English but they do have a number of good additions to their line-up.
Current Canadian under 21 internaltional Michael McKenzie joins along with a host of new young players. Tomasz Nowakowski younger brother of Mateusz (who is currently playing for AZS AWF Poznan) is promoted to the senior squad from the Under-16 team.
Ian O’Keeffe also returns to be part the coaching team. The last few seasons have been tough and the goal is to get back to winning ways and to blood some new players along the way. Its a long season so the squad depth will be key. Adam O’Callaghan also rejoins the side.
Irish Senior Cup draw: first round v Queen’s University (home)
Last season: 6th Leinster Division One; Irish Senior Cup first round; Mills Cup quarter-final; Neville Cup second round
Coach: Rory O’Donoghue (2nd season)
Players in: David McCrea, Conor Quinn (both Three Rock Rovers), Steven Roberts (return from break), Mark Evans (return from break), Ben Cripps (Three Rock Rovers), Andrew Beverland (returned from abroad)
Players out: David Stead (break from hockey), Stephen Ludgate (emigrating to Australia)
Overview: Rory O’Donoghue returns as head coach for his second season with Rathgar whose target is to push on towards one of the EYHL play-off spots.
This season sees Steven Roberts and Mark Evans return to the fold after extended breaks from hockey. Stephen Ludgate and goalkeeper Peter Collins are both due to emigrate, however, the loss is softened by the introduction of current High School shot-stopper Ben Cripps who will battle with Conor Quinn for the number one smock. David McCrea will strengthen the Chiefs’ defence.
Irish Hockey Trophy draw: Raphoe (away)
Last season: 3rd Leinster Divison One; Irish Senior Cup first round; Neville Cup semi-final; Mills Cup – withdrew
Coach: Rudi Wortmann (2nd season)
Players in: Mark Samuel (TRR), Matteo Romoli (Monkstown), Peter Lynch (TRR), Aaron Empey (Kilkenny), Nick Judge (TRR), Arthur Johnson (TRR), David Shanahan (Monkstown), Ewan Ramsey (Avoca)
Players out: Max Maguire (Erasmus), Calum Morrow (Trinity), Joran Schulte (returned to Netherlands), Andrew Ramsey (moved to Germany)
Overview: Getting players back together after the long college summer can often be tricky, but this season UCD seem to have come back stronger than they left last May and look like they have the strongest panel on paper.
Inbound players with underage international experience, Mark Samuel, Ewan Ramsey and Matteo Romoli add to our already talented young squad. Max Maguire’s move to France as part of his college course is a big loss but Nick Judge comes in as a St Andrew’s keeper swap.
The likes of David Nolan, Jazze Henry and Andrew Fogarty are all in their fourth season with the club and will hope to see their team back up into the EYHL, as they did in their first year. Rudi Wortmann faces into his second year in charge, and hopes to further develop his experienced coaching knowledge on the youthful, energetic team. A 1-0 preseason win over YMCA suggests that UCD are well able to compete with EYHL standard teams.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Instonians (away)