The first women’s EY Hockey League Division 2 tips off this weekend with the new league acting as the route to the top tier while also having the target of bridging the gap between the national and provincial and leagues.
And the new division has already provided a lure for some World Cup stars to return to their home clubs with Roisin Upton moving back to Limerick and Catholic Institute.
Chloe Watkins will head up Monkstown’s bid for a return to national competition but Christine Quinlan quashed thoughts of an immediate return to action on Friday evening.
Both clubs are in a tough looking Pool B in which Ulster Premier champions Lurgan also provide a formidable opponent, particularly with Natalie Barr back after a fruitful spell at the Liberty Flames in the US.
Treble-winning NUIG make the step up to this level having won back the Connacht league for the first time in 19 years while Dungannon complete the group.
Pool A features a Trinity side looking to rebuild after relegation from the top level and a Corinthian team that has built during the summer after a productive Leinster campaign.
Queen’s host Greenfields in the other tie to be played in Pool A with UCC waiting in the wings. The student side has seen experienced players like Clodagh Moloney and Kate Harvey move on with a new batch joining up in their bid to try and land promotion.
The format sees two initial round-robin groups of five, playing on a home and away basis. The top two in each group advance to the promotion playoffs, meaning between eight and ten extra games on top of their domestic series.
EYHL Division 2 fixtures (all Saturday)
Pool A: Queens University v Greenfields, 1pm, Queens; Trinity v Corinthian, 1.30pm
Pool B: Lurgan v Monkstown, 2.30pm, Lurgan HS; NUIG v Dungannon, 5pm, Dangan
Previews for Monkstown, Corinthian and Trinity can be found here: http://www.hookhockey.com/index.php/2018/09/the-season-starts-here-womens-leinster-division-one-hits-the-turf/#.W69GJBNKg00
Last season: Irish Hockey Trophy winners, 2nd Munster Division One, Munster Senior Cup winners
Management Team: Ger O’Carroll (coach), Ann Logan (assistant/GK coach), Brenda Moloney (Manager) & John Hickey (Fitness Coach)
Captain: Ciara Moloney Vice – Captain: Michelle Barrett
Players in: Roisin Upton (Cork Harlequins), Miriam O’Callaghan (Suttonians – GK), Eimear Ryan (Trinity), Becky Foley (Limerick Hockey Club), Sophie Clein (Limerick Hockey Club)
Players Out: Muireann Scanlan (UCC), Lauren Ryan (UCC), Molly Doran (UCC)
Overview: Catholic Institute have welcomed back World Cup star back Roisin Upton into the fold after four years in the US and then a couple of seasons with Cork Harlequins, marking the big addition to the ranks.
“Roisin returning to the club has given the club a massive boost this season both on and off the pitch as a amazing role model inspiring the next generation in Limerick City,” said the club’s preview.
Aoife Hickey, Anna Horan, Leah Clery and Robyn Leahy have come through the club youth section and are all part of the Munster U-18 girls squad this season along with Sophie Clein and Becky Foley who have joined from Limerick. These players will play a pivotal role this season in the senior squad. They also have other younger players in the youth section coming through like Eimear Lane, Jilly Edwards and Sarah Fitzgerald that they hope to develop over the season.
The squad has a very good balance of senior players and young players this season and led by captain Ciara Moloney will be challenging in all competitions.
Last season: 3rd Ulster Premier League
Coach: Scott Briar/Lynda Elliott
Players In: Jess Hood (Omagh), Joanne Dodds (recommencing hockey career after year off)
Out: Lynda Elliott (club coaching duties), Lisa Miller (sabbatical ), Hanna Smyth (University Studies), Samantha Kelly (American college football), Sarah Winslow (sabbatical), Andrea Ferry (retired), Lesley Dickson (retired), Morgan Jenkins (Coleraine)
Last season: 2nd Connacht League, Connacht Cup runners-up, Irish Hockey Trophy third round.
Coach: John Meyler
Manager: Maura Gilligan
Players in: Charlotte Elliot, Maebh Holden, Aoife Williams,
Players returning: Alacoque Mc Govern, Suran Tierney, Aine Collins
Overview: Greenfields have some experience of IHL having played in EYHL in 2015/16. They now look forward to a new challenge in IHL2 under the guidance of new coach John Meyler. The squad is a mix of both youth and experience with a number of players coming up through the clubs youth system. They will be supported by their more experienced team mates Sinead Collins, Rebecca Gilligan, Catherine Moore and Trish Garrett who remain.
All the young players in the Greenfields squad have played at interpro level with Clodagh Gaffney being a standout player at last years Under-18 interpros. The young players in particular look forward to playing vastly experienced teams from outside the province.
Last season: 1st Ulster Premier League
Coach: Robbie McMinn
Players in: Natalie Barr (Liberty Flames), Louise Murray (returned home from working in London)
Out: Hannah Magowan (University in Liverpool), Abbie McCullogh (University in England.), Penny Joyce (will be leaving end of September for a job in London)
Captain: Sarah McClure
Coach: Richie Malone
Last season: Connacht Senior Cup Winners, Connacht Senior League Winners, Irish Hockey Challenge winners.
Coach: Richard Malone
Players in: Anna O`Donoghue (Galway), Jenny Buttimer (Bandon), Freddie Timmons (Galway), Amy Rossitor.
Players out: Brenda Flannery (retired), Rachel Bradley (Pembroke), Kerri Willis.
Overview: Following a superb treble last season, NUIG – under coach Richie Malone – will commence their season this weekend (Saturday) on the national stage. The college girls will face Dungannon in Dangan with Malone saying of their chances: “It’s been a whirlwind 12 months with the club re-capturing the Connacht league title after 19 years, the Connacht senior cup after five years and securing their first ever national challenge cup title”.
Malone added: “We look forward to the season ahead and working together in order to achieve our goals”.
Last season: 2nd Ulster Premier League
Coach: Simon Bell
Players in: Alyssa Jebb (Lisnagarvey), Madison Bowyer (Pegasus), Emma Gregson (Banbridge), Koren Ferguson (Rainey)
Out: Robyn McKee (Lisnagarvey), Paige Brown (Lisnagarvey), Rachael Henderson, Anna Hutchinson (Ulster Elks), Ellen Hood (England), Beccy Anderson (England), Jodie Kee (England).
UCC Ladies Hockey Club
Last Season: 1st Munster Division 1; Munster Cup Plate winners; Irish Senior Cup first round; EYHL Playoffs
Coach: John McGrath; Manager: Colette Coomey; Captain: Jenny Clein; Physio: Elaine Courtney, Fitness Coach: Patrick Ryan
Players In: Emma Cripps (Cork Harlequins), Roisin O’Dea (Cork C of I), Becky Oppermann (Cork C of I), Christina Dring (Cork C of I), Emma O’Sullivan (Belvedere), Muireann Scanlon (Catholic Institute), Lauren Ryan (Catholic Institute), Hilary Balding (Waterford)
Players Out: Clodagh Moloney (USA), Kate Harvey (Ashton), Niamh O’Leary (Cork Harlequins), Grace Tutty