The men’s EY Hockey League Division 2 hits the stage for the first time this weekend with eight hopefuls in the line-up.
It is part of the national body’s attempts to bridge the gap between the regional leagues and the national division with the additional intention of slowing the migration of talent away from their home clubs.The competition features two groups of four with the top two from the home and away round-robins going through to the end of season playoffs for a shot at promotion.
It means six to eight extra games on top of the provincial leagues and so makes for a tough season for the entrants. The competition is the sole means to earn promotion to the EYHL but strong performance in EYHL2 does not assure qualification for next season which comes from the regional leagues meaning no room for slip-ups.
At this early stage, UCD look set to be one of the contenders following their spectacular 4-3 away win over Instonians in the Irish Senior Cup last weekend, coming back from 3-1 down to beat the Belfast side.
They start with a short trip to recently relegated Railway Union – who fell 2-1 to Corinthian in the Neville Cup in midweek – while Bangor and Bandon contest the other tie in Pool A.
That latter tie is one with plenty of recent history with the west Cork side facing two trips to the Co Down coast in the next week.
A week later, they will go to Kilkeel on the edge of the Mourne mountains for the second round of the Irish Senior Cup.
Such contests come off the back of their most successful season to date, winning the Irish Hockey Trophy as well as the Munster Senior Cup and league.
Since then, Colin Kingston has returned to the fold along with Andrew Scannell from UCC with no one leaving. Six of the panel, meanwhile, have developed through the underage structures, leading to plenty of preseason optimism.
As such, there was something of a frustration on day one of the Munster campaign for player-coach Ali Smith and David Buttimer that they could not break down Cork Harlequins.
Against Bangor, despite coming from two of the furthest points apart on the Irish hockey maps, there is plenty of recent history. Bandon won their Trophy meeting at the semi-final phase but missed out in a wild 5-4 tussle in the wildcard playoffs in April.
They no longer have to worry about Ryan Burgess – scorer of five goals in those playoffs – who has moved on but it will still be a big ask to get up and running on the front foot.
In Pool B, UCC’s much-changed side have a very tough away date with Instonians in their section, meeting a side that now features Olympian Mikey Watt in their number.
Corinthian are on the long road up to Kilkeel to try and take down the reigning Ulster Premier League and Kirk Cup champions. The reds win over Railway in the cup was thanks to Josh Greaney and Ian Stewart goals, cancelling out one from Rob Devlin.
EYHL Division 2, Pool A: Bangor v Bandon, 2.30pm, Bangor Aurora; Railway Union v UCD, 2.30pm, Park Avenue
Pool B: Instonians v UCC, 2.45pm, Shaw’s Bridge; Kilkeel v Corinthian, 3pm, Kilkeel HS
Team by team informationBANDON
Last season: Munster League Winners, Munster Senior Cup Winners, Irish Hockey Trophy Winners, Peard Cup quarter final
Coach: Alastair Smith (player-coach), David Buttimer (coach)
Players in: Colin Kingston (UCC,) Andrew Scannell (UCC)
Players out: none
In: Adam Tweed (Belfast Harlequins), Harry Dow (Mossley), Jason Roe (Antrim), Chris Barnes (Instonians)
Out: Ryan Burgess (Annadale)
Coach: Scott Parker
Captain: Simon Cox
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)
In: Michael Watt (Hampstead and Westminster), Ross Blair (QUB), Michael Keane (QUB), William Carey (Lisnagarvey), Sammy Clyde (Antrim)
Out: Chris Barnes (Bangor)
Team Captain: William Robinson
Head coach: Stephen Watt
Assistant coaches: Mark Evans and Johnny Quigley
In: David Glenny (Mossley)
Out: David Rae (Banbridge)
Captain: Gareth Russell
Coach: Colin McConnell
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),
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)
Last season: 2nd Munster Division One, IHT quarter final, Munster Senior Cup semi final
Coach: Dave Egner (2nd season); New manager for the coming season: Kay Hogan
Players in: Euan Stothers(Ashton), Jack Marlborough (Ashton), Harry Deane (Cork C of I), Conor Beck (Limerick), John Costello (Limerick)
Players out: Andrew McGregor (Railway Union), Adam O’Callaghan (Railway Union), Colin Kingston (Bandon), Andrew Scannell (Bandon), Glenn Healy, Dan Moore