Pembroke Wanderers’ credentials as a potential men’s EY Hockey League playoff contender will be further put to the test on Saturday when they face Lisnagarvey on Saturday at Serpentine Avenue.
The Ballsbridge club had been expected to have a transitional season with Olympians Kirk Shimmins and Alan Sothern – as well as international goalkeeper Mark Ingram – heading for professional clubs in Europe.
But they have defied the odds to date, most recently beating reigning Champions Trophy holders Three Rock Rovers in midweek 3-1 with Matthew Treacy, Cody Thomas and Cian Murphy getting the goals.
It bolstered their place in third, three points off leaders Banbridge with coach Paudie Carley creating an incredible team belief to pick up four wins from losing positions.
One of those came on opening day at Garvey when goalkeeper Simon Thornton was outstanding and he will need to do more of the same to keep Matthew Nelson at bay.
Rovers, for their part, continue their busy schedule with a home tie against Banbridge at Grange Road, getting little time to bask in their European indoor success as the EYHL ramps up.
Bann come visiting with Eddie Rowe emerging as a star in the making with a Eugene Magee-esque upright backhand goal last weekend against Cookstown a highlight.
The other key tie is at the bottom when YMCA will hope to land their first win in the EYHL when they host Cookstown. The Y suffered a chastening 7-1 defeat in Co Tyrone in September but have improved markedly since then and are only three points off safety.
Grant Glutz is equal top of their goalscoring charts, showing they always have a threat while Cookstown lost by an aggregate 11-2 in two games last weekend to give YM plenty to draw upon.
Cork C of I will be interested to hear the result from that tie while they aim to get their first win of the campaign from a trip to the only unbeaten side thus far, Glenanne.
Ties between the two have been very tight, though, since the inception of the EYHL and the last two meetings have been draws so this one could go close.Former Monkstown man Peter Caruth leads Annadale at Strathearn against his former charges in a meeting between two sides eyeing a shot at fourth spot. Dale have added a diamond in Ryan Burgess from Bangor this season, the drag-flicker sharing top spot in EYHL goals this term and he will be a key threat.
EYHL2 returns for the second half of the group stages with UCD and Railway Union both welcoming back lots of players after a wealth of absentees. For Railway, only David McCarthy is still out while UCD were without several key players last weekend but coach Rudi Wortmann anticipates many will be around for this key tie.
These two occupy the playoff places at the moment; Bandon and Bangor will need a win from their tie to keep alive their chances.
In Pool 2, should Corinthian run a fourth successive win from their game with Kilkeel they will be through to the semi-finals with two games to spare. The reds have played some of their best stuff in this competition, netting 15 times already. Should UCC fail to win against Instonians, they will be eliminated.
In midweek in Leinster, Clontarf moved back above Rathgar with a 3-1 win at Mount Temple. After a scoreless, relatively even first half, Gar went in front from a corner rebound with 25 minutes to go via Stu Malcolm.
The Bulls, though, went on to control the game from there and apply the pressure. The first goal was well worked when they prospered from a fortunate mistrap eventually creating the chance for Kev Murray.
It was his first appearance since November when he displaced his shoulder in a tie against Trinity. The second came when Robert Forrest pressed the centre back, stole the ball and finished nicely on his reverse from top D.
And Alan O’Malley scored the clincher with 15 minutes to go from the penalty spot after he was fouled when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Men’s fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
EY Hockey League
Wednesday: Pembroke 3 (M Treacy, C Thomas, C Murphy) Three Rock Rovers 1 (R Nair)
Saturday: Annadale v Monkstown, Strathearn School, 2.30pm; Glenanne v Cork C of I, St. Andrews College, 3pm; Pembroke v Lisnagarvey, Serpentine Avenue, 3pm; Three Rock Rovers v Banbridge, 3pm, Grange Road; YMCA v Cookstown, Wesley College, 3.15pm
Sunday: Lisnagarvey v Monkstown, Comber Road, 3pm
EYHL Division 2, Pool 1: Bandon v Bangor, Bandon GS, 2pm; UCD v Railway Union, Belfield, 2.50pm
Pool 2: Corinthian v Kilkeel, Whitechurch Park, 3pm; UCC v Instonians, Mardyke, 1pm
Leinster Division One (Thursday): Clontarf 3 (K Murray, R Forrest, A O’Malley) Rathgar 1 (S Malcolm)
Munster Charity Cup: Catholic Institute v Cork C of I B, Rosbrien, 12.30pm; Cork Harlequins v Ashton, Farmers’ Cross, 3.15pm