Cookstown and C of I face crucial EYHL battle at the bottom

For Cookstown and Cork C of I, the two clubs face a pivotal day in their respective relegation battles as they face off against each other at Steelweld Park on Saturday for the second time in six weeks.

The Reds are coming into the tie on a high off the back of their first win at Pembroke in over 20 years but have cause for a bit of revenge against the Munstermen. A month ago, Cork beat Cookstown to a semi-final berth in the Irish Senior Cup thanks to three John Jermyn strikes.

For C of I, this is an absolute must-win contest. They are six points adrift at the moment and anything other than a win will surely put paid to their chances of staying up.

“It should be a great match,” said Cookstown forward, Ryan Millar. “There hasn’t been much between the two sides any time we’ve met over the last few seasons. I expect this to be no different.

“I thought we played pretty well against them in the Senior Cup, but nothing fell our way. On the other hand, a lot went for us against Pembroke last weekend and that has given us a real lift as we go into the last few games.

“There were also a couple of great performances from our lads – I think Mark Crooks had his best game of the season – and that was probably the difference in us coming away with points.

“Our guys will need to dig deep and reproduce that same form if we are to get the win on Saturday against Cork. We’ve a pretty tough run-in and that makes this game pretty vital.”

Pembroke face a crucial date at Grange Road as they look to try and win back fourth spot from Three Rock Rovers.

Since the start of March, Rovers have gone from five points behind Pembroke to building a four-point buffer while they have won eight games in succession in all competitions.

The Dublin 4 side, meanwhile, have lost five out of seven – including a 3-1 Mills Cup semi-final loss – to show the swing in momentum. The last EYHL meeting, though, will give them hope as they won that one 3-1 at Serpentine Avenue.

Leaders Lisnagarvey face a tester at Monkstown as they look to continue their brilliant form that runs from last October, scarcely dropping a point. Karl Lynch made a welcome return for Town in recent times, scoring twice in their draw at YMCA.

Banbridge meet Annadale in an Ulster derby with the latter needing to end a run of just two points from the last 18 on offer, giving cause for a nervous glance over their shoulder.

Cookstown’s Ryan Millar. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Bann, though, got back on the winning trail a week ago with Eugene Magee’s corner prowess doing for Glenanne.

Glenanne will look to get back to winning ways following their tough recent run of just one draw and three losses in their last four games. They host a YMCA side who have proven a match for most in recent times and still have a job on to escape the relegation playoff place.

Sunday sees the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals roll around with Lisnagarvey’s young guns hosting Glenanne at Comber Road. Cork C of I travel back to their home patch to host holders Three Rock Rovers.

In Leinster, Division One has a number of twists in store. Leaders Railway Union host Clontarf on Saturday needing to be wary of the side who were the first to beat UCD.

That precipitated UCD’s downturn in form and they have since lost three on the spin but Saturday’s trip to Rathgar – on a run of six losses in a row – and, more importantly, their game late on Sunday against Railway at Serpentine Avenue.

Portrane added a bit of life to the tussle to avoid the bottom spot as they beat Rathgar 1-0 in midweek, reducing the gap to Dublin North to one point.

Men’s weekend fixtures (Saturday unless stated)
EY Hockey League: Banbridge v Annadale, Havelock Park, 2.45pm; Cookstown v Cork C of I, Steelweld Park, 2.30pm; Glenanne v YMCA, St Andrews, 2.30pm; Monkstown v Lisnagarvey, ALD Merrion Fleet Arena, 4pm; Three Rock Rovers v Pembroke Wanderers, Grange Road, 3pm

Leinster Division 1
Wednesday: Portrane 1 Rathgar 0
Saturday: Avoca v Dublin University, Newpark, 12.30pm; Corinthian v Dublin North, Whitechurch Park, 12.45pm; Portrane v Kilkenny, Donabate LC, 12.30pm; Railway Union v Clontarf, Park Avenue, 12pm; Rathgar v UCD, The High School, 12.15pm
Sunday: UCD v Railway Union, Serpentine Avenue, 5.30pm

Munster Division 1: Cork Harlequins v Ashton, Farmers’ Cross, 1.30pm; Waterford v Catholic Institute, Newtown, 2.30pm

Irish Senior Cup – Semi-Finals (both Sunday): Cork C of I v Three Rock Rovers, Garryduff, 2.30pm; Lisnagarvey v Glenanne, Comber Road, 3pm

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