The men’s EY Hockey League is back with a bang after a busy summer with plenty of high profile players and coaches making moves around the island and beyond.
It is a heavily Leinster-based competition with Corinthian and UCD’s promotion and Cork C of I and Cookstown’s relegation leaving seven Dublin sides in the division.
Lisnagarvey probably take on the favourites mantle. The EYHL champions surprised everyone last term when their glut of teenagers swept to the title, going 14 games unbeaten after some early stutters.
With the youngsters a year more experienced and Paul Gleghorne back in the fold, they have lots of quality but they will miss Matthew Nelson who is in Germany with Krefeld.
First up, though, is a big test. With the return of Olympians Kirk Shimmins and Alan Sothern, Pembroke look well set to make a move toward the top four after their push last year slowed in the second half of the season.
Sothern is one of the most prolific scorers in domestic hockey and he will give their attack a real sharp edge.
Three Rock Rovers – winners of 13 different titles in the last three seasons – are facing a revamp on and off the pitch. Nine front-line players from their Champions Trophy and Irish Senior Cup winning side have moved on with Luke Madeley, Daragh Walsh and Jamie Carr signing up with Leuven in Belgium.
Coming in, Welsh international James Kyriakides and Ben Johnson are healthy additions while Ali Haughton is back after three seasons in France.
Their first challenge is against an ambitious UCD side who have probably done the best recruitment over the summer with Guy Sarratt – the league’s top scorer last year – Conor Empey, Cian Murphy and Alex Flynn all serious players. Should Michael Styles get the promoted side all working as one, they can cause plenty of surprises.
Gary Shaw is heading up Glenanne’s challenge as player-coach, taking over from Joe Brennan who has switched to Corinthian. The Glens’ squad is slimmer on numbers than last year with Sam O’Connor moving to Belgium and Cedric Jacobi returning to Germany.
Their meeting will take place at 2pm in Wesley College and not St Andrew’s following a technical issue with the watering system.
Their first tie is a tester against YMCA who have added nine players to their first team panel with Irish Under-21 Matthew Walker their main addition. Ben Campbell, Sam Hyland and Grant Glutz lead the line.
Newly promoted Corinthian can make a big statement on opening day with Peter Caruth, their marquee new face, coming up against his former club Annadale. He is one of three key players from Dale not around this season with Callum Robson at Krefeld and Ryan Getty returning to Garvey.
Coach Richard Fairman will need to coax the best out of their young stars to get their campaign on track.
Monkstown, meanwhile, are celebrating their 125th anniversary with one of their favourite sons, Stephen Cole, back after a year with Oree in Belgium. Their first challenge is against a Banbridge side who have Gordon Cracknell on the sideline with Mark Tumilty stepping aside after nine seasons. Owen Magee is back from Braxgata for the Co Down side.
The format is the same as previous years with top spot earning a European ticket; the top four are assured of a Champions Trophy place.
EY Hockey League (Saturday): Corinthian v Annadale, Whitechurch Park, 2.30pm; YMCA v Glenanne, Wesley College, 2pm; Lisnagarvey v Pembroke Wanderers, Comber Road, 3pm; Monkstown v Banbridge, Merrion Fleet Arena, 2.15pm; Three Rock Rovers v UCD, Grange Road, 3pm
Men’s EY Hockey League – team by team previews
Last season: 7th EYHL; Kirk Cup final; Irish Senior Cup round three
Coach: Richard Fairman (first season); assistant coach – Jonny Caren; manager – David Livingstone
Players in: Simon Cox (Bangor) Will Aston (Mossley)
Players out: Ryan Getty (Lisnagarvey), Callum Robson (Crefelder HTC), Peter Caruth (Corinthian)
Overview: Annadale’s youthful side will have a big task on their hand to try and avoid the relegation places after three of their leading lights departed during the summer. In the absence of the injured Peter Caruth in the second half of last season, they did not garner a win in their last 10 games having won four out of eight before that.
That was enough to ensure they stayed out of the relegation battle but with Caruth moving back to Dublin in an assistant coach role with Corinthian, Callum Robson going to Crefeld in Germany and Ryan Getty returning to Lisnagarvey, they have a deficit in experience in quality.
Ryan Burgess will be a key man following an excellent first season at the top level, captaining the side and scoring plenty of corners while young guns Adam McAllister and Ben Wallace will be key figures. Indeed, the club does continue to churn out underage internationals and the hope is they can quickly adapt to the top grade.
Last season: 3rd EYHL; Irish Senior Cup quarter-final; EY Champions Trophy semi-final; Kirk Cup winners; Anderson Cup finalists
Coaching team: Gordon Cracknell (1st season); assistant coaches – Scott McCandless, Suzanne Evans, Gareth Lennox; manager Colin Walker
Players in: Owen Magee (Braxgata, Belgium), Philip Brown (injury), Dane Ward (Instonians), Robbie Scott (Portadown)
Players out: Fraser Mills (retired), Scott Dale (Nottingham Trent University/Beeston), David Rae (Kilkeel)
Overview: After successful nine season spell, Mark Tumilty stepped away from the Banbridge coaching role earlier this year with Gordon Cracknell taking over as head coach.
He has seen his ranks boosted by Owen Magee’s return after a year in Belgium with Braxgata while Dane Ward is back after a spell with Instonians. Philip Brown is hopeful his injury issues are behind him to bring his powerful presence to bear as they look well placed to be involved at the business end when the trophies are handed out.
Preseason has been progressing well with Cracknell getting to know the players, a spell slightly disrupted due to schoolboy involvement in interpro preparations, senior players like Eugene Magee being with the Irish setup and so on. Nonetheless, it has yielded a 5-0 win over Cookstown and Clontraf while they lost to Garvey 3-1 at home.
Last season: 1st Leinster Division 1; EYHL 2 winners; Irish Senior Cup Quarter Final; Mills Cup Semi Final; Neville Cup Final
Coach: Joe Brennan (1st season); manager: Sean Stewart
Players in: Peter Caruth (Annadale), Calum Adair (Three Rock Rovers), Matthew McCabe (YMCA), Max Neill (Kilkenny), Henry Micks (return from work abroad)
Players out: George Dagg (year out), Hugo Burns (studying abroad), Josh Greaney (Loughborough University), Tom Gibbs (working abroad)
Overview: Corinthian make their debut in the EY Hockey League this season following three Leinster league victories in succession under the coaching of Trevor Dagg. They finally won out via the EYHL2 playoffs through a shoot-out and they are keen to stick around.
Dagg stepped down after last term with Joe Brennan taking over, co-opting Peter Caruth to be his assistant alongside Colin Stewart as the club’s Director of Coaching – a strong coaching line-up.
The experienced Henry Micks is back after a year away while Calum Adair, Matthew McCabe and Max Neill add to their panel. Josh Greaney’s move to Loughborough sees one of their brightest talents not around but David Howard and the prolific Ian Stewart should be able to provide plenty of goals to make them competitive.
Last season: 3rd EYHL; EY Champions Trophy semi-finals; Irish Senior Cup Semi Final; Mills Cup final
Player Coach: Gary Shaw; Assistant coach: Kieran Bolger; manager: Gerry Shaw
Players in: none
Players out: Sam O’Connor (Beerschot); Cedric Jacobi (Germany); Richard Couse (Avoca); Joe Brennan (Retired); Eddie O’Malley (Retired)
Overview: Glenanne had a topsy-turvy season last time around, leading the table at one stage last season but just one win in their last seven league games saw them drop to fourth place and a rough exit from the Champions Trophy at the hands of Lisnagarvey.
The summer has seen Sam O’Connor move to EHL-bound Beerschot and Cedric Jacobi is back in Germany. With Joe Brennan and Eddie O’Malley retiring and Richard Couse going to Avoca, their squad is trimmed back for Gary Shaw’s first season in charge as player-coach.
They do have plenty of experience with Stephen Brownlow, Richie Shaw and David Keogh in the mix along with Shannon Boucher, Brad Venter and Neil Byrne but the concern would be they could be impacted by a couple of injuries. Jerome Saeys offers an ace in the pack. They showed enough in their 4-3 preseason loss to Three Rock – leading 3-1 at one stage – that they will be a force.
Last season: 1st EYHL; Irish Senior Cup final; EY Champions Trophy final; Anderson Cup winners; Kirk Cup semi-finals
Coaching team: Head coach: Erroll Lutton (7th season), Assistant coach: Stephen Arbuthnot; GK coach: Raymond Geddis; Manager: Dean Beckett
Players in: Scott McCabe (Queens), Patrick Hunter (Queens), Paul Gleghorne (Crefelder HTC)
Players out: Matthew Nelson (Crefelder HTC)
Overview: Last summer was one of exodus for Lisnagarvey and yet they ended the season as EYHL champions as their next generation gelled in outstanding fashion. With Daniel and Ben Nelson, Johnny Lynch, Andy Edgar and Troy Chambers a year older, Irish Under-21 international Scott McCabe back and Paul Gleghorne adding to the mix, they look set to be a main player once again.
The downside is Matthew Nelson’s move to Germany, depriving them of one of the game’s most exciting forward talents. Nonetheless, preseason has been good with coach Erroll Lutton able to integrate some of the new Under-18 players into their friendlies.
Lutton said of the new season: “With many teams making changes on the coaching and playing side, it promises to be the most competitive IHL since it began. Having had the experience of winning at both national and domestic level last year, the aim for us is to be as competitive again this season.”
Last season: 6th EYHL, irish Senior Cup quarter-final; Neville Cup quarter-final; Mills Cup first round
Player/Coach: Gareth Watkins (2nd Season); Manager: Andy Ewington (2nd Season)
Players in: Andrew Fogarty (UCD), Rory Nichols (Returning from Australia on Erasmus), Stephen Cole (Royal Oree)
Players out: Guy Sarratt (UCD), Karl Smith
Overview: Celebrating 125 years this year in Monkstown so the club are looking for success in the leagues as well as enjoying all the 125 events they have lined up. Stephen Cole returns from his year away with Royal Oree while his brother Lee is remaining on in Belgium for another season. Andrew Fogarty is another returnee from UCD after four years. He helped them get promoted in his last season and was a key member of the MHC Irish Junior Cup team in 2015.
They will miss the goals of Guy Sarratt from penalty corners but there is a chance for Ryan Spencer and Gavin Gleeson to cement their place in Gareth Watkins’ line-up.
Last season: 5th EYHL ; Irish Senior Cup quarter-final; Mills Cup semi-final; Neville Cup second round
Coaching team: Head Coach – Paudie Carley (2nd season); Director of Coaching – David Passmore
Players in: Alan Sothern (La Gantoise), Kirk Shimmins (KHC Dragons), Andrew Colton (Railway Union), Nick Burns (Old Georgians HC), Alex Burns (Cork CofI), Jordan Lyner (North Down)
Players out: Tim Hill (retirement), Keith Crawford (professional reasons), Ronan Flannery (retirement), Stephen Sweetnam (retirement), Andreu Gomez (Spain), Cody Thomas (Australia), Cedric Mushiete (Belgium)
Overview: Pembroke welcome back Olympic duo Alan Sothern and Kirk Shimmins from their Belgian adventures and are delighted to add defensive mettle in the form of Andy Colton and Alex Burns, along with forward powerhouse Nick Burns for another stint at Serpentine Avenue – he played with Old Georgians in England last term.
Their arrivals are timely with stalwarts Tim Hill, Keith Crawford and Ronan Flannery step back while Cody Thomas, Andreu Gomez and Cedric Mushiete return to their homelands.
With goal machine Sothern and midfield dynamo Shimmins in tow, Pembroke coach Paudie Carley and Colm O’Hare are looking forward to a sustained
Coach Paudie Carley and team manager Colm O’Hare are looking forward to a fresh assault on the top competitions following a productive pre-season including a successful tournament and training camp in Dusseldorf.
Internationals Keith O’Hare and skipper Harry Spain are both expected to feature heavily in the new campaign. Rob McCollum makes his first full-season debut and has been in flying form over the summer. Backroom mentors David Passmore and Nigel Henderson complete the coaching picture.
Three Rock Rovers
Last season: 2nd EYHL; EY Champions Trophy winners, Irish Senior Cup winners, Mills Cup winners, Neville Cup winners, National Indoor Trophy winners, Leinster Indoor winners, EuroHockey Indoor Challenge I runners-up
Coach: Elun Hack (first season), Fraser Morris (manager)
Players in: James Kyriakides (Cardiff & Met), Conor Quinn (Rathgar), Ben Johnson (Waterford), Sam Grace (UCC), James Walker (Australia), Ali Haughton (Racing Club de France)
Players out: John Mullins (Clontarf), Kevin Mullins (Clontarf), Alex Flynn (UCD), Conor Empey (UCD), Matthew Walker (YMCA), Luke Madeley (Leuven), Jamie Carr (Leuven), Daragh Walsh (Leuven), Ravin Nair (break from the game)
Overview: After 13 titles in three seasons, Three Rock are facing a revamp after nine frontline players moved on over the summer with a series of new faces coming in. The pro ranks came calling for Luke Madeley, Jamie Carr and Daragh Walsh while John and Kevin Mullins returned to Clontarf for their EYHL2 bid.
Alex Flynn and Conor Empey switched to UCD while Ravin Nair is taking a break from the game. It means plenty of opportunity knocks for underage internationals like Ali Empey, Evan Jennings and Harry Lynch to stake a claim for a regular place in the squad.
They also have some notable additions with Welsh international James Kyriakides – a veteran of two Commonwealth Games – a big catch while Ben Johnson (from Waterford). Sam Grace, James Walker and Ali Haughton all return to the club after spells away, augmenting the talents of Mitch Darling, Ben Walker and Jody Hosking, the fulcrum of a strong line-up.
On the coaching front, Niall Denham stepped down in the summer; his assistant Gareth Borland was due to take on the role but a work promotion meant he had to step away. Elun Hack, therefore, takes on the role following success with the club’s second team, winning the Irish Junior Cup and an unbeaten Leinster league run.
Last season: 2nd EYHL promotion playoffs; 3rd Leinster Division One, Irish Senior Cup Round 3; Mills Cup first round
Coach: Michael Styles (1st season), Manager: Reece Jordan (1st season)
Players in: Guy Sarratt (Monkstown), Conor Empey (Three Rock Rovers), Alex Flynn (Three Rock Rovers), Cian Murphy (Pembroke), Jamie Pullen (Three Rock Rovers), Tito Henry (Monkstown), Riain McDonald (Pembroke), Gauth Beirnaert (Waterloo Ducks)
Players out: Andrew Fogarty (Monkstown)
Overview: UCD’s return to the top flight of the EYHL was welcomed by a new coach in Michael Styles and many strong new players. EYHL top scorer from last season, Guy Sarratt, and fellow Irish Under-21 internationals Conor Empey, Cian Murphy and Alex Flynn have all joined the college side, joining an already strong Irish underage contingent in the sky blue.
Speaking after a preseason game, and the opening of a brand new pitch in Belfield, against Loughborough University, coach Styles said: “The aim is to try and create a place for these lads to study and play towards their goals. Hopefully we can start to match the women and get players into those international teams.”
Despite losing Andrew Fogarty, UCD are bolstered by a St Andrews alum in Matteo Romoli, Jazze Henry, Ziggy De Boe Agnew and David Nolan, and look well placed to try and produce a few shocks over the course of the EYHL.
Last season: 8th EYHL; Irish Senior Cup third round; Neville Cup quarter-final; Mills Cup quarter-final
Head Coach: Jason Klinkradt (6th season), assistant coach – Justin Sherriff (3rd season), Manager – Sam Mawhinney (2nd season)
Players in: Ethan McInerney, Gearóid O’Brien, Harry McCarthy, David Gahan (all Waterford); Matt Walker, Sam Ryder, Iain Paterson (all Three Rock Rovers); Tony Brophy (Cork C of I); Eric Prehn (Trinity).
Players out: Wilf King, Cillian Hynes, Eoin Buttanshaw, Andrew Jones (Moving country during the season)
Overview: With all the new players and hard work put in, the club has evolved over the summer with a new state of the art water based turf soon to be completed which they hope will add to the playing level of all players.
Under-21 international Matthew Walker is the big addition of nine new arrivals while the mercurial talents of Eric Prehn are usually well worth a watch. Four players move up from Waterford following the club’s awesome season last time out with a third place finish in Munster.
Ben Campbell, Sam Hyland and Grant Glutz are the driving forces and they will anticipate that the squad should have enough about them to move away from potential relegation issues.
Coach Jason Klinkradt is in his sixth season in charge and he said of their chances: “ I am really excited for this group of players, there are many talented players in this group and have started to gel over the past few weeks. I’m looking forward to the season ahead and to pick up where we left off last season after a strong finish!”