Trinity, Monkstown and Corinthian played out a thrilling three-way battle for the Leinster Division One title with the students eventually prevailing following an immaculate unbeaten season.
Between them, they lost just four games cumulatively, winning 46 out of 54 to cut themselves apart from the rest of the pack. In that context, they look set to be the main contenders once again with all keeping hold of most of their key players for the campaign.
For each of them, they will be targeting a strong run in EYHL2 and a push for promotion to the national division.
Glenanne were the next best and they will hope Clare Shillington and Saoirse O’Donoghue’s return will close the gap and push for the top three.
Clontarf moved up by virtue of their excellent late season run of form in Division Two and a playoff win over Our Lady’s and they start their campaign against a Naas side who competed well in their first year in the province’s top tier.
Leinster Division 1
Saturday: Corinthian v North Kildare, Whitechurch Park, 3.30pm; Genesis v Rathgar, St Raphaela’s, 3.15pm; Naas v Clontarf, Caragh Road, 2.45pm; Trinity v Avoca, Santry Avenue, 3.15pm
Wednesday: Monkstown v Glenanne, ALD Merrion Fleet Arena, 8.20pm
Last season: 7th Leinster Division 1; Jacqui Potter Shield semi-final; Irish Hockey Trophy first round
Head Coach: Ronan Hickey (5th season); Assistant Coaches: Noelle Farrell, Anna Richardson, Brian Cleary
Players in: Anna Richardson (UCD), Amy Giblin (Old Alex), Ciara Feely (UCD)
Players out: Aoife Glennon (Pembroke), Claire Byrne (Monkstown), Tessa May (Trinity)
Overview: Former captain and Irish U21 international Anna Richardson returns in a player-coach capacity after three very successful years in UCD. Leinster junior interpro players Amy Giblin and Ciara Feely have also joined. Irish Under-16 international goalkeeper Erika Gallagher has moved up to the senior section following Aoife Glennon’s departure to the EYHL and Pembroke. She joins fellow schoolgirl internationals Zoe Watterson and Lauren Moore in the squad.
Coaches Ronan Hickey, Noelle Farrell and Brian Cleary all worked with Irish junior teams over the summer and are looking forward to another campaign with Avoca. Preseason has seen the panel working hard on fitness and playing numerous games against the likes of Portadown, Rathgar, Our Ladys and Pembroke.
Last season: 4th Leinster Division 2; won Division ½ playoff against Our Ladys 5-1
Coach: Billy McNamara (1st season)
Players in: n/a
Players out: n/a
Overview: Clontarf Ladies 1s squad have had a good start with some very successful preseason matches under new coach Billy McNamara joining this year, a Clontarf club man, the squad have their sights set high for the 2019/20 season.
They hope to build on the determined mentality of last year which saw them start slowly, going five games before their first win but subsequently lost just one of their last 13 games to become the highest ranked first team, earning their promotion playoff against Our Lady’s which they won well 5-1.
The team comprises of a mix of experienced players and developing younger players who are set on disproving any notion that they are the underdogs in Division 1.
Last season: 3rd Leinster Division 1; 3rd EYHL group stages; Irish Senior Cup first round; didn’t enter LHA cups
Coach: Ralph Billings (3rd Season), Nicola Miller (1st Season) Manager
Players in: Ciara Vincent (Loreto)
Players out: none
Overview: Even though they finished in the same position as the previous season, the reds did improve on their points total and goals scored. The target will be the same this year, progression and hopefully to be in the mix when it comes to the business end of the EYHL Division 2 and the Leinster league.
Coach Ralph Billings can call on Colin Stewart and Peter Caruth who will also be working with the first team throughout the season. They have enjoyed a busy preseason which took in a trip to Belgium for three matches and then local friendlies with Old Alex, Muckross, Leinster Under-16 boys, Monkstown and Leinster Under-18 Girls have proved valuable.
Last season: 4th Leinster Division 1, Jacqui Potter Shield third Round, Irish Senior Cup first Round, 2nd Leinster Indoor League.
Coach: Kevin O’Malley and Brad Venter (1st season)
Players in: Saoirse O’Donoghue (Study commitments), Anne Marie Cave (Genesis), Clare Shillington (Muckross), Sonja Rynhart (Enniscorthy)
Players out: Niamh Lyons, Hannah Morrin, Shannon Smullen (work/study Commitments), SJ Kelly (Royal Beerschot, Belgium), Serena Rush (Bray)
Overview: Glenanne intend to build on their fourth place finish under David Keogh last season, and contend for the top spots in Leinster. They are excited to welcome the dynamic duo of Kevin O’Malley and Brad Venter who will look to channel their recent successes with the club’s men’s side. Rachel and Róisín O’Brien have come on board as co-captains to lead this side.
The side has both lost and gained players, including Anne Marie Cave coming in to bolster the midfield and build on her strong partnership forged during the summer masters tournament with Glenanne stalwart Audrey Westlake. Saoirse O’Donoghue and Claire Shillington have both returned to the side after several years break to give both defensive and attacking options. With a solid preseason including wins over Genesis, Three Rock and North Kildare, they will be hoping to carry this form into the opening matches of the season.
Last season: 2nd Leinster Division 1; EYHL2 playoffs semi-final; Jacqui Potter Cup first round
Coach: Simon Lowry; Sarah Scott (assistant coach), Kevin Foley (S & C)
Players in: Jen Hamill (Genesis), Claire Byrne (Avoca)
Players out: Rachel Eggers (UCD), Christine Quinlan (London)
Overview: Monkstown have been boosted by the return of Sarah Greene who will add quality and experience to the back line after a stint in Australia. Irish Under-16 Jen Hamill joins from Genesis along with Claire Byrne who has joined from Avoca.
Rachel Eggers has moved to UCD while Christine Quinlan’s move to London for work means she is unlikely to feature this season. The coaching team has been bolstered by the addition of Sarah Scott who brings years of international and IHL experience to the group; Kevin Foley, having worked successfully with the men’s first team as strength and conditioning coach for the last number of years, will be working with the ladies in a similar capacity.
Last season: 7th Leinster Division 1; Jacqui Potter Cup second round; Jacqui Potter Shield semi-final
Coach: Ross Harding (9th season)
Players in: Jane Brownlee (Pembroke Wanderers); Evana Cassidy (North Kildare (GK)); Roisin Sexton; Lynn Sparrow; Michelle Cashman
Players out: Michelle Stafford (retired due to injury).
Overview: Naas are looking forward to their second season in Division 1 having finished a credible joint seventh in their first year at that level. Consistency is the key for the upcoming season with the Naas team retaining all outfield players from the previous year.
The squad has also been bolstered by new members this year: Jane Brownlee, last lining out with Pembroke, re-joins her original club after a two year break, and Roisin Sexton, an U-16 Leinster captain and Irish player, makes the step up to senior hockey.
Evana Cassidy takes up the mantle in goals following Michelle Stafford’s injury-forced retirement. Lynn Sparrow and Michelle Cashman have impressed in preseason and look well-set to make the progression from the Naas seconds and Under-16s respectively. The team benefits from the experience of three Leinster and Irish Masters stalwarts, and the youth section of the club continues to produce the stars of the future, with a stream of up-and-coming players. It leaves coach Ross Harding with a wealth of players in the mix as part of his plans for the preseason run-in.
Last season: 5th Leinster Division One; Jacqui Potter Cup first round; Jacqui Potter Shield quarter-final
Coach: Mark Lambe (coach 2nd season), Paul Bass (asst coach 1st season), Gay Williams (manager 4th season)
Players in: Elaine Douglas, Kate Edghill, Grace Adams
Players out: Emilie Ryan Doyle (Old Alex), Ali Bell, Joanna Crowley, Ella Menzies
Overview: North Kildare produced a strong fifth place finish last season, running up seven wins to standalone in mid-table, seven points behind the top four but also seven points clear of the bottom half of the table.
They come into the season off the back of six weeks of hockey, fitness and strength and conditioning along with five friendly matches. Coach Mark Lambe welcomes new assistant coach Paul Bass.
Last season: 6th Leinster Division 1; Irish Hockey Trophy Round 1; Jacqui Potter Cup Round 1; Jacqui Potter Shield, Round 2.
Coach: Stuart Malcolm (2nd Season)
Players in: Haneefa Carrim (Returning from year out), Enya Mak (High School), Cliona Sheehy (Returning from year out), Nisha Kohli-Lynch (Hillhead HC, Glasgow), Holly Beverland (Taieri HC, New Zealand)
Players out: Rachel Cobbe (Sabbatical), Roisin O’Driscoll (Sabbatical), Grace Tutty (Sabbatical).
Overview: Coach Stuart Malcolm begins his second season in charge from a strong place after leading the squad to their highest ever league finish in the 2018/2019 season during his first season at the helm. They started slowly with four successive losses with just one goal and no wins until game seven before amassing 17 points.
Returning players Haneefa Carrim and Cliona Sheehy and the addition of Enya Mak, Nisha Kolhi-Lynch and Holly Beverland brings increased dynamism to the squad. Steady players Kaj O’Farrell, Sarah Mooney and Leanne Martin provide the experience.
Last season: Leinster Division 1 winners, EYHL 2 semi-finals
Coach: Brian Scully (coach, 4th season), David Fitzgerald (High Performance Director of Hockey in Trinity/assistant coach), Elun Hack (specialist coach)
Players in: Kate Orr (Railway Union), Leah Paul (Railway Union), Iseult Cambay (Pembroke), Sophie Roopnarinsinegh (Old Alex), Tessa May (Avoca), Isabelle McGrath (Muckross), Sarah Whelan (Railway Union)
Players out: Clodagh Fullston (Genesis) Maeve Doherty (America) Camilla Stephens (England)
Overview: Coach Brian Scully is delighted to see a series of high quality players make the move to the club with Iseult Cambay adding a strong goalkeeping option while they have a significantly wider depth to their squad as a result.
Last season saw them win the Leinster league with an unbeaten run and 13 clean sheets into the bargain. While they will miss Clodagh Fullston’s goals, the side remain one of the key contenders this season for the EYHL2 playoff places and should be in a position to challenge for promotion.