With Corinthian and UCD promoted, the battle for Leinster Division One supremacy will take on a very different hue this season with the jostling for EYHL and EYHL2 place set to be a fascinating one.
Railway Union were best placed last term with a second placed finish and, despite a slightly slimmed down panel, they look well placed to challenge.
Clontarf and Avoca, meanwhile, will be looking to close the significant gap and both have seen strong additions to their line-ups. Tarf did go seven games unbeaten to finish the last campaign and with two Australians and John and Kevin Mullins back at the club after a glittering spell at Three Rock, they are in great shape.
Similarly, Avoca welcome back Richard Couse after an EYHL title with Glenanne and Uruguayan captain Diego Laborde is an interesting new recruit, continuing the club’s links with the South American country.
That trio looks on paper to be the main contenders but will also have EYHL Division 2 to negotiate. Dublin University will also be on the chase in the regular season. Rathgar were in the frame last term before a disastrous second half of the campaign to drop from fourth to eighth.
Kilkenny, Dublin North and Portrane will hope to push on while Bray and Weston have been promoted from Leinster Division Two and Three, respectively, to bolster the league up to ten teams, given the extra space created by the double promotion to the national division.
Leinster Division 1 (all Saturday): Clontarf v Weston, Mount Temple, 12.30pm; Dublin North v Avoca, ALSAA, 12pm; Dublin University v Rathgar, Santry Avenue, 10am; Kilkenny v Bray, Kilkenny College, 12pm; Railway Union v Portrane, Park Avenue 2pm
Men’s Leinster Division One – team by team previews
Last season: 5th Leinster Division 1; Irish Senior Cup first round; Mills Cup first round
Coach: Mark Cullen (10th season)
Players in: Richard Couse (Glennane), Diego Laborde (Uruguay), Marcus Ryan (Catholic Institute), Ben Schutte (Pembroke)
Players out: n/a
Overview: Avoca qualified for EYHL2 on goal difference ahead of Dublin University and are looking to make a big push for this extended campaign under the watchful eye of S&C coach Alannah Hedderman. The squad is bolstered by a number of summer arrivals, namely Uruguayan captain Diego Laborde who linked up with the squad during pre-season, and the return of Richard Couse after a spell with Glenanne. Mark Cullen returns for a 10th season at the helm, leading a young squad sprinkled with experienced heads looking to challenge on a number of fronts this year.
Last season: 8th Leinster Division 2; Irish Hockey Challenge semi-final; Neville Cup second round
Coach: Stephen Stewart (3rd season)
Players in: David Nuzum (Wicklow)
Players out: none
Overview: After a disappointing season in Division 2 last season, Bray, being the only men’s first side in the division, received promotion. The preseason preparation has been solid with some promising results in challenge matches, most notably overturning Corinthian seconds (4-2) and suffering narrow one goal defeats to YMCA and Pembroke 2nds.
The introduction of David Nuzum from Wicklow has bolstered the squad for the challenges that lie ahead. Stephen Stewart begins his 3rd season as head coach and is determined to make Bray a powerhouse of south Leinster hockey. The club have gone from strength to strength over the past few years and with continued momentum and a thriving youth system, this will most definitely continue. A first loss of the season in the Neville Cup to UCD has not dampened spirits as they look forward to the season opener away to Kilkenny.
Last season: 4th Leinster Division 1; Irish Senior Cup last 16; Neville Cup semi-final; Mills Cup quarter-final
Coach: David Bane (1st season); Assistant Coach: Gareth Borland (1st season, second spell)
Players in: Kevin Mullins (Three Rock Rovers); John Mullins (Three Rock Rovers); Jordan Edmonds (Curtin Trinity; Perth, Australia); Grant Davey (West Coast Raiders; Australia)
Players out: John Lennon (stepping down from first team)
Overview: Having qualified for EYHL2, the Bulls have strengthened significantly with the Mullins brothers returning after their glut of medals for Three Rock Rovers. Gareth Borland also returns to the club after a couple of years as Rovers’ assistant, his promotion at Mount Temple meaning he stepped away from the head coach role there due to time restrictions.
He will assist David Bane who takes on the coaching reigns
from Craig Stewart and he has a young squad with plenty of talent at his
disposal. They have been training since the middle of July, taking in preseason
friendlies against Glenanne (2-0 win) and Banbridge (4-0 loss), which have the
lads eagerly waiting the start of the season.
Last season: 10th Leinster Division One; Neville Cup second round; Mills Cup first round
Coach: Shane Dempsey (2nd season)
Players in: Ronan walsh (Weston) Gareth Myburgh (returning player)
Players out: Alex Mckeever (Weston)
Overview: Preseason has been disrupted due to not having the National Sports Campus pitch available due to it’s current development, until next week forcing the club to move pitches during preseason and play their first home game in ALSAA.
But the team have had the drive to push past all that and are looking forward to a new season and to grow from last season which, despite finishing last, saw them be very competitive in almost every game. Player-coach Shane Dempsey is the key man with Declan Brady, Adrian Sweeney, Conor Connolly and Jim Dunne bringing plenty of experience. Ronan Walsh answered the recent call for a goalkeeper.
Last season: 6th in Leinster Division 1; Irish Senior Cup first round; Mills Cup first round; Neville Cup second round
Coach: Nasir Munir Chaudhry
Players in: Nathan Bastien (Belgium),Tom Stroh (Germany), Victor Consuegra (Spain), Alex Wall (YMCA)
Players out: Eric Prehn (YMCA), Samuel Boggio (France), Felipe De Comprodon (Spain)
Overview: Being a college team, they will always have a fluid squad so the team has to gel every year with four coming in and four on the way out with Erasmus with new arrivals from Belgium, Germany and Spain while Samuel Boggio and Felipe de Comprodon return to their homelands.
They narrowly lost on a shootout to Corinthian last Sunday in the Neville Cup and are confident we can push for a higher place than where we finished last year.
Last season: 7th in Leinster Division 1, Mills Cup second round; Irish Senior Cup second round; Neville Cup semi-final
Coach: Emmett Hughes, Billy McEnery captain
Players in: Danny Mulligan (back from Qatar)
Players out: Evin McClure, James Feeley (both UCC), Declan Coffey (UCD), Max Neill (Corinthian)
Overview: The cats have gone well in preseason, playing Ashton, UCC, Enniscorthy and Waterford while they are still waiting on some guys to return from hurling commitments such as Howard McDonnell and Bill McDowell.
Billy McEnery is captain and he has brought an enthusiasm to the role while a couple of players are commuting from Dublin to be part of the side. They are hopeful that promising players coming through the school can have a big impact such as Henry Huston, Ian O’Keeffe, Simon Young and Tim Cope. As ever, they will hope to maximise what we can from home games. A number of last year’s vintage have graduated to university with Evin McClure and James Feeley going south to Cork while Declan Coffey and Max Neill are up in Dublin.
Last season: 9th Leinster Division One; Neville Cup second round; Mills Cup quarter-final; Irish Hockey Trophy first round
Coaching team: Mukhtar Ahmad (Player Coach (10th season with club), Adrian Henchy (assistant coach); Niall Franklin (Strength and Conditioning Coach, 1st year)
Players in: John Skehan (Suttonians), Stephen Rogan (Pembroke Wanderers), Adam Agnew (Kilkeel), Charl Best (South Africa), Ryan Sloan (New Zealand), Sundeep Udham (India)
Players out: none
Overview: Portrane have undergone a rigorous and focused preseason training schedule this summer under the direction of S&C Coach Niall Franklin and it paid dividends as they started well with a 4-0 victory over local rivals Dublin North in the Fingal Cup final. A strengthening of the panel with six new arrivals will give them confidence they can move up the table with Chris Neville continuing to be a key man.
Last season: 2nd Leinster Division One; Neville Cup second round; Mills Cup first round
Coach: Kenny Carroll (second season)
Players in: Hugo Heisterkamp (Three Rock Rovers)
Players out: Andrew Colton (Pembroke), Adam O’Callaghan (returned to Cork), Gus Boothman (Madrid – Erasmus)
Overview: Railway Union’s squad is slightly trimmed back with Andrew Colton moving to Pembroke while Adam O’Callaghan and Gus Boothman have moved away from Dublin with Hugo Heisterkamp the one player coming in.
Simon McKeever is in Australia for a second year but they will benefit from the services of Michael McKenzie who is back for a second year after a summer with Canada Under-21s. Former dual international Kenny Carroll is coaching again; their preseason saw them lose to Monkstown, TRR and YMCA but they beat Weston and Dublin North 4-0 in midweek, suggesting they will be pushing toward the upper echelons of the division once again.
Last season: 8th Leinster Division One; Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals; Mills Cup first round; Neville Cup first round
Player-coach: Stephen Thompson (first season)
Players in: Tom Kemsley (Scotland), Declan Ashley (Weston), Andy Waller (Avoca)
Players out: Conor Quinn (TRR), Peter Collins (travelling), Ricky McMahon (travelling)
Overview: Stephen Thompson makes the transition from player into the player coach for his first season in charge. He previously coached Rathgar Ladies during a period of success which resulted in their promotion to Leinster Division One.
Rathgar eased to an 8-1 win on Saturday in the Neville Cup against Wicklow. Consistent form throughout the season will be vital if they are to maintain a push for a top three spot as results after Christmas last season saw them drop from fourth to eighth position. Alan White, Andy Malcolm, Stu Cinnamond and Jonathan Orr provide the experience.
Last season: 7th in Division 3. 1st round in Railway Cup and Neville Cup.
Coach: Vinnie Byrne (1st season, previously assistant coach)
Players in: Alex McKeever (Dublin North), Eamon Lynskey (Navan), Karl Goodwin (returning from break), Phill Barron (returning from break)
Players out: Declan Ashley (Rathgar), Ronan Walsh (Dublin North)
Overview: Vinnie Byrne and Davitt Meenaghan (club captain) have spent the summer preparing for a return to Division 1. The new and returning players have experience at this level and the team have performed well in training having started back early to focus on strength and conditioning.
With a number of changes to both coaching and player rosters, preseason took a bit of time to bed in. This team has always had goals within them and with a forward line containing Richie Bagnall and Nicky Parkhilll they will cause trouble for most teams. There have been some positive aspects in preseason outings against Railway Union (5-3 loss) and Clontarf (5-1 loss) and the team has gelled nicely as preseason draws to a close.
Weston have had a difficult couple of years but are optimistic of giving a good account of themselves ahead of the 2019/20 season. The clubs main ambition is to re-establish themselves in Division One. With some exciting youth prospects coming through we would hope that this season provides a good platform for the future development of the club.