The last 16 of the women’s Irish Senior Cup will see some of the big guns’ resources stretched to the limit as the absence of international stars will see plenty of juggling of the deck.
None more so than at Grange Road where Loreto – while they await completion of their new pitch – host Belfast Harlequins with both coping with absent stars.
From the Beaufort side, Ali Meeke, Nicci Daly, Hannah Matthews and Liz Murphy may well be restricted while Beth and Serena Barr and Lizzie Colvin are in the same boat from Quins.
The Dubliners coped well last season without their big names with Caitlin Sherin, Christina Hamill and Siofra O’Brien taking on the responsibilities. Nonetheless, being so early in the campaign, it makes things very difficult to call.
Old Alex do have a game under their belt, a 6-2 win over Glenanne, ahead of their second round game against Railway Union – who will be shy the services of Sarah Hawkshaw but may welcome back Emma Smyth after a year out.
Muckross will have to wait to have Anna O’Flanagan line out in club colours and they face a strong challenge from UCD for whom Hannah McLoughlin and Niamh Carey showed they have lots of quality still around in their 7-4 win over Catholic Institute.
Monkstown host Corinthian in their second home match in four days having drawn 1-1 in midweek against Glenanne at the ALD Merrion Fleet Arena.
Town struggled to break through a half-court press from a robust Glenanne who were tireless in their work-rate around midfield.
It took a Monkstown goal from a corner from Rachel Moore to break the deadlock in the second half but this acted as a spur to get the Glens into action.
Great play up front from Hannah Delaney, Lisa Walsh, Paula Fitzpatrick and Clare Shillington created problems for Monkstown throughout the game, and won the short corner that Kate O’Connor buried in the bottom corner.
Monkstown came very close at the end when they camped out in the Glens 25 and won a string of corners, but some solid defending from the Glens kept the sides level. Sonja Rynhart impressed on her Division 1 debut; with her pace and skill, she will be an asset to the Glens for the season.
“It was a cold night, particularly for us getting started, but a good point,” said Glenanne co-coach Brad Venter. “The girls worked hard for it and Monkstown will be challenging for the title and EYHL2 so I am proud of them.
“I was saying to the girls, though, we shouldn’t be waiting to go a goal down to respond. Hats off to them for going straight out and doing just that and then almost stealing it after that.
“The Irish Senior Cup tie did sharpen us, playing an Old Alex side in the EYHL; it sets a good example, get the eye in, the pace up and had us mentally sharp.
They are next in action in midweek against Clontarf. For Monkstown, their coach Simon Lowry expressed his frustration with the outcome.
“We eventually broke them down and then got a little bit frantic and maybe didn’t manage the situation as well as we would have liked. We did create a lot of opportunities, won a lot of corners, but just didn’t execute how we expect of ourselves.”
Cork C of I are returning to the competition following their Irish Trophy win last spring and, bolstered by Holly Lehane (from UCC) and Kate Burke (Ashton), UCC is exactly the kind of opponent they will target if they are to raise their level further. Two Kay Gaffney goals were key in their strong 2-1 win over Bandon last week.
For UCC, star signing Caoimhe Perdue currently has a finger injury but they did start in confident fashion with a 2-0 win over Ashton with key forward Christina Dring among the goals again.
They hold the province’s hopes in the competition. Munster’s two EY Hockey League sides – Harlequins and Catholic Institute – bowed out at the first hurdle last week, leaving both in a vacuum for the next month. They have no league or cup fixtures scheduled now until November 9th once the Olympic qualifiers are complete.
With the local league already in full gear, finding challenge matches without having to travel will be tricky.
Pegasus will have to cope without the likes of Steph Quinn, Kate McConnell and Kate Gourley this season while Shirley McCay is on international duty so their trip to Ballymoney will be a big test of their panel.
Trinity host Banbridge, looking to build on their 2-0 win over Avoca last weekend – a 50th game unbeaten in the Leinster league division one.
Pembroke’s big 5-1 win over Cork Harlequins suggests they will have too much in the tank for Ulster Elks
Leinster Division One: Monkstown 1 (R Moore) Glenanne 1 (K O’Connor)
Women’s weekend fixtures
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2: Ballymoney v Pegasus, Joey Dunlop LC, 1pm; Cork C of I v UCC, Garryduff, 2.30pm; Old Alex v Railway Union, Milltown, 2pm; Loreto v Belfast Harlequins, Grange Road, 3.30pm; Monkstown v Corinthian, ALD Merrion Fleet Arena, 2.30pm; Muckross v UCD, Muckross Park, 3.15pm; Trinity v Banbridge, Santry Avenue, 3.30pm; Ulster Elks v Pembroke, Jordanstown, 2.30pm