The quality of the men’s EY Hockey League is expected to ramp up this season with the return of several international stars to the competition from the pro ranks in Belgium and beyond.
Glenanne – winners two seasons ago – have been the biggest movers in the transfer market with all-time Irish top goalscorer Shane O’Donoghue back after his latest two-year stint with Dragons.
He will be the player-coach for this campaign and he welcomes back fellow Ireland player Sam O’Connor as well as coaxing Richard Couse and Iain Walker back into the fold.
It means they will be hugely competitive with their opening tie against UCD a tester. The students showed up well against Lisnagarvey in last weekend’s Irish Senior Cup final but have to quickly switch squads with Dave Nolan, Jazze Henry, Andrew Meates and Ziggy Agnew moving on with Harry Lynch, Sam Walker, Scott Ruttle and Gearoid O’Brien replacing them.
Monkstown are another side likely to be serious challengers with top class performaers Lee Cole and Jeremy Duncan back in Ireland after extended spells in Europe and are looking forward to a first date with Corinthian.
Pembroke welcome Julian Dale for Harlequins, adding to the long line of Cork-men to play for the Ballsbridge club. Mark Ingram is back from Rotterdam, too, to give them a big boost between the posts for their away date at Banbridge who have seen Jonny McKee depart for Crefeld in Germany.
Daragh Walsh is Three Rock Rovers comeback kid after a year in Leuven as they go on the road to Garvey on day one. The Comber Road club are the side to catch but are one of the few sides not to add to their lot with promotion from within their method of strengthening.
Last year’s ninth and tenth placed sides – YMCA and Annadale – meet at Wesley with the former adding South African international Peabo Lembethe to their line-up. Dale got a major reprieve last season by the null and void situation with relegation pending but departures this summer of Ben Wallace and Ryan Burgess means they have another tough year ahead.
Saturday 26th September 2020
Men’s EYHL Division 1: Banbridge v Pembroke, Havelock Park, 2.45pm; Lisnagarvey v Three Rock Rovers, Comber Road, 3pm; Monkstown v Corinthian, Merrion Fleet Arena, 4.15pm; UCD v Glenanne, Belfield, 1pm; YMCA v Annadale, Wesley College, 2pm
Last season (at lockdown): Tenth, Irish Senior Cup first round, Kirk Cup group stages
Coach: Richard Fairman (2nd season), Assistant Coach: Stephen Galway (1st Season); Manager: Kim Collins (1st Season)
Players in: tbc
Players out: Ben Wallace (Banbridge), Ryan Burgess (Bangor)
Season overview: Last season was tough outing with the lockdown saving Annadale from what looked certain relegation to the Ulster Premier League. The departure during of the summer of captain and drag-flicker Ryan Burgess back to Bangor as player-coach and Ben Wallace and Banbridge will mean they will be in for a tough season again. Coach Richard Fairman’s brief to continue to develop the youngsters from their impressive academy and trust they will rise quickly like Patrick Rose did last term.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Corinthian (h), November 14
Last season (at lockdown): second, Irish Senior Cup second round, Kirk Cup winners
Coach: Gordon Cracknell (2nd season), assistant coaches: Scott McCandless, Suzanne Evans and Gareth Lennox
Players in: David Finlay (Kilkeel), Ben Wallace (Annadale)
Players out: Jonny Mckee (Crefelder HTC), Jamie Wright (Portadown), Ross Beattie (Portadown)
Season overview: Bann improved as time wore on last season and have the honour of being the only side to defeat Lisnagarvey when they won the Kirk Cup final. Preseason has been slow with matches hard to pick-up due to Covid-19 protocols and included a 3-2 loss to Garvey and beating Cookstown 3-1.
They used those game to bring in some new exciting talent from their junior ranks and give them the opportunity to begin their senior careers alongside the experience of Olympian Eugene Magee and former international Bruce McCandless. Of the new arrivals, they have signed prolific goalscorer David Finlay from Kilkeel as well as Ireland Under-21 defender Ben Wallace from Annadale.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Monkstown (h), November 14
Last season (at lockdown): seventh, Irish Senior Cup first round; Mills Cup semi-final
Coach: Joe Brennan (2nd season), assistant coach: Peter Caruth
Players in: George Dagg, Joe Brennan (re-registered to play)
Players out: Jonathan Roberts (year out), Henry Micks
Season overview: “The upcoming Irish Junior Cup has created a real buzz for preseason with a really big group training for that and hopefully can put up a good show,” now player-coach Joe Brennan says of the season ahead. Ashley Kemp had planned to go travelling but is still around due to the Covid-19 situation while he also welcomes back in George Dagg.
The likes of Max Neill, Max Wright, Craig McKay, Ross Howard, Matt McCabe and Calum Adair are maturing into the first team
Irish Senior Cup draw: Annadale (a), November 14
Last season (at lockdown): Fifth, Irish Senior Cup semi-final, Mills Cup quarter-final
Player/coach: Shane O’Donoghue (1st season), assistant coach: Lisa Jacob (1st season)
Players in: Ian Walker (YMCA), Matt Michie (Timperley HC, England), Richard Couse (Avoca), Kevin Mellott (Avoca), Shane O’Donoghue (KHC Dragons, Belgium), Sam O’Connor (Royal Beerschot, Belgium), Alex Henry (Railway Union), Michael Small (North Kildare), Simon Pearson (Weston HC), Alfie Jones (Limerick HC), Zack Waters (Pembroke Wanderers)
Players out: Leo Micklem (studies abroad), Enda Tucker (Weston)
Season overview: The biggest movers in the summer, the Glens have strengthened significantly with the obvious marquee returns of Ireland’s all-time top goalscorer Shane O’Donoghue and Sam O’Connor from Belgium. Add in Richard Couse coming back after a year top scoring in the Leinster league with Avoca, bringing Kevin Mellott with him, and they have a wider squad to work from that will be in a hugely competitive contest for a top four spot.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Bandon (h), November 14
Last season (at lockdown): first, Irish Senior Cup winners, Kirk Cup finalists
Coach: Erroll Lutton (8th season). Assistant Coach: Stephen Arbuthnot (3rd season) and Raymond Geddis (8th season). Manager: Dean Beckett (6th season)
Players in: n/a
Players out: Ollie Kidd (Nottingham Trent University/Beeston), Peter McKibben (Grossflottbeker), Scott McCabe (Queens University)
Season overview: Erroll Lutton’s view on preparatinos: “A solid preseason which gave us good preparation for the Irish Senior Cup semi final and final. Games against Cookstown, Banbridge, Dublin YMCA, Ireland and Monkstown also allowed us to include some of our Under-18 players who have been added to our training panel. As always it looks to be set up for a very competitive season and one we are looking forward to.”
The clear side to beat last season, they will know this season is likely to be more competitive with most of the chasing pack strengthening during the summer with lots of international talent returning. Nonetheless, the likes of Ben Nelson, Johnny Lynch, Troy Chambers and Mark McNellis are coming along all the time and make them the side to catch.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Clontarf/Kilkeel (a), November 14
Last season (at lockdown): Third, Mills Cup final
Coach: Gareth Watkins (3rd season), Eddie O’Malley (1st season); Manager: Sam Farrar
Players in: Lee Cole (Royal Oree, Belgium), Jeremy Duncan (Royal Oree, Belgium), David Nolan (UCD), Jazze Henry (UCD)
Players out: Gareth Watkins (retired)
Season overview: Monkstown have certainly strengthened significantly with Lee Cole back at the club after two seasons while Jeremy Duncan is a prize addition following his stint in Belgium at Herakles and Oree. Add in David Nolan and Jazze Henry and that is a very significant bit of business, tempered only by Gareth Watkins’ decision to focus on coaching. Indeed, it will be strange not to see him leading the line up front after so long as the club’s forward talisman.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Banbridge (a), November 14
Last season (at lockdown): Eighth, Irish Senior Cup quarter-final, Mills Cup semi-final
Coach: Paudie Carley (3rd season); assistant coaches: Alan Sothern (2nd season), Devin Donnelly (2nd season); manager: Colm O’Hare
Players in: Cian Murphy (UCD), Julian Dale (Cork Harlequins), Richard Sweetnam (Cork C of I), Isaac Johnson (Waterford), Fionn O’Leary (Bandon), Wisse Albers (Kampong), Mark Ingram (Rotterdam HC)
Players out: none
Season overview: Coach Paudie Carley: “Pre season has gone reasonably well considering the circumstances we are all challenged by. The boys are raring to get back at it and right the wrongs of last season.”
Another club to welcome back wandering stars with goalkeeper Mark Ingram back from Rotterdam, they also have serious extra firepower with Julian Dale following the well-worn path from Cork to Serpentine Avenue. Alongside Alan Sothern, that makes for a delicious forward combination and should mean they move well clear of last season’s troubles which saw them linger around the relegation playoff place.
Irish Senior Cup draw: YMCA (h), November 14
Three Rock Rovers
Last season (at lockdown): fourth, Irish Senior Cup quarter-final, Mills Cup final
Coach: Elun Hack (2nd season). Manager: Fraser Morris
Players in: Daragh Walsh (KC Leuven, Belgium), Rob McKinley (Stellenbosch University HC, South Africa), Ravin Nair (year out)
Players out: Harry Lynch (UCD), Mark English (Railway Union), Jack McAllister (year out), Sam Walker (UCD)
Season overview: Preseason was interrupted for 10 days with a Covid-19 scare but practice matches resumed with friendlies versus Banbridge, Glenanne, Monkstown, Pembroke and UCD. “With many players returning from Europe, I expect the EYHL to be very competitive this year”, commented Elun Hack.
Midfield maestro Daragh Walsh is their returning international following a year with KHC Leuven while Ravin Nair is also back after a year out. Former internationals Peter Blakeney and Mick Maguire have made themselves available from the start of the campaign to widen their panel as they bid to have a strong season leading into a fourth successive season in the Euro Hockey League next Easter following this summer’s appeals.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Cookstown (a), November 14
Last season (at lockdown): sixth, Irish Senior Cup final, Mills Cup semi-final
Coach: Michael Styles (second season)
Players in: Harry Lynch (TRR), Sam Walker (TRR), Gavin Gleeson (Monkstown), Scott Ruttle (YMCA), Gearóid O’Brien (YMCA), Stephen Dawson (year abroad)
Players out: David Nolan (Monkstown), Jazze Henry (Monkstown), Ziggy Agnew (Avoca), Matteo Romoli (Belgium), Andrew Meates (YMCA)
Season overview: A lot of preparations for the ISC final meant the squads were changing around quite frequently from week to week but they showed a lot in that final to suggest they will be a strong force again with Conor Empey and Guy Sarratt vital elements.
Harry Lynch is a big addition to mitigate against the departing experience of David Nolan, Jazze Henry and Ziggy Agnew. Last year was one of contrasts with a blistering start countered by five successive pre-lockdown losses but they will be stronger for the experience.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Cork C of I/Portrane (h), November 14
Last season (at lockdown): Ninth, Irish Senior Cup first round, Mills Cup second round
Coach: Jason Klinkradt (6th Season), Manager: Sam Mawhinney (2nd Season)
Players in: Peabo Lembethe (University of Pretoria), Andrew Jones (London), Andrew Meates (UCD)
Players out: Eric Prehn (Studying in Amsterdam)
Season overview: “After retaining the majority of the squad, YM’s youthful squad, with a few new additions, look to build on solid performances of last year and are excited to start again!” coach Jason Klinkradt. After a couple of summers of big movement, it has been much more settled this year for the Y as they look to build on some impressive performances last season.
South African international Peabo Lembethe – known as The General – is their big addition. He has 28 caps to his name and was part of the 2018 World Cup squad.
Irish Senior Cup draw: Pembroke (a), November 14