Leinster men’s Division One’s runners and riders assemble this weekend for the start of what they hope will be a busy season amid Covid-19 and the various different competitions on their agenda.
Clontarf’s spectacular season – Leinster and Neville Cup champs – was cut short with the EYHL2 playoffs coming into focus and that will be a big target.
The pandemic has given them a boost of sorts with Kevin Mullins and Jordan Edmonds putting plans to leave the country on hold, two serious players in the division.
They will be on the road up the coast to Sutton Park for the first part of the season with the Mount Temple pitch currently being replaced. Their first port of call is a Senior Cup date with Kilkeel.
For Railway Union, three games were initially scheduled for October 10th but the one that took precedence is the one which fell by the wayside with Cork Harlequins not travelling over coronavirus concerns for their Irish Senior Cup tie.
Mark English’s return is their big news while the panel has generally widened and strengthened with Kenny Carroll likely to be more involved on the playing front.
Portrane have already started their season well with a maiden Irish Hockey Trophy under their belt; Cork C of I is their opening tie in a Senior Cup tester.
In the renamed Leinster Division 1A itself, the competition has reduced to nine teams with Weston moving to Division 5 and a number of their players disseminating around the clubs.
Bray and Avoca meet with both having new coaching teams; Nasir Munir is developing the former while two of the latter’s famous sons – Trevor Dagg, assisted by Rory Kirwan – take over the reigns from Mark Cullen and Allen Richardson in Blackrock.
Dublin University, meanwhile, are another with an alumnus in the coaching role, Ashley Harrison looking after a side who have a number of players back from overseas. Tony Brophy, though, will have to wait to make his debut as he is stuck in Cork due to level 3 restrictions.
Their first game is against Kilkenny who welcome back Louis Bourke into the fold after a spell at UCD.
Saturday, October 10th
Irish Senior Cup – Round 1: Clontarf v Kilkeel, Sutton Park, 1pm; Portrane v Cork C of I, Donabate Leisure Centre
Off: Railway Union v Cork Harlequins, Instonians v Rathgar
Leinster Division 1A: Bray v Avoca, Temple Carraig School, 1pm; Dublin University v Kilkenny, Santry Avenue, 2.30pm
Last season: fifth, Mills Cup second round, Neville Cup semi-final
Coach: Trevor Dagg (1st Season), Assistant Coach: Rory Kirwan (1st Season), Manager: Declan Duffy (1st Season) GK coach: Brian Cleary
Players in: Ziggy Agnew (UCD), Andrew Ramsey (Leonidas HC, Rotterdam), Rhys Armah-Kwantreng (Monkstown), Jonny Codd (YMCA), Keith Bell (Weston), Finn Harvey (Weston)
Players out: Kevin Mellot (Glennane), Richard Couse (Glennane)
Season overview: The club are delighted to be celebrating their 125th year and have a changing of the guard with Mark Cullen and Allan Richardson stepping back after a huge input over the last decade. Now, a couple of club legends are in situ as Trevor Dagg takes over the coaching reigns with Rory Kirwan as assistant and Declan Duffy as manager.
“We’ve currently three of our younger squad players on the Leinster Under-18s. Oran O’Sullivan and Harry Dagg, plus Rhys Armah-Kwantreng who joins this year from Monkstown. Cameron Ramsey is another one of our younger players we are excited to see in action this year.”
Trevor Dagg commented: “Excited to be back. I think this year will be tough as we’ve lost last year’s captain and our top goal scorer [Richard Couse], however we remain optimistic. We’ve a couple of players back and a few new guys so hopefully we’ll give most teams a good game.”
Last season: Ninth, Mills Cup second round, Neville Cup first round
Coach: Nasir Munir Chaudhry (1st season), Manager: Ross Wellwood
Players in: Andrew Hopkins
Players out: none
Season overview: The club describe their preseason as “hard work and effective” as they “chomping at the bit to put our new training with Nasir into focus for our second season in Division 1. Aiming to establish ourselves in the top half of the table. Brilliant work from all to get season up and running.”
Last season: Winners, Neville Cup winners, Mills Cup second round
Coach: David Bane (2nd season); Asst Coach: Gareth Borland (2nd season – 2nd spell)
Players in: n/a
Players out: Sean Harper (Erasmus)
Season overview: Covid-19 has resulted in both Kevin Mullins and Jordan Edmonds both staying at Clontarf longer than they would have anticipated, as both had planned to emigrate. There are a number of players coming through the ranks this year such as Ben Wisdom, Luke Buckley, Jack Clarke, Sean Patton and John McNally who have all had strong preseasons.
Clontarf will be looking to build off the back of a successful season with Neville Cup and Leinster Division 1 titles. Lockdown meant that the EYHL2 came to an end with qualification for the playoff weekend directly in Clontarf’s hands.
Last season: seventh
Player-coach: Shane Dempsey (3rd season)
Players in: Damion Wheeler (returning from time away), Alexander McKeever (Weston), Bevan Callaghan (New Zealand), Tori Alexander (returning from time away), Stevie Kieran (UCD)
Players out: Ronan Gannon (Portrane), Liam Metcalfe (year out)
Season overview: Last year was a successful season for the club considering their pitch was ripped up and being relayed for the majority of the start of season/preseason which really hindered their preparations.
Player coach Shane Dempsey says: “We still we came out with some great results throughout the season even with very low numbers. This year’s pre-season has gone very well with the new players coming in and mixing very well, training has gone up a couple of levels from other years and the team are very excited for the new season.
“This year, we have the right mix of experience and youth we feel to push forward and compete more.
“It’s not been ideal to be a player coach but I’ve learnt from the past two seasons and I feel the team has improved over the past two years even with limited numbers. This year I want to really push the lads and I believe we can push up the table this year and compete against all teams in the league”
Last season: Eighth, Mills Cup quarter-final, Neville Cup first round
Coach: Ashley Harrison (first season)
Players in: Tony Brophy (YMCA), James Coman (Three Rock Rovers)
Players out: Ben Arrowsmith (Rathgar)
Season overview: Trinity are feeling fresh and feeling very energetic and optimistic about the new season with the addition of new coach Ashley Harrison, an alumni of the club. Alex Barlow, Matthew Begley and Owen Hargroves are all back from six month/year long exchanges and expand their panel considerably while former Cork C of I and YMCA man Tony Brophy brings EYHL experience although he may be stuck in Cork due to Covid-travel restrictions for the time being.
Last season: sixth, Mills Cup second round, Neville Cup second round
Player-coaches: Emmett Hughes, Billy McEnery
Players in: Kieran Dalton (unattached), Callum Keenan (unattached), Louis Bourke (UCD), Matty Moore (Weston)
Players out: Simon Young (college), Ian O’Keeffe (Oranje Rood)
Season overview: The new faces have brought some much needed squad competition. We have also switched pitch to Loreto Kilkenny, which may provide some impetus. As usual, the travel commitments will be an issue, with many unable to commit to away games. The coaching team remain hopeful of a signing or two before deadline day.
Last season: third, Mills Cup second round, Neville Cup semi-final
Player Coach: Mukhtar Ahmed, Manager: Adrian Henchy
Players in: Ronan Gannon (Dublin North)
Players out: Seamus Stone (Cork C of I)
Season overview: The up and coming Fingal side already have a trophy under their belts from the Irish Hockey Trophy competition, a great boost to the team and club, playing particularly well in semi final away to South Antrim. This season will be a further big step up this season, competing on two fronts in Leinster and EYHL2 but “we are delighted to be there and the players are putting in serious effort to give us every chance to compete at this higher level”.
Last season: fourth, Mills Cup second round, Neville Cup quarter-final
Coach: Ronan Hickey (1st season)
Players in: Stephen Nolan (return from London), Stephen Ludgate (return from Australia), Ricky McMahon (return from travels), Ben Arrowsmith (Trinity)
Players out: Tom Kemsley (emigrated)
Season overview: Positive pre-season wins against Bray and TRR with a 3-3 draw with Clontarf shows new coach Ronan Hickey some promising signs. The step up to EYHL2 and an increase in the number of games will be a big challenge for Rathgar but both the club and Hickey are excited about the prospect of facing Instonians, Cork C of I and Railway in Pool A in the newly formatted EYHL2. An influx of returning players will help the group gel together who have largely kept last season’s team together.
Last season: second, Mills Cup quarter-final, Neville Cup quarter-final
Coaches: Arjen Van As, Tom Kingston
Players in: Mark English (Three Rock Rovers), Karl Chapple (Avoca), Matthew Pluck (Weston), Conor Montgomery (Australia), Gus Boothman (Erasmus), Roger Gonzalez (back from UK), Shomik Chakraborty (USA)
Players out: none
Season overview: Railway have strengthened their panel on several fronts with Kenny Carroll and Rob Abbott both likely to play more than last season. With Mark English back after a stint winning a number of national titles at Three Rock, their forward line has a powerful fulcrum while Shomik Chakraborty is back after a spell in the US with whom he has been part of their Under-21 international setup.
Arjen van As takes on the coaching role alongside newcomer Tom Kingston.