The annual intervarsities gets underway this morning with 20 teams duking it out for the Mauritius and Chilean Cups with NUI Maynooth making their tournament debut in the men’s competition.
In the men’s competition, defending champions University of Ulster – under the moniker of the Ulster Elks – will hope that a combination of home advantage and a large Cookstown contingent will propel them to the Mauritius title.
Stuart Smyth, Colin Donaldson, Ian Hughes and Greg Allen provide serious top level experience while, if freed from international constraints, David Ames provides the star quality.
Their group A looks a reasonable proposition though DCU always provide the unknown quantity. The northside university draws players from Clontarf, Glenanne, Avoca and Three Rock though Monkstown’s Gareth Watkins will sit this tournament out.
Pembroke international trio David and Conor Harte and Alan Sothern may have their availability curtailed though the latter picked up a dead leg in yesterday’s league match with YMCA.
Dublin University will hope their higher level of cohesion due to regular league action as a team will see them sneak a semi-final berth. UL and RCSI make up the rest of the group.
Pool B looks to be a competitive one. UCD’s lively start to the season has seen much praise but few point accrued but will hope their division one status is brought to bear.
Ross Gribben is ineligible so Stephen O’Keefe makes a guest appearance for the Belfielders. Their group stage battles will most likely come from CIT and a rejuvenated UCC.
On the women’s side, the Elks, UCD and UCC dominate the landscape with an array of international talent.
As Irish Senior Cup holders, UCD will most likely advance with the Elks – who feature Commonwealth gold medal winner Suman Bala and French international Philipine Berly – from group A.
Trinity could throw a cat amongst the pigeons if they continue their decent start to division one. They will be coached by Andy McConnell for the weekend, looking to add to his Friday success with Wesley College. CIT, led by Cliodhna Sargent, will also have eyes set on an upset.
Group B could see a major scrap develop for the second semi-final place. UCC are clear favourites with Julia O’Halloran and Audrey O’Flynn spear-heading their ascendancy.
DCU have some decent talent pulled together with IHL champions Ali Meeke and Hannah Matthews joined by Corinthian’s Eva Caulwell and Doireann Bregazzi-Nevin. Battles with UL and DCU could be key in this section.
Group A: Ulster Elks, UL, Trinity, DCU, Royal College of Surgeons
Group B: CIT, UCD, UCC, Queens, NUI Maynooth
Sunday and Monday: Pool matches
Tuesday: Cup semi-finals and finals, Plate semi-finals and finals
* For the full fixture list, go to www.hockey.ie