After an eye-catching opening win over Hermes, Old Alex can build on their growing reputation if they manage to get the better of a second successive IHL team in the form of Loreto.
For Alex, their opening win owed much to Pam Smithwick’s heroics in goal along with a robust defensive performance to frustrate a side featuring a number of international stars.
They may need to reproduce that sort of showing if Loreto’s much changed panel find the rhythm that saw them run up a 5-1 win over Glenanne last time out.
A feature of that tie was the pace of youngster Ciara Vincent, elevated by Trevor Dagg from the third team to the first over the summer while Niamh Small’s direct style will also need to be managed by the likes of Laura Gray, Rachel Gray and Millie O’Donnell.
At the far end, Loreto have a particularly settled and experienced back four with Sarah Clarke, Hannah Matthews and Rachel Keegan likely to offer up little change, making this an intriguing tactical tussle for two newly installed coaches.
UCD will hope to put another dent into one of their title rivals aspirations at this early stage as their glut of former Hermes meet some of collidge’s alumni.
Caitriona McGilp, especially, had a frustrating day last time out and whether her side will have anywhere near the number of chances to breakthrough a defence marshalled by Nicola Gray and Niamh Atcheler is unlikely.
With Audrey O’Flynn at the top, Hermes do have the threat to nail a few corner chances which Eimear Horan will endeavour to create. But the students made their statement last week with a big win over Corinthian and despite Chloe Watkins move to Club de Campo – which opened with a win on Tuesday – they look an ever-stronger prospect.
Deirdre Duke’s return from a year in the states yielded a double while Elaine Carey did likewise on debut. With former Hermes starlet Gillian Pinder now lining out in UCD colours, taming them at Belfield is a serious ask.
How far developed North Kildare and Pembroke are in their ambitious plans will get a decent waypoint from their meeting at The Maws. Ties between the sides were incredibly close last season with the visitors prevailing 1-0, Rachel O’Brien on the mark, while the return fixture was a 2-2 draw.
Pembroke’s opening gambit in their bid for IHL qualification was reasonably assured, seeing off Trinity 3-0. Whether they can back it up in Kilcock against a smartly organised side targeting this kind of opposition, may be a different prospect.
Similarly, Glenanne and Trinity will be looking to their date in Tallaght as one that will have to be negotiated if they are to achieve their ambitions for the campaign, especially after both endured faltering starts to their campaigns.
The Glens did have good spells against Loreto but struggled to contain the likes of Nikki Keegan and Niamh Small when the pace raised. Trinity do not have that star quality but this kind of game will reveal their character for the battle.
For Colm Blennerhassett’s Corinthian, a tough opening day fixture against UCD is followed up by a date with Railway, an unenviable task for his young crew who figure heavily in the Leinster U-18 setup.
Division two tips off this weekend with title holders Loreto II facing a big opening date with Old Alex II. Genesis were the best placed side in the promotion race last term and will look to build on that encouraging campaign with Laura Barrie again among their key performers.
They meet Hermes II in round one while Three Rock Ladies, coached by Jody Hosking and Nathan Warnock, make the short trip to Wesley to play Trinity seconds.
Promoted sides Muckross and UCD II, after a lengthy and sometimes controversial battle for division three’s title, renew rivalries at Teresians at 4pm while the meeting of two recent Irish Junior Cup winners – Pembroke II and Railway Union II – makes for five ties laden with intrigue.
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LHA Ladies Division 1: Glenanne v Trinity College, 12pm, Glenanne Park; Corinthian v Railway Union, 1.30pm, St Columba’s; Old Alexandra v Loreto, 3pm Alexandra College; North Kildare v Pembroke Wanderers, 3pm, The Maws; UCD v Hermes, 4.15pm, Belfield
LHA Ladies Division 2: Pembroke Wanderers II v Railway Union II, 11am, Serpentine Avenue; Old Alexandra II v Loreto II, 1.15pm, Milltown; Hermes II v Genesis, 1.30pm, St Andrews; Trinity College II v Three Rock Rovers, 2.30pm, Wesley College; Muckross v UCD II, 4pm, The Teresian School,
LHA Ladies Division 3: Avoca v Bray, 12.15pm, Newpark; Railway Union III v YMCA, 1pm, Park Avenue; Corinthian II v Clontarf, 1pm, St Columba’s College; Rathgar v Newbridge, 1pm, The High School; Pembroke Wanderers III v Glenanne II, 3.30pm, Serpentine Avenue, 15:30