Town set for Railway test in title retention race

Faced with a tester this Saturday, Monkstown can move another big step closer to retaining the men’s Leinster division one title on Saturday when they make the trip up the coast road to face Railway Union.

With five games to go, Graham Shaw’s side have a four-point wedge over chasers Pembroke but a tricky run-in means they have to keep on their toes if they are to avoid a final day showdown with the Ballsbridge side.

Railway Union's Fergal Keaveney Pic: Adrian Boehm

Railway Union’s Fergal Keaveney Pic: Adrian Boehm

Before then, the Railway trip precedes dates with Three Rock and YMCA before a penultimate date with Rathgar which looks the sole gimme on the list. They take on the Sandymount side without David Fitzgerald who is in Cape Town, readying to play Belgium in a two game series over the weekend.

But, otherwise, their big guns are firing with Davy Carson scoring four times in his last three games while Richard Sykes is well clear in the goalscoring charts.

If it gets down into the trenches, maintaining their psychological balance in his side will be the key element for Shaw. It proved their undoing in their sole league loss against Pembroke while Shaw was absent on Irish women’s duty, as, despite a numerical advantage, they got too emotionally charged when a calm demeanour would more likely have unpicked a three-man overload.

Mark English’s powerful presence will be a key factor for Railway as will the battle between Fergal Keaveney and Stephen Cole in the centre of the park. David Bane’s side sit in fifth place and anything they can get here will be a big bonus. Thereafter, their IHL fate remains very much in their own hands.

They found out their Irish Senior Cup fate in midweek, drawing perhaps the more favourable opponent in Cork C of I, avoiding Pembroke and Banbridge who make up the other semi-final.

Pembroke, bolstered by the return of top scorer Nick Burns last week, will face the Corkman’s alma mater UCD on Saturday knowing they need to keep winning to avail of any Monkstown slip-ups.

The students have been improving, though, backing up their draw against YMCA with a 3-0 win over Rathgar in midweek, making the most of their chances. Kilkenny natives David McClure, two, and Jeremy Duncan were on the mark on the night, lifting the students five points clear of the bottom two.

The Marlay derby at Grange Road should have a good deal of spice to it as Three Rock Rovers seek to build on their 6-2 win over Avoca against Corinthian. Taming Peter Blakeney will be one task after he scored five last time out while Joe Brennan and Alan White returned to action last weekend, too.

Harry Morris, though, sustained a broken jaw in that Avoca game and misses out. With successive losses, Corinthian will now need a minor miracle to work their way back into the IHL race with six points to make up on the playoff spot.

Ian Stewart also spent last Saturday in a sling, something which will rob them of a very potent attacking option.

YMCA's Rob Anderson in action against Glenanne last weekend Pic: Adrian Boehm

YMCA’s Rob Anderson in action against Glenanne last weekend Pic: Adrian Boehm

YMCA’s rollercoaster sees them host Avoca. Just when they have looked set to push on into the top four in recent times, they have suffered setbacks. And, after a draw against UCD and an agonising loss to Glenanne, they will look to reignite their push this weekend before three big games close out their campaign.

Glenanne were due to meet Rathgar on Thursday evening but the snow had descended on High School, leading to the game’s cancellation.

The Junior Cup takes centre stage for the division two sides with Monkstown’s date with Pembroke at Rathdown the undoubted highlight from a Leinster perspective. Otherwise, the draw is not overly favourable to the province with Railway, Rathgar and Glenanne all heading north.

Three Rock will expect to have too much for division four strugglers Dublin University. Corinthian II host YMCA II in the only game that survives in division two.

Senior International test matches
Saturday: Ireland vs Belgium, 1pm (Irish time), Hartleyvale
Sunday: Ireland vs Belgium, 12pm (Irish time), Hartleyvale

Leinster Division One: Railway Union v Monkstown, 1pm, Park Avenue; Three Rock Rovers v Corinthian, 1pm, Grange Road; YMCA v Avoca, 3pm, Milltown; Pembroke v UCD, 12.30pm, Serpentine Avenue

Division Two: Corinthian II v YMCA II, 2.15pm, Whitechurch Park

Irish Junior Cup, second round: Three Rock Rovers v Dublin University, 3pm, Grange Road; Cookstown v Railway Union, 1pm, Steelweld Park; Instonians v Rathgar, 1pm, Shaw’s Bridge; Annadale v Cork Harlequins, 2.30pm, Lough Moss; Raphoe v Lisnagarvey, 2.30pm, Royal and Prior; Cork C of I v North Down; Banbridge v Glenanne, 4pm, Havelock Park; Monkstown v Pembroke, 3pm, Rathdown

Men's Leinster Senior Div 1