Banbridge will look to break their run against bogey side Cork C of I in the marquee battle in the men’s EY Hockey League as the top two meet at Havelock Park.
Bann picked up just one point from their two meetings against the Munster side last term who finished seventh last time around. C of I look a much more well-rounded side this time around while Bann have also elevated their game in the early stages of the campaign.
Coach Mark Tumilty is especially wary of the firepower of the league’s top scorers with Julian Dale and John Jermyn both netting eight times already. Jermyn missed the win over Instonians but could return.
“They have a couple of very good goal-scorers so we know we’re going to have to defend well and then make our chances count a bit more at the other end,” Tumilty told the Banbridge Leader.
“They are a difficult team to play against but they deserve credit for that. They are very capable. They have benefitted from competitive matches in the EYHL as well.
“If we could win, that would put a bit of a gap between us and them and then we’ll just see how the other results go. It’s all very close.”
Bann could be without Drew Carlisle while Ross Beattie pulled a hamstring that is likely to curtail his involvement.
At the bottom, it is a crucial day for Instonians and Railway Union at Shaw’s Bridge with both clubs targetting this tie as a must win tie.
Inst are searching for their first win of the campaign since promotion and have not been wiped out by anyone they have met with Sam Brown impressing between the posts. But they have not been able to make the most of their chances in front of goal when in position to push for points.
They meet a Railway side who have missed Stephen O’Keeffe with a broken hand while their early season was disjointed with four front-liners arriving back late. They have lost five on the bounce in the EYHL at an average of over five conceded per game.
Railway took some of their frustrations out on Weston in the Neville Cup, Mark English scoring a massive seven times in a 12-1 win. That he has scored half of their league goals – despite not playing every game – shows his importance to the side.
UCD face Monkstown with a large number of former Town players meeting their old club. The students will need to put in a complete performance if they are to get something from the tie, avoiding the heavy late concessions of their last three games.
Ultimately, they came away with seven points from nine against the bottom three which is a strong return for the promoted side. But there will be some concern at how they turn 3-0, 4-0 and 5-2 leads into close-run 3-2, 4-3 and 5-5 results.
In another Dublin derby, Three Rock Rovers meet Pembroke with the latter looking to breakdown what a Rovers defence that has conceded just once in the league since September.
Pembroke have been the lowest scorers in the league to date but Alan Sothern – who has netted two thirds of his side’s league goals – is an ever-present threat as always.
Last season, these two clubs played out two very tight league games and this is likely to follow a similar pattern with chances at a premium and corners potentially key against two top-notch goalkeepers in Mark Ingram and Jamie Carr.
Glenanne host a Lisnagarvey side smarting from their narrow 1-0 defeat to Banbridge. The Tallaght side’s Jekyll and Hyde performance against UCD, falling 4-0 behind before brilliantly recovering to draw 5-5 gives them plenty to work on but also the assurance that their famed fighting spirit will not be found wanting.
They have since added narrow wins over Railway in the Mills Cup and UCD in the Neville Cup which they hope can build momentum. Garvey arrive in town with a glut of Irish call-ups, five in the senior squad for the Spain trip, eight in Jonny Caren’s Under-21 selection and five more at Under-18 level.
An important match-up could be Sam O’Connor and Matthew Nelson as the latter’s pace and innovation has made serious waves in the last 12 months.
Leinster’s Division One has been reduced to two games with Clontarf facing Rathgar and Dublin University meeting YMCA. Weston, meanwhile, meet Fingal in a repeat of last week’s Mills Cup first round thriller that saw the latter win 7-4.
They were involved in another goalfest in midweek in the Neville Cup, eventually beating Division 3 leaders Portrane on strokes after normal time had ended 3-3.
Imran Khan, the leading scorer in the Leinster leagues, scored a late equaliser to complete his hat trick and send the game to a shoot-out but Fingal prevailed over their north county rivals. They play Three Rock Rovers next.
YMCA edged out Avoca 3-2 in their second round tie to earn a shot at Monkstown in the quarter-final. Glenanne face Pembroke while the winner of Clontarf and Kilkenny take on Railway Union.
Men’s Saturday fixtures
EY Hockey League: UCD v Monkstown, 1pm, Belfield; Three Rock Rovers v Pembroke, 3pm, Grange Road; Banbridge v Cork C of I, 2.45pm, Havelock Park; Glenanne v Lisnagarvey, 3.30pm, Glenanne Park; Instonians v Railway Union, 2.30pm, Shaw’s Bridge
Leinster Division One: Clontarf v Rathgar, 12.30pm, Mount Temple; Dublin University v YMCA, 1.15pm, Santry Avenue
Irish Hockey Trophy, first round: Antrim v South Antrim, 2.30pm, Antrim Forum; North Down v Armagh, 2.30pm, Comber Leisure Centre; Weston v Fingal, 2.30pm, Griffeen Valley Park; Bangor v Cork Harlequins, 1pm, Bangor Aurora; Queen’s University v Bandon, 1pm, Queen’s; Limerick v UCC, 12pm, Villiers
Neville Cup, second round: Fingal 3 (S Kieran, J Rogan, P Gahan) Portrane 3 (Imran Khan 3), Fingal win on strokes; Avoca 2 (J McCormack 2) YMCA 3 (D Mawhinney 2, G Gibney)
Quarter-final draw: Three Rock Rovers vs Fingal; Glenanne vs Pembroke; YMCA vs Monkstown; Clontarf/Kilkenny vs Railway Union