This Saturday 15th sees the first round of The ESB Electric Ireland and Men’s Irish Hockey League take place across the country as 24 of the top teams go head to head to secure vital early points. (Fixtures below). www.irishhockeyleague.ie (results will be emailed out after the last game on Saturday)
Men’s Preview (Pool A & Pool B)
Firstly looking towards the Men’s Pool A where the 2011 Champions Banbridge who won on a penalty shoot out (3-1) against Lisnagarvey last year will not have to travel too far to play their first game as they take on local rivals Cookstown with at 2.30 start time. Next in this pool Glenanne will take to the road to visit Cork Harlequins, this will be ‘Quins first big test of the season having enjoyed two comfortable league wins so far this year. Quins will have to cope with two injury worries, Paul Lombard and Jason Black, something Glenanne will no doubt be keen to capitalise on and build on their 3 from 4 Leinster league wins as they head into this game.
The final match in this pool sees Instonians travel to Monkstown in good heart following a successful 4–3 Ulster Premier League win over Irish Senior Cup holders Cookstown and a 9–1 Irish Senior Cup victory over North Down. Monkstown had a golden goal victory over Instonians in last seasons Irish Senior Cup so this is no doubt going to be a great encounter. Both Mark Irwin and William Robinson for Instonians are in good goal scoring form but much will be required of veteran goal keeper Nigel Skillen to keep the Monkstown attack at bay.
On to pool B And it is YMCA who travel North to take on Lisnagarvey. Lisnagarvey’s new coach Kyle Lunn will be hoping for a good start to the campaign especially as penalty corner specialist Timmy Cockram returns to the fold. These sides met last year in the Irish Senior Cup where Garvey came out victors after a hard fought battle. YMCA have integrated several new players and a new coaching team and this will be a big test for them away from home.
Pembroke will enjoy home advantage against Munster side Cork C of I at 3pm in Serpentine Avenue. Last time these two met was in the Irish Senior Cup in Garryduff where Pembroke came out 2-1 victors. Since then the Cork C of I team has changed a lot with key players such as Andy Herbert and Johny Bruton moving on, and Mark Ruddle retiring. But their current squad is bolstered with the addition of Shane O Donnell from UCD who adds to the back line, despite the change Cork C of I’s form this season has been good scoring 15 goals in 2 games, conceding none, 7 of those 15 goals have come from current international John Jermyn.
Three Rock Rovers return to the IHL with a much-changed side from the one which saw them qualify as Michael Maguire has taken up professional terms in Belgium with Royal Uccle while Irish U-18 star Tom Samuel received a scholarship from the University of Exeter. With pacy midfielder Ali Haughton out until the new year with a groin injury and Shane Madeley struggling, too, they go into their tie with Annadale under strength but have been buoyed by good showings against YMCA and Fingal in the domestic league. Jamie Dalrymple returns to face his former club since moving back to Rovers from Belfast where he studied while Craig Moore could make his debut after another injury worry. Luke Madeley, Harry Morris and Stephen Findlater are among others could all make their first IHL appearances but South African Jody Hosking will not be available for another month.
Women’s Preview (Pool A & Pool B)
Catholic Institute welcomes Pegasus to Rosbrien for the first ESB Electric Ireland IHL tie of the new campaign. The girls narrowly missed out on making the semi’s last term but Kym Daly’s team will be focused on asserting themselves on the National scene this year. Once again they’ve been drawn in the harder group but with the likes of ex-internationals Eimear Cregan & Elaine Bromell on board, the girls are relishing the opportunity. Pegasus, whose squad has seen little change except for the addition of Natalie Pinkerton, will be a tough nut to crack having won multiple Irish & Ulster titles down the years but Institute will be keen to exact revenge after losing 5-2 away to them in last year’s competition.
Armagh Ladies go into their first ESB Electric Ireland IHL game in decent form, already in the semi-final of the Ulster shield and a win under their belt in round 1 of the ESB Electric Ireland Irish Senior Cup. The Orchard girls played UCD last season in this competition at Ardmore and it ended up a draw. Both sides have had their fair share of players in and players out. Most notable was Joanne Orr who moved to Queens and Armagh’s U17 Olympic captain Leah Ewart who joined UCD this season. So Ewart will meet up with her old club for the first time come Saturday.
Armagh do welcome back Katherine Steenson after her year out travelling and Amy Stewart has recovered from her ankle problem to make this season and already is top goal scorer in Ulster so far. Armagh coach Niall McCool is under no illusion about this weekend ” We are looking forward to the game, UCD are a great squad with some fantastic players. We will certainly need to be at the top of our game to compete with these guys. They have proved so far they mean business this season with great results in Leinster league and the ESB Electric Ireland Irish senior cup. It will be good to measure ourselves against one of the best team in Ireland.”
Old Alex begin their ESB Electric Ireland IHL campaign at home to Hermes on Saturday. They hope to welcome back defensive duo Anne-Marie Cullen and ex-Hermes player Laura Gray from injury. This will also be recent signing Emma Russell’s first game against her old club, and promises to be a tight encounter. Hermes Coach Mary Logue will have a strong squad to select from as she welcomes her internationals players to the fold for the 1st rd of the IHL away to Alex. The sides have not met yet in the league this season with Alex looking to take advantage of a home tie in this pool of death.
Overt to Pool B and first up is the 1.15 fixture between Loreto and Cork Harlequins. Cork Harlequins are looking to build on their previous years performances in the IHL and after a shaky start to the season should be now coming into their stride. Quins always relish playing against top Dublin teams and this will be somewhat a battle royale as great friends Rachel McSharry (Quins) and Nicci Daly (Loreto) will be going head to head.
Lurgan Ladies look forward to the first instalment of a double header against Railway Union on Saturday (they have also been drawn against Railway in Round 2 of the ISC). This is Lurgan’s ESB Electric Ireland IHL debut and have already enjoyed a strong start to the season having reached the semi final of the One 1918 Shield. Railway will travel north with a full strength squad, with German midfielder Silja Dornow looking forward to her first taste of IHL action. Silja has taken up a position with Google in Dublin and has already been in action for Railway in the Leinster league, linking up with Irish internationals Emma Smyth and Julia O’Halloran. Silja, with a wide range of skills, played in Australia last season.
The final tie of Pool B pits Ballymoney against UCC, this time the students of Cork will be taking the long road up North for a 2.30 kick off at the Joey Dunlop Centre.
Men’s Fixtures – Saturday 15th October
Cookstown v Banbridge 2.30 Coolnafrankey
Cork Harlequins v Glenanne 3.00 Harlequin Park
Monkstown v Instonians 3.00 Rathdown
Lisnagarvey v YMCA 1.00 Comber Road
Pembroke W v Cork C of I 3.00 Serpentine Avenue
Annadale v Three Rock Rovers 3.00 Lough Moss
Women’s Fixtures – Saturday 15th October
Catholic Institute v Pegasus 1.00 Rosbrien
UCD v Armagh 1.00 UCD
Old Alex v Hermes 3.30 Alexandra College
Loreto v Cork Harlequins 1.15 Loreto
Ballymoney v UCC 2.30 Joey Dunlop
Lurgan v Railway Union 2.30 Lurgan HS
All results and pools will be updated on www.irishhockeyleague.ie