Cork C of I and UCC face off in eye-catching Irish Senior Cup derby at Garryduff tomorrow (2.30pm) with a quarter-final place on offer.
November’s Olympic qualifiers have put the EY Hockey League on hold until November 9, with the competitions’ committee front-loading the season with up to four rounds of the Cup in the next month.
For those encounters, the central Irish panelists are not available and so, opportunity knocks for the regional league sides.
As such, for C of I and UCC, with a bye through the first round, Saturday represents an opening to get into the last eight.
C of I are returning to the competition following their Irish Trophy win last spring and, bolstered by Holly Lehane (from UCC) and Kate Burke (Ashton), this is exactly the kind of opponent they will target if they are to raise their level further.
Two Kay Gaffney goals were key in their strong 2-1 win over Bandon last week.
For UCC, star signing Caoimhe Perdue currently has a finger injury, but they did start in confident fashion with a 2-0 win over Ashton with key forward Christina Dring among the goals again.
They hold the province’s hopes in the competition, as Munster’s two EY Hockey League sides — Harlequins and Catholic Institute — bowed out at the first hurdle last week.
The exit means they are without until November 9 once the Olympic qualifiers are complete.
With the local league already in full gear, finding challenge matches without having to travel will be tricky.
On the men’s side, both Bandon and Cork Harlequins host Dublin opposition. The West Cork side face Railway for the third time in two years — last year’s meetings yielded a 2-0 home loss and a 2-2 draw away from home.
But a bumper 9-1 win over Ashton in the league suggests big confidence this season, with Calum Crowley slotting back in nicely, while Fionn O’Leary and David Smith make for an exciting attacking line-up.
Railway have won two from two in Leinster with ex-hockey and cricket international Kenny Carroll their key figure, along with Canadian U21 star Michael MacKenzie.
Harlequins’ task is to take down EY newcomers Corinthian, who have added Olympian Peter Caruth — who scored for Ireland in midweek — to their ranks as player-coach.
Quins won the title in 2012 with Jason Black, Dave Egner, Richie Gash and John Hobbs a link to that success.
Elsewhere, Three Rock Rovers face Scotland’s Grange in the KO16 of the Euro Hockey League, hoping to become Ireland’s first side to win a knock-out game in the continent’s toughest club competition.