Having come through another league and cup winning season in Munster, Harlequins were anxious to make amends for that 1-0 Senior Cup lost to Pembroke and, according to Captain Jan Dillon, they have been working hard since then to get their preparations right for the competition.
Harlequins are drawn in Pool B against tournament favourites and holders Pegasus and they open their campaign against them at the National Hockey Arena at 6 pm this evening.
“Pegasus are a fantastic side and can never be underestimated,” Dillon said last night. “They’ve got a lot of class throughout the team and they are very experienced, having represented Ireland in Europe this season and with players like Alex Speers who’s just back from the World Cup qualifiers with the Irish team in Rome.
“They’ll be a very tough first game, but we’ve been preparing hard and we’ve been playing a lot of friendlies and we also spent last weekend in Chelmsford, where we played against each of the top three sides in England,” the Harlequins skipper commented.
Her side will have to do without the services of Irish international goalkeeper Mary Goode for the competition after she broke her wrist in a recent friendly and according to Dillon, this means that Amy O’Neill will have to take her place in the ‘Quins goal.
“That makes it a very big weekend for Amy, but she is a very able replacement and we’ve no worries on that front.”
Harlequins’ other opponents in Pool B this weekend will include Loreto and Randlestown, both of whom have a wealth of experienced past and present internationals in their sides.
“Jess Lynch is going to be very dangerous for Loreto up front in what is a very experienced side, while Randlestown cannot be underestimated for exactly the same reason and with the likes of Emma Clarke and Claire Parkhill in the side, they will not be the push-overs many people seem to expect,” Dillon said.
“I think that both pools will be very evenly matched and it is hard to predict a winner of either. But I know our team has been training hard and with the experience of Rachel Kohler and Karen Bateman in the side, I think we can do damage.”
This year’s Championships have been broadened to include the top eight teams in the country in the two pool format, with the winners of each pool qualifying for a Grand Final on Sunday May 28.
The new format was also introduced for the Men’s Club Championships last weekend, and has received a resounding thumbs-up.
ESB Irish Senior Cup Champions Hermes, Ballymoney, Cork C of I and Railway Union will fight it out in Pool A.
Hermes v Railway Union, 2 pm; Loreto v v Randalstown, 4 pm; Cork Harlequins v Pegasus, 6 pm; Cork C of I v Ballymoney, 8 pm.
Cork Harlequins v Loreto 10am; Pegasus v Randalstown, 12 noon; Hermes v Cork C of I, 2 pm; Ballymoney v Railway Union, 4 pm.
Cork C of I v Railway Union, 10 am; Cork Harlequins v Randalstown 12 noon; Ballymoney v Hermes, 2 pm; Pegasus v Loreto, 4 pm.
The winner of Pool A will play the Winner of Pool B on Sunday May 28, at 3 pm at the National Hockey Stadium. The men’s final between Gelnanne and Pembroke Wanderers will take place at 12.30 pm the same day.