The Park Avenue’s first and second teams have been drawn away to College in both the Irish Senior and Junior Cups, and will provide a stern test for the students’ in both clashes.
Unbeaten Leinster league leaders Railway have won plaudits around the province this term for their pacy, free-flowing style, yet amazingly, the likes of Jean McDonnell and Emma Smyth continue to be ignored by Irish coach Gene Muller.
College are hopeful of having Irish international duo and recent injury victims Hollie Moffett (cheekbone) and Audrey O’Flynn (foot) back, and will be in determined mood themselves following their recent penalty strokes victory over Cork C of I in the Munster Senior Cup.
Meanwhile, College club captain Sarah Gray looks set to line out in the sides’ IJC clash later that day (2pm) as she makes her first appearance following a four-month lay-off with a knee ligament injury.
The students, skippered by goalkeeper Caroline Levis, have the carrot of a home quarter-final against Armagh if they can progress.
Elsewhere, two big guns are set to fall by the wayside at the first hurdle as Cork Harlequins trek to Ballymoney, and Hermes host UCD.
Quins will be out to avenge last season’s ISC defeat out to eventual runners-up ‘Money, who have looked relatively out of sorts this term, and will be buoyed by the 1-1 draw they earned at the Joey Dunlop Centre in the IHL earlier this term.
UCD’s title challenge in Leinster has gone off the rails somewhat since they claimed the intervarsities last October, but international forward Roisín Flinn has returned from her travels and her side know they can mix it with Hermes, having given the Leinster champions a fright in the IHL earlier this term, going down 3-2.
Catholic Institute will be in confident mood when they host Lurgan following last weekend’s golden-goal win over Three Rock Ladies in the Irish Trophy quarter-finals, a win which earned them an ISC berth along with Cookstown, Genesis and Ulster Elks.
Round one of the men’s ISC sees Cork Harlequins visit Belfast to meet a resurgent Instonians side, who have recovered in style from an awful start to the season, largely thanks to the return of Mark Gleghorne, Steven Redpath and Paddy Brown from injury.
They served notice of their intentions by trouncing Annadale 4-1 and coming back from the dead to defeat Pembroke Wanderers 3-2 in one weekend, while Quins will be hoping recovering injury victims Paul and David Lombard, Dan Hobbs and Sean Nicholson are available.
Cork C of I should have things slightly easier despite having to travel to Antrim, while Bandon go to Fingal aiming to overturn the 3-2 defeat that cost them an IHL place last term.
Catholic Institute’s reward for their progress in the Irish Trophy is a glamour tie at Glenanne, but on evidence of last weekend’s 9-0 home defeat to Quins, they will need a miracle to constrain a classy Glens outfit led by Irish international veterans Stephen Butler and Graham Shaw.
Cookstown’s visit Monkstown as the Rathdown side — buoyed by a Mills Cup victory over Three Rock Rovers — look to test themselves against the Ulster champions.