’Quins out to prove they’re not a fading force

CORK HARLEQUINS will be keen to prove they are not a national force on the wane by making life difficult for holders Pembroke Wanderers as the second round of the men’s Irish Hockey League swings into action tomorrow.

Very little went the way of Stephen Dale’s side in last season’s competition, and this term they have already exited the Irish Senior Cup – a title they claimed in 2006 – with a shock defeat to YMCA last weekend, as well as losing their first IHL clash to Corinthian.

Heading to the capital to face the country’s top team is hardly the ideal fixture in which to seek redemption – especially with defensive lynchpin Jason Black ruled out with a fractured collarbone.

Nonetheless, Quins can take inspiration from the never-say-die attitude shown by UCD in their last-gasp 4-3 defeat to Pembroke last weekend.

Elsewhere in Pool A, Corinthian have a chance to strengthen their credentials when they meet Dublin rivals Monkstown, with Instonians bound for Havelock Park to lock horns with a brooding Banbridge side keen to get off the mark.

The marquee tie in Pool B is the visit of Annadale to Cork C of I. The hosts dispatched their second string 7-1 in a midweek league game, but were denied another valuable hit-out when their clash with UCC on Wednesday night was frozen off.

Having hit the goal trail spectacularly in recent weeks, C of I will be quietly confident of securing their first win of the competition, but their fledgling defence – missing Karl Burns – must be wary of the ‘Dale’s Irish international sharpshooter Peter Caruth.

Cookstown host Lisnagarvey for the first IHL clash on their new €1m water-based pitch, coming off the back of a stunning away win at Glenanne in round one. The latter face Three Rock Rovers at Grange Road.

Domestically, Cork C of I’s women will fancy their chances of causing an upset as they take on UCC at Mount Mercy.

The students – coming off the back of a magnificent 2-1 win over pace-setters Catholic Institute – always find Phil Oakley’s side tricky opponents, but they face a further test of character this time around, as they are without skipper Audrey O’Flynn and midfield lynchpin Julia O’Halloran.

Both are in Alicante for a week-long training camp with the Irish senior team, and national coach Gene Muller is keen to get some face time with his 24-strong squad as they begin their build-up to April’s World Cup qualifier in Chile.

“This affords us the opportunity to train without distraction,” he said. “For these players, the hard work is just beginning. We have a series of short competition events after we return which does not include a large training component, so this makes our time in Spain event more significant.”

Back home, other Division One ties include Waterford’ visit to UL while champions Quins head to Bandon.

The sole men’s league game sees Bandon travel to Quins B on Sunday.

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