O’Halloran prepares to put aside old friendships

RAILWAY UNION’S Julia O’Halloran will seek to plot the demise of some old friends as she welcomes her former UCC colleagues to Park Avenue for a refixed Irish Hockey League clash tomorrow (5pm).

Cork native O’Halloran, 24, was a mainstay of the college side during something of a golden period from 2007-2010, but now plies her trade with Mick McKinnon’s troops in Dublin.

Having recently withdrawn from the national set up, O’Halloran is now free to express herself more often at club level, and will be hoping she can guide her side to a repeat of Railway’s 3-0 win at the Mardyke in 2009, when she was on the losing side.

Railway will, however, have to do without Joyce sisters Isobel and Cecilia, who are both on Irish international cricket duty in Bangladesh. While former teammates Ali O’Regan and Ali O’Connor are still in situ at UCC, the majority of the side has a youthful look and is on a steep learning curve at this level.

In another IHL tie refixed due to October’s intervarsities, UCD go to Hermes in a tie that has even more inter-club connections on display.

Five of the Belfield students started out with Hermes, while Christine Quinland, Catriona McGilp and Lisa Jacob are among those who have worn UCD’s colours in the past.

Elsewhere, national concerns in a local derby are occupying Bandon and Cork Church of Ireland’s thoughts as the sides meet in the Irish Hockey Trophy in west Cork tomorrow (12pm).

The experience of Bandon’s Hilary Chapple proved vital in her side’s 2-1 league win against the same opposition last weekend, but Philip Smith’s C of I have been defensively mean so far this term, shipping just five goals in four league games, and young starlets like Alex O’Grady and Pamela Wolfe will again be a handful.

Elsewhere, Munster’s surprise package UL will be keen to upset Dublin’s YMCA, who are moving up a level after a consecutive Irish Challenge victories, while Waterford host Naas and Fermoy welcome Larne.

With Ashton being handed a walkover in their IHT tie with knock, they will face a much tougher proposition as they instead head to champions Catholic Institute — unbeaten in Munster league action since 2010 — in a league refixture.

Meanwhile, UCC’s men begin the long trek to what they hope will be the Irish Hockey Trophy final when they host Antrim at the Mardyke (1pm).

Neil Welch’s troops had a fairytale run to the decider last season before coming undone by the odd goal in three in the final against tomorrow’s opposition’s near neighbours South Antrim.

With Fionn O’Leary in rich goalscoring form to add to Andy and Roger Gray’s short corner threat, they will be keen to lay down a marker.

That goes too for Catholic Institute, who have endured a miserable season thus far but have ample distraction from their league woes with a home tie against a Portrane side who can call on skilful Pakistani duo Mukhtar Ahmed and Yasir Islam.

Domestically, Bandon’s meeting with Cork Harlequins could put a spanner in the usual order of the Munster men’s league if the west Cork side can eke out a result.

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