College look to put one over old friends

Motivation won’t be lacking for UCC as they pitch up at Garryduff tonight looking to rattle Cork Church of Ireland’s cage (8pm).

The majority of College’s side played childhood hockey with the Rochestown club, with Stuart O’Grady, David Doherty and Adam O’Callaghan the latest to face old team-mates while wearing the skull and crossbones.

A C of I slip-up will all but hand the title to Cork Harlequins, and they won’t have Irish international star John Jermyn — scorer of five in the 6-1 win over Bandon recently — to call upon.

But player/coach David Hobbs made the point in midweek that the Blues have learned to play without their talismanic corner specialist, and they put 12 past Catholic Institute in an emphatic striking show last weekend.

That they conceded four in the same game will be a focus for UCC, who will as usual look to Andy Gray’s powerful aerials to put pacemen Fionn O’Leary, Roger Gray and Shrew Power into space. Avoiding defeat would be a huge boon to their hopes of nailing down the Irish Hockey League wildcard qualification slot that comes with a third-placed league finish.

Some of C of I’s players will have to double up the next day as their second-string side heads into Irish Junior Cup quarter-final action. They’ve the toughest test of all against holders Lisnagarvey, but like their women’s side — who face more familiar opponents in Bandon — they can rely on home comforts at the self-styled ‘Duff bowl’.

Across town at the Mardyke, it’s do or die for Paidi Hartnett’s UCC women, who must take three points from Cork Harlequins to keep their hopes of earning automatic IHL qualification in their own hands. The upside for the students is that Quins have been inactive for all of February due to a quirk in the fixture-lists quirk. Stephen Dale’s charges may be rusty as a result but the likes of Karen Bateman and Rachel McSharry have plenty experience of high-stakes occasions and won’t be found wanting.

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