Pritchard’s chance to run rule over Irish hopefuls

Denis Pritchard will be particularly interested in how Ireland’s women fare for their clubs in this weekend’s final round of the Irish Hockey League, after he was this week appointed interim national coach.

Having worked as an assistant coach to Gene Muller over the past five years, Corkman Pritchard moves into the top job for June’s Investec Cup in London, the Celtic Cup at Lisnagarvey in July and the Champions Challenge I in September.

The Irish Hockey Association hope to begin their interview process in July, and aim to make a full-time appointment by October.

On the field in Pool A of the IHL, Pegasus host already-qualified Hermes in Belfast needing to better UCD’s result at Catholic Institute to join the Booterstown side in the semi-finals.

Pool B is even tighter with just two points separating Loreto, Railway Union and Ballymoney. Railway head to Cork to take on Harlequins knowing victory is enough to advance, while things will be finely balanced when Ballymoney welcome Loreto, the latter needing a losing bonus point as a minimum requirement.

There’s similarly tight permutations for the men’s competition, particularly in Pool A. Cookstown, with a three point lead, are almost there and will be keen to make sure on their own terms as they visit Ulster rivals Instonians.

But the Tyrone men could yet be edged out should Banbridge and Monkstown, tied in second place on 10 points with the same goal difference, eke out bonus point victories over already-eliminated Glenanne and Cork Harlequins respectively.

Pool B’s crucial game takes place at Milltown, where YMCA host Three Rock Rovers needing to avoid defeat by more than a single goal to advance to join runaway leaders Lisnagarvey in the last four.

Should the Dubliners side slip up, Annadale and Cork C of I could mathematically take advantage, should either record a bonus point victory in their showdown at Lough Moss in Belfast. However, there would still be a major goal difference deficit to make up on YM.

The pool’s dead rubber sees Lisnagarvey host Pembroke Wanderers, though the latter’s netminder David Williamson will be keen to put one over his former team-mates while ‘Garvey are protecting a 100% record in this tournament.

The Irish Junior Cup finals take place on Sunday as a double-header at Belfield, with Loreto strongly favoured to overcome Pembroke Wanderers in the ladies’ final while surprise package Corinthian meet Cookstown in the men’s decider.

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