Playoffs proving a headache for UCC

The club hockey season is a distant memory for the majority of the country’s players, but those sides hoping to find a backdoor route to next year’s Irish Hockey League must tog off one last time this weekend before the summer break.

Moved back a fortnight due to clashes with this season’s competition, the wildcard playoffs present a headache for UCC, who are both the men’s and women’s representatives from Munster.

With a number of players exam-tied, the women have pulled out of the tournament while the Irish Hockey Association agreed to a request from the men’s side to play both their games tomorrow. That leaves both competitions to be played by three sides with two to qualify.

The Cork students are likely to give their all against Instonians in their first game at Belfield (12pm) and hope to sneak a result before battening down the hatches against YMCA later in the day (4pm). Inst and YM will then meet on Sunday, albeit at a different venue in Banbridge’s Havelock Park.

An Irish international-laden Hermes will be unbackable favourites to win out in the women’s wildcards, which also feature Galway — who have a big chance to become Connacht’s first IHL representatives due to UCC pulling out — and Ards.

Meanwhile, Irish interim women’s coach Denis Pritchard yesterday named the first squad of his tenure as Ireland gear up for next month’s Investec London Cup, an Olympic warm-up tournament in Chiswick.

The girls in green will share a pool with world number ones the Netherlands and Commonwealth champions Australia. There are four changes to the panel that lost March’s Olympic qualification final, with Niamh Atcheler, Anna O’Flanagan, Emma Smyth and Niamh Small coming in for Emma Smyth, Shirley McCay, Lisa Jacob and Lizzie Colvin.

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