Player/coach Hobbs has pioneered a patient, high-tempo passing game and placed a large emphasis on fitness and discipline as C of I bid to mount a challenge for a first national title since 2003.
They have been untouchable in Munster, averaging almost seven goals a game in heavy wins over all their provincial rivals. Bann represent a major step up, however. Until last weekend’s 3-3 draw with Instonians they held a 100% record in the much tougher Ulster league, and signalled their national ambitions by handing Cork Harlequins an embarrassing 8-0 defeat on Leeside in round one of the ISC.
The tie of the round takes place in Lisburn where Lisnagarvey, with their long-standing reputation as cup specialists, host upstarts UCD.
Cork Harlequins fly the flag for Munster in the women’s competition as they visit Old Alex — a repeat of their first round heroics, coming from two down to beat Belfast Harlequins 3-2 in extra-time, would do just fine for them. Coach Stephen Dale will hope things won’t need to be as dramatic as that against an Alex side who have gone off the boil since stunning Hermes early in the year and lie sixth in the 10-team Leinster league.
Elsewhere, most observers will look to Belfield where UCD welcome Ards in a repeat of last-season’s semi-final. The Oranges, the current national indoor champions, are arguably the most improved side in Irish hockey, but UCD coach Johnny Harte can practically field an all-Irish international 11 and thus the 2009 and 2011 champions will start as favourites.
Meanwhile, Munster’s chances of a first men’s Irish Hockey Trophy winner since UCC in 2012 will be halved by tomorrow evening as Bandon and Catholic Institute meet in Rosbrien.
Domestically, Cork C of I’s women will look to regain ground on the top three as they visit Fermoy, while UCC host Limerick.