UCC hoping for more of the same at Institute

The Christmas and New Year break comes to an abrupt end for many of Munster hockey’s top stars with some vital leagues games down for decision tomorrow.

Rosbrien in Limerick will carry the most intrigue as UCC visit Catholic Institute, no doubt hoping for a repeat of their 3-0 win there last season.

At the time, Institute were Munster champions and UCC in an evolutionary stage, rendering the result a major surprise. But more is expected of the students now with many of their star players in their final college year, while Insta have gone the other direction with the average age of their side coming down significantly.

College’s 2-1 victory over Institute at the Mardyke early in the campaign has them in the box seat for what will be a three-way title fight that alsoincludes champions Cork Harlequins. The head-to-heads between these sides will decide it and UCC’s hunger is arguably the greatest as the club is without a Munster league crown since the 1990s.

If Áine Curran, Amy Kate Trevor and Antonia McGrath are on song they can be confident of a positive result but Institute have some jokers in their pack too, not least in-form Irish international forward Naomi Carroll. In addition, the Christmas holidays did not scatter Insta’s panel around the country so training will have been easier, and they also played a game — a 4-1 win over Ashton in Cork on December 28. By contrast, UCC opted not to enter the U21 club championships on the same day and have not seen any action since December 7.

Elsewhere, champions Cork Harlequins could again be without Yvonne O’Byrne and Clíodhna Sargent as Darren Smith’s Ireland prepare for a training camp in Spain. Minus their talismanic defenders, they laboured to a 4-2 win over Ashton just before Christmas but will hope to be more clinical against C of I tomorrow.

Eddie Kirwan’s C of I face genuine competition for their “best of the rest” tag from an ever-improving Bandon and will hope Ali O’Regan, Jen Barry and Ali O’Connor can help them eke out what would be a shock result.

Ashton’s visit to Limerick is an encounter that two sides at the wrong end of the table will be targeting.

The Cork side’s two wins have come over Limerick and Fermoy but now they need to see can they win on the road too. The Villiers girls should have Lorraine McGowan and Jenni Lyttle — who missed the 0-0 draw with Fermoy — back in situ and are gunning for their second win of the campaign.

The sole men’s game sees C of I’s B team host Bandon.

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