UCC men and women face do or die ties on historic day at the Mardyke

UCC hope a historic day at the Mardyke turns out to be one to remember for the right reasons as both their men’s and women’s first teams host Irish Hockey League opposition.

While the women have been regular IHL entrants since first qualifying in 2009, the men are in the competition for the first time this season.

Both lost on the road in week one, a late splurge of goals seeing the women go down 6-2 at Lurgan while the men lost 3-0 to Instonians.

It means tomorrow’s respective clashes with Ballymoney and Annadale are effectively last-chance encounters as far as making any impact on the business end of the competition is concerned.

Captain Fionn O’Leary, centre-back Adam O’Callaghan and Ireland U21 forward Gary Wilkinson are their main fitness concerns, but they enter the clash with ’Dale high on confidence after narrowly missing out on a slot in the varsities decider, losing on penalties to eventual winners University of Ulster.

The women have found some rhythm under new coach Phil Oakley but will need Clodagh Moloney, Ailbhe Coyle, Nicola Kerr and Amy-Kate Trevor in top form to get anything from a dogged Ballymoney side.

Elsewhere, Cork Harlequins ladies visit holders UCD who crashed to an 8-3 defeat in the varsities final to Ulster Elks. Quins, who beat the Elks 2-1 in week one in the ultimate smash-and-grab raid, will hope they don’t face a backlash from the students, for whom former Quins girl Abby Oakes will be keen to earn a chance to face her childhood club.

The other Munster side in IHL action are Cork C of I men, who visit Irish Senior Cup holders Three Rock Rovers. C of I’s ace marksman John Jermyn returned to action in the 1-0 win over Rathgar and he will look to find gaps in a Rovers defence that shipped six against Monkstown in the Leinster league last weekend.

Rovers’ dangermen at the other end of the field — an all-international forward line including Mitch Darling, Peter Blakeney and C of I alum Jonny Bruton — could however cause headaches for the Cork men, who lost 5-0 to a rampant Banbridge side in round one.

It’s a busy domestic weekend too with the majority of non-IHL sides in Munster league action. Catholic Institute’s men begin a run of five games in 16 days against Cork Harlequins while Bandon face struggling Ashton.

Bandon ladies will be expected to take three points from UL’s visit to west Cork but Cork C of I travel to newly-promoted Cashel/New Inn with some uncertainty, given the Tipperary girls have started the season well and are three points ahead of C of I, albeit having played weaker opposition for the most part.

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