A variety of factors have left a number of teams in the top domestic tier stacked with players who have yet to turn 18. EY Hockey League clubs Cork Harlequins and UCC are the destinations of choice for the province’s elite talents, with others such as Hermes’ Irish international Naomi Carroll getting their national league fix with Dublin clubs.
In addition, adult-only clubs Blackrock and Cork Wanderers - who both compete in Division 1B this season - now boast more than 80 members between them, leaving many other clubs with a more youthful look.
Fifteen-year-old Lauren Ryan has scored numerous important goals in her first season of senior club hockey with pace-setters Catholic Institute, who have also showcased the talents of Munster’s dominant schoolgirl side, Crescent College Comprehensive.
Only around one in every three Ashton members is an adult while that ratio is closer to one in five in Cork Church of Ireland, for whom Kirsty Coombes, also just 15, became one of the youngest goalscorers in the Irish Senior Cup recently.
Partially as a result of this, Division 1 has been lower on quality and consistency than in recent seasons, but higher on drama. Behind Institute and Bandon - who are both safe - are six sides who have all taken points off each other.
Just four points separate Ashton in third and Cork C of I at the foot of the table, with Limerick, Waterford, Cashel/New Inn and Clonakilty packed in between.
Ashton likely need just a point from Cork C of I’s visit tomorrow to secure their top flight status, while anything other than a win would also send the Garryduff girls down, and even then victory might not be enough. Limerick go to Waterford while Clonakilty host Bandon, but the final outcomes may not be complete until Cashel/New Inn’s clash with Catholic Institute, which has been refixed for December 19.
The bottom three after the final round will drop into the Division 1 Challenge alongside Blackrock, Fermoy and Clonmel, who have come up from the second tier. The new six-team league determines which three sides will begin next season in Division 1, and which three fall to Division 1B.
Banbridge v Cookstown, Havelock Park, 4.15pm; Lisnagarvey v Annadale, Hillsborough, 5pm; Monkstown v Glenanne, Rathdown, 4.15pm; Pembroke Wanderers v Railway Union, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm; Three Rock Rovers v Cork C.of.I, Grange Road, 3pm.
Galway v Ashton, Dangan, 12.30pm.
Clontarf B v Instonians B, Mount Temple, 12.30pm; Cork C.of.I B v Bangor B, Garryduff, 2.30pm; Mokstown B v Bandon B, Rathdown, 1.45pm; South Antrim B v Cork Harlequins B, Friends School, 2pm; Kilkeel B v Lisnagarvey B, Kilkeel, 2.30pm; Pembroke Wanderers B v Banbridge B, Serpentine Avenue, 12.30pm; Railway Union B v Three Rock Rovers B, Park Avenue, 4.30pm; UCD B v Glenanne B, Belfield, 4.15pm.
Ards v Cork Harlequins, Ards L.C., 2.30pm; Hermes v Pembroke Wanderers, St.Andrew’s College, 2pm; Railway Union v Pegasus, Park Avenue, 2.30pm; Ulster Elks v Greenfields, U.U.J., 1pm; U.C.C. v U.C.D., Mardyke, 2pm.
Ashton v C.of.I, Ashton School, 12.30pm; Clonakilty v Bandon, Clonakilty Sports Complex, 2.30pm; Waterford v Limerick, Newtown, 1pm.
UCC B v Cork Harlequins B, Mardyke, 12pm; Ballymena B v North Down B, Ballymena, 2.30pm; Banbridge B v Randalstown B, Banbridge Academy, 1pm; Belfast Harlequins B v Pegasus B, Belfast Harlequins, 2.30pm; Corinthians B v Trinity B, Corinthians, 3.15pm; Muckross B v Lisnagarvey B, Muckross Park School, 1.15pm; Pembroke Wanderers B v Loreto B, Serpentine Avenue, 4pm; Queens University B v UCD B, Queens University, 11.45am.
Blackrock v Clonmel, Urselines, Blackrock, 12.30pm; Portlaoise v Galway, Portlaoise, 2pm; Coleraine v Kilkeel, Coleraine, 2.30pm; NUIG v Wexford, NUIG, 2.20pm.
Leinster v Munster, 10.30am; Munster v Ireland U18, 1.30pm; Leinster v Ireland U18, 3.30pm.
Leinster v Ireland U18, 10am; Connacht v Munster, 11.45am; Connacht v Ireland U18, 2.30pm; Leinster v Munster, 4pm.