The men’s division pushes off with a double-weekend, each team playing a match on Saturday and Sunday with reigning champions Lisnagarvey, who retain Rio representatives Jonny Bell, Paul Gleghorne and Timothy Cockram, playing UCD and Railway.
Rivals Banbridge have Eugene Magee, Matthew Bell and Drew Carlisle making up the backbone of their team while Dane Ward returns from England to lend his skills to their attack.
Cork C of I’s John Jermyn – Ireland’s all-time top goalscorer – takes on the captaincy after an impressive 12 months. Manager Barry Crowley looks forward to his Cork side getting the most out of their campaign. “The team should have a more settled look this year and are hoping to push themselves into the top half of the table and are also looking for a good cup run.”
Fellow Dublin side, Monkstown, boast eight Irish internationals in their side but have been shorn of Peter Carruth and Jonny Bruton who have both taken up player-coach roles in Annadale and Corinthians respectively. Meanwhile, Ireland duo Mitch Darling (Three Rock Rovers) and Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne) have come back to Irish shores to play in the EYHL. Rovers now target a stronger finish from last year and have recruited Clontarf’s Kevin Mullins to achieve that.
Railway have added Cork’s Peter Catchpole and Australian Kieran Springett while Pembroke’s squad has been depleted with Karl and Jason Lynch, Scott Sullivan, Adam Pritchard and Nick Burns all moving on.
A new entity could dominate the second edition of the women’s EY Hockey League as reigning champions Hermes amalgamate with Monkstown.
The combined side are favourites to win the league and have the attacking force of internationals Chloe Watkins, Anna O’Flanagan, and Nikki Evans to lead the charge.
Elks have experienced a revamp in personnel with long-term coach Ricky Lee being replaced by Davy Menaul. Irish captain Megan Frazer moves to Germany to play with Mannheimer while fellow internationals Gemma Frazer (no relation) and Rebecca Barry now turn out for Harlequins in Belfast and Cork respectively.
Menaul has sought star quality overseas with French international Andrea Desneaux, American Megan Rogers, South African Danni Wilson and Canadian powerhouse Anna Kozniuk just some of the new recruits.
Cork Harlequins – the sole Munster representative in the women’s competition – have added German legend and centurion Lina Geyer to the panel alongside Roisin Upton, Naomi Carroll and Barry. Manager Robert O’Sullivan says the side’s lack of consistency ultimately counted against them last season but believes this has been addressed “with some key additions”.
Railway Union v Glenanne, Park Avenue, 2.15pm; Monkstown v Cork C of I, Merrion Fleet Arena, 2.30pm; Banbridge v Three Rock Rovers, Havelock Park, 2.45pm; Lisnagarvey v UCD, Comber Road, 3pm; Pembroke v Instonians, Serpentine Avenue, 4pm.
Instonians v Monkstown, Shawsbridge, 1.30pm; Railway Union v Lisnagarvey, Park Avenue, 2.15pm; Cork C of I v Pembroke, Garryduff,2.30pm; Glenanne v Banbridge, Glenanne Park, 3pm; UCD v Three Rock Rovers, Belfield, 4pm.
UCD v Ards, Belfield, 2.50pm; Loreto v Cork Harlequins, Beaufort, 1.30pm; Pembroke v Railway Union, Serpentine Avenue, 2pm; Belfast Harlequins v Hermes-Monkstown, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Ulster Elks v Pegasus, Jordanstown, 2.30pm.
UCD v Loreto, Belfield, 2pm; Ulster Elks v Cork Harlequins, Jordanstown, 1pm; Ards v Hermes-Monkstown, Londonderry Park, 1.30pm; Pegasus v Pembroke, Queen’s, 2.30pm; Railway Union v Belfast Harlequins, Park Avenue, 4.15pm.