It means Cork Harlequins’ women and Cork C of I’s men will get their campaigns underway with some confidence; as Munster’s sole challengers, they can push for the play-off places.
Quins have the toughest possible start, travelling to Belfield to play champions UCD in a repeat of last season’s Irish Senior Cup final. The visitors have significant additions, with former international Julia O’Halloran a marquee signing, while Emily O’Leary returns to Munster after a spell with Ulster Elks.
Last term, it took time for Stephen Dale’s troops to integrate fully, with 10 new players, but that cup final performance and third place in the league showed real progress.
More settled this time, they have full access this season to Roisin Upton, who could form a strong partnership with Cliodhna Sargent, the international pair only playing once together last term.
Up front, Naomi Carroll and Rebecca Barry provide the strike-power, while Yvonne O’Byrne — the other in their quintet of current internationals — will captain the side, looking to maraud from the back.
UCD were the standard-bearers last season and look to be the side to watch again, though Gillian Pinder has graduated and moved on to Pembroke. In her stead, the Dublin students have added underage internationals Bethany Barr, Freya McDermott and Katherine Egan.
Hermes-Monkstown look set to drop off the pace this season, with a big summer exodus, including the attacking trio of Anna O’Flanagan, Chloe Watkins (both to Bloemendaal in the Netherlands) and Nikki Evans (UHC Hamburg).
The dark horses could be Pembroke, who brought in Emily Beatty from Dragons in Belgium, in addition to Pinder.
Belfast Harlequins, relegation-threatened last season, have also recruited well, with Zoe Wilson and Lizzie Colvin snapped up.
On the men’s side, Neil Welch coaches the side for a second season, but has to contend with the regular train of players moving to Dublin for work. This summer, Richard Sweetnam, Richard Lynch and Stephen Sweetnam moved to Pembroke. With doubts over Phil Smith’s knee and David Harvey’s neck and hamstring, their squad is slimmed considerably. As such, they will look to the likes of Phil Brownlow, Alex Burns, Julian Dale and Simon Wolfe to be more prominent. All were in the Irish U21 set-up this summer, sharpening them up for Glenanne’s visit on Sunday.
On paper, the contenders look to be Three Rock Rovers and Lisnagarvey. They have won the last two EYHL editions, while their rivals Monkstown and Banbridge have seen key players depart.
Elsewhere, the Munster schoolboys qualifiers for the All-Ireland Championships have been put on hold, following the death of Neville Atkinson, a long-time representative with Villiers school.