Cork C of I and Harlequins start the long road in pursuit of a place for Munster at the top table of the national league stage with their maiden games in EY Hockey League Division 2 tomorrow.
Both have home advantage against Leinster sides with the former hoping for an instant return following relegation in the spring after a gut-wrenching play-off shoot-out against UCD.
C of I had gone over a year without winning a league match, leaving them rock bottom of the EYHL. A rousing end to the 2018/19 campaign saw them salvage a playoff place with a flurry of seven points from their last four games.
But those efforts were in vain due to that UCD defeat. It ended two seasons of long away days with over 20 trips outside of Cork - far more kilometres on the clock than any other club in the country.
Those trips took their toll with a number of players stepping away due to the double weekends in Belfast and Dublin. But the summer has seen plenty of togetherness and the panel has expanded, with Rob Sweetnam, Mark Collins and Eoin Finnegan adding to their depth while Phil Sweetnam has returned.
With the powerful teenager Kevin O’Dea becoming more influential by the week, they have swept to two big wins in Munster’s top tier with John Jermyn rattling in the corners.
Winning in EYHL2, though, is the key platform for national promotion and they start off against Railway Union who nicked a 3-2 win at Bandon last weekend. The Sandymount side will be without former Irish international Kenny Carroll who has opted just to coach this season after over 20 years in the first team.
At Farmers Cross, meanwhile, Quins are in buoyant mood after their Irish Senior Cup win over Corinthians. Clontarf, though, are a side on a mission too and their summer recruitment of Mullins’ brother John and Kevin – nephews of Dublin legend Brian – from Three Rock Rovers and Jordan Edmonds and Grant Davey from Australia indicates intent.
On the women’s side, UCC are on the long journey to Belfast to face EYHL champions Pegasus in a rare Irish Senior Cup quarter-final. They go as massive underdogs but will have taken some encouragement by Pegs’ difficulty in seeing off Ulster Elks – mid-table in the Ulster Premier reckoning – a week ago in the absence of Shirley McCay, Steph Quinn and Kate McConnell.
Annadale v Glenanne, Strathearn, 4pm; Banbridge v UCD, Havelock Park, 2.45pm; Corinthian v YMCA, Whitechurch Park, 1.15pm; Lisnagarvey v Three Rock Rovers, Comber Road, 3pm; Monkstown v Pembroke Wanderers, ALD Merrion Fleet Arena, 2.15pm; Pool A: Avoca v Instonians, Newpark, 1pm; Cork C of I v Railway Union, Garryduff, 2.30pm; Pool B: Cookstown v Kilkeel, Steelweld Park, 2.30pm; Cork Harlequins v Clontarf, Farmers’ Cross, 2.30pm. Dublin University v Portrane, Santry Avenue, 12.45pm; Weston v Bray, Griffeen Valley Park, 3.30pm. UCC v Bandon, Mardyke, 2pm.
Corinthian v Banbridge, Whitechurch Park, 3.15pm; Loreto v Railway Union, Grange Road, 3.30pm; Pegasus v UCC, Belfast High School, 2.45pm; Pembroke v UCD, Serpentine Avenue, 2.30pm. Avoca v North Kildare, Sion Hill, 2.30pm; Clontarf v Rathgar, Mount Temple, 12.30pm; Naas v Monkstown, Naas SC, 12pm; Trinity v Genesis, Santry Avenue, 2.30pm. Limerick v Belvedere, Villiers, 1.30pm; Waterford v Bandon, Newtown School, 2.30pm.
Three Rock Rovers v Monkstown, Grange Road, 3pm.
Pool A: Corinthian v Cork C of I, Whitechurch Park, 2.30pm; Lurgan v NUIG, Lurgan JHS, 1.30pm; Pool B: Ards v Queens University, Londonderry Park, 1.30pm; Greenfields v UCC, Dangan, 2.30pm.