Cork C of I coach Denis Pritchard says Saturday’s Irish Senior Cup quarter-final will give his young squad a real sense of how far they have come since relegation from the EY Hockey League Division One.
They travel to Lisnagarvey, the toughest possible draw, looking to take down a side in breathtaking form. The Ulster side have dropped just two points from seven games, averaging an incredible over 5.5 goals a match, marking themselves out as the outstanding side on the island thus far.
C of I – albeit in a lower-tier – are also unbeaten this term with a perfect winning record in both Munster Division One and EYHL Division 2.
And Pritchard says if he had this year’s squad available to him last season, it is unlikely they would be in this situation. Underage internationals Rob Sweetnam and Mark Collins have made a big impact as has Kilkenny man Eoin Finnegan with a glut of goals.
With Adam O’Callaghan and Phil Sweetnam also returning to the club, the coach has a far bigger panel to work with compared to the wafer-thin list from last year which suffered badly from injuries.
“The young players have been huge for us.,” says Pritchard. “Kevin O’Dea is playing some spectacular stuff and the extra numbers give us so much more energy and flexibility.
Had we this kind of squad around last season, we’d have got those few extra results we needed to stay up.
The coach admits “no one will be giving us a chance going up there”, especially after the last two C of I trips to Hillsborough yielded a 10-0 and 8-2 setback. But he adds the side will be intent on making their presence felt.
“They are the best team in the country at the moment and are playing a really nice style. It will show us where we are in terms of how close we are to EY Division One level.
“It will be an eye-opener and reality check for some of our young guys [after the Munster League] but there are always shocks in hockey, particularly in the cup, and we are going up there to win.”
On the women’s side Cork Harlequins host Old Alex with designs on landing their first win of the EYHL season. Catholic Institute’s date with Loreto is postponed due to Naomi Carroll’s involvement in the Irish side in South Africa.