While the EY Hockey Leagues could both be decided this weekend, the Munster focus will be on who can potentially join the elite division with UCC’s men and Catholic Institute’s women starting out their play-off journeys.
Both play in five-team round-robin groups at Alexandra College in Dublin, gunning for the one ticket from the wildcard round to the provincial play-offs finals which take place at the Mardyke later this month.
For Insta, there is a definite sense of enormous well-being following Munster Senior Cup and Irish Hockey Trophy success in the last two weeks.
They have been in the IHL – the precursor to the EYHL – before and a return could entice the likes of club graduates Rebecca Barry, Roisin Upton and Naomi Carroll back to the fold.
But the play-off system is challenging and fraught with dangers. Host club Old Alex have former internationals Lisa Jacob and Fiona Connery on board this season to drive the chances while Queen’s University includes sport scholars Erin Getty and Jessica McMaster.
Add in a Corinthian side who lost just once in the Leinster league and a highly motivated Dungannon who are riding the crest of a wave and it’s a big ask.
Likewise for UCC, their campaign starts against a UCD side who have been the benchmark at intervarsity level for the past few years.
It will be UCD’s second game on Saturday, following a potentially tense opening game against Corinthian after some unsavoury online comments from the student side, directed at the Reds.
Corinthian will be slightly frustrated to be in this position and not straight through to the second phase. They finished level on points with YMCA in the Leinster league, missing out on goal difference.
YM, though, only achieved their points total by virtue of a reversed result in their favour when Trinity fielded an ineligible player.
Instonians and Mossley make up the Ulster representation, the latter getting in by virtue of Kilkeel’s withdrawal
As such, Bangor, Bandon and YM await in the final round of playoffs for the winner of this weekend’s games. Bandon play their delayed Munster Senior Cup final against Limerick.
Nationally, Glenanne will win the men’s EY Hockey League with a couple of games to spare if they can raid second placed Lisnagarvey in a potential firecracker.
Cork C of I look relatively safe in eighth place with a seven-point buffer to those below them after four successive draws. A win over Banbridge on Saturday or Cookstown on Sunday would likely see them mathematically assured.
The women’s EYHL, meanwhile, could be settled on Sunday with UCD in pole position when they travel to bottom side Hermes-Monkstown.
Second placed Cork Harlequins have a much tougher ask when they go to playoff-chasing Railway Union in Sandymount
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