A campaign that promised so much has come off the rails somewhat for UCC’s women, but all is not lost as they face a crucial Easter Saturday Munster Division 1 clash with Catholic Institute (Mardyke, 1pm).
Paidi Hartnett’s side were fighting a battle on three fronts until recently, as fine margins and bad luck undid their interest in a trio of trophies.
First, Ards raided the Mardyke with a 2-0 win last month that denied the Cork students a place in the Irish Senior Cup finals weekend.
College then couldn’t make their first-half dominance count in the Munster Senior Cup final against Institute, going down 2-0, before Cork Harlequins extinguished their title hopes last weekend.
That 2-1 defeat was desperately unlucky, with two own goals — the latter 60 seconds from time — proving their undoing.
There is one more carrot left for Hartnett’s charges; a second-placed finish in Munster, and automatic Irish Hockey League qualification for next season. To achieve that, three points against Institute are a must tomorrow as UCC lie seven points in arrears with two games in hand.
Any other result will see Insta take second, consigning College to the wildcard playoffs. Those are shark-infested waters at the best of times but are also usually held in May, when the students are in the midst of exams. To this end, they chose not to field a side in the 2012 tournament, having qualified from it the year before.
Insta will also want to rubber-stamp a place in next season’s IHL as they ramp up their preparations for the 2013 version. That begins after Easter, having been condensed into an end-of-season tournament this year with games taking place at pooled venues, all in a bid to generate more crowds and interest around the country’s flagship league.
Meanwhile, Lisnagarvey are in Amsterdam this weekend for the last 16 of the EuroHockey League, where they are very much underdogs in today’s clash with Belgian giants KHC Dragons (4pm Irish time).
Lisnagarvey’s Timmy Cockram, Mark Raphael and Brian Waring will find a familiar face in their opponents’ ranks — their former Irish team-mate, Stephen Butler — but he is not the only Dragons dangerman.
At 21, Florent Van Aubel is widely regarded as having the potential to be one of hockey’s all-time greats while more intimidatingly, the Dragons — who finished third last year — have yet to lose in regulation time in 12 EHL games.
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