Something must give at the summit of Munster’s Division 1 over the coming weeks, beginning with Catholic Institute’s visit to Cork Harlequins tomorrow (3.30pm).
Quins and Insta are deadlocked on 39 points from 14 games, with just a pair of games against each other remaining. With goal difference not a factor, whoever wins tomorrow will take a giant step towards the title.
The hosts and holders will start as marginal favourites based on their performances against fellow title rivals UCC, drawing twice where Insta won one and lost the other clash.
They have arguably greater depth with veteran top-class performers Rachael Kohler and Karen Bateman back in situ alongside current internationals Cliodhna Sargent and Yvonne O’Byrne while a number of their younger charges, including Laurene Buckley and Niamh O’Leary, have stepped up to the mark.
Insta are rebuilding with Eimear Cregan having retired and Elaine Bromell unavailable for large chunks of the season, but Irish international Naomi Carroll has been a vital fulcrum while Katie Campbell’s return from an Erasmus semester in Holland has been timely.
Elsewhere, UCC go to Ashton needing to win the remainder of their league games and look for favours elsewhere; if either Insta or Quins gets four points from the two clashes between the sides, that will earn them the crown and dash College’s dreams.
Fermoy enter the last-chance saloon in the battle to avoid the drop as they visit UL. The north Cork club have struggled this season with the loss of around 10 first-team players robbing them of the quality required to compete as well as they did last year with a seventh-place finish.
They’ve picked up just a single point from a goalless draw with Limerick and need to bounce back from last weekend’s 4-0 horrorshow at home to UL. The Limerick students have hit form since Simon Brickenden took the coaching reins, also chalking up a win over Ashton in Cork to make them all but safe.
Fermoy must come out fighting with eight points required from their final three games to avoid the wooden spoon, while UL can surge up the table if they win again and get something from their Sunday clash with Limerick.
In the men’s league, Cork Harlequins double-up against Cork C of I B tomorrow and Bandon on Sunday. With the battle for the second Irish Hockey League berth hotting up, Jason Black’s men need six points to stay in touch.
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