Olympics to focus minds over weekend

There will be an extra motivation for the members of Ireland’s senior men’s team as they line out for their clubs in the Irish Senior Cup’s opening round this weekend.

Last Sunday’s news of Olympic qualification means those inside the Irish set-up and those hoping to break into it will have Rio on their minds, but only 16 athletes can be selected to travel to Brazil next August. The majority of his home-based players will be hoping to help their clubs advance in one of the world’s oldest hockey competitions.

Munster hopes rest heavily on Irish Hockey League leaders Cork Church of Ireland who will look to build on their early 100% record in that competition as they visit Corinthian.

UCC will be hoping that their 5-0 dismantling of Trinity during last weekend’s intervarsities at the Mardyke is a good omen as the sides meet in Cork again. Again, it will be a fascinating watch for the Colton and Chambers families as they both have a son on each side, all four of whom are Midleton College alumni.

Cork Harlequins could be without key men for their trip to Kilkeel, not a good omen for a side that have struggled domestically with defeats to Bandon and Limerick.

Bandon’s Irish Hockey Trophy odyssey begins all over again at Portadown. Denis Pritchard’s charges have lost the last two finals, but have been motoring well enough in Munster to suggest they can challenge for overall honours once more.

UCC’s ladies will hope their varsities bonding experiences have brought them closer as they host Belfast Harlequins in an Irish Senior Cup tie at the Mardyke. College have a bad record in this competition in the past decade, but the usual early-season cobwebs should have been blown away after some tough assignments in the EY Hockey League.

Cork Church of Ireland trek to the far reaches of north Ulster hoping coach Chris Blaney’s knowledge of Ballymoney, accrued during the Belfast native’s time with Ulster Elks, can help them put a rocky start to the domestic season behind them.

In the Irish Hockey Trophy, 2010 winners Catholic Institute are back after a few years in the ISC and are likely to represent Munster’s best chance of success, though they have a tough ask first away to Ballymena. Bandon are another side with good tournament pedigree who are away in Ulster, at Larne.

Ashton visit Limerick in an all-Munster clash having not yet met in domestic competition, while Waterford — away to YMCA — make their bow at this level and 2014 Irish Challenge victors Clonakilty host Rathgar.

Fixtures: Page 23


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