Pembroke must focus on final

A PLAYER eligibility issue involving defending Irish Senior Cup champions Pembroke Wanderers threatens to overshadow the Dubliners’ quest to retain the trophy when they lock horns with Cookstown at Belfield on Sunday (1.15).

The Irish Hockey Association (IHA) yesterday moved to clarify a query from Mossley regarding the registration of Pembroke’s South African import, Vaughan Erasmus, who played and scored in the latter’s 6-0 quarter-final win at The Glade on February 28.

While Erasmus was seemingly correctly registered with both the IHA and the Leinster Branch in time, visa complications delayed his arrival from November until January.

Under strict interpretation of the rules, Erasmus was not eligible to participate in national competitions as he had not played for his club prior to December 31 last year. Since playing against Mossley, he has not subsequently appeared for Pembroke on the national stage.

However, an IHA statement yesterday revealed that Pembroke will not suffer any sanctions, claiming that Erasmus’ appearance against Mossley “was deemed to have been an unintentional and genuine error”. The body also admitted that Pembroke’s decision to play him was “in part due to a miscommunication with clubs by the IHA”.

Erasmus is not eligible to play in any Irish competition for the remainder of the season — ruling him out of Sunday’s final and the Irish Hockey League semi-final clash with Three Rock Rovers next weekend.

The IHA has pledged to undertake a full review of the regulations regarding registration and eligibility of players for Irish competitions prior to next season, but the issue is sure to be hotly debated among rank and file members of the sport’s community over the coming weeks.

Pembroke will be trying not to be distracted by the off-pitch furore as they look to quell the challenge of a Cookstown side who are contesting the ISC final for the first time in 22 years. Ireland’s recent EuroHockey rankings boost means a place in next season’s EuroHockey League is at stake for the winner.

The Serpentine Avenue outfit have been in ruthless form, reclaiming the Leinster league and annexing the EuroHockey Club Trophy, and will be favourites on paper.

Despite a suspicion that Cookstown are vulnerable away from their Coolnafranky base, they are not Ulster champions for nothing and have mercurial Ulster U-21 captain David Ames back after an elbow injury.

Meanwhile, UCD will look to continue their giant-killing exploits as they look to add to their sole women’s ISC success 58 years ago. Mary Logue’s students will have home advantage for Sunday’s final (3.30) and have already seen off Hermes, Loreto and Ulster Elks along the way, and will have members of the 1951 vintage in the stand to lend their support.

Standing in their way are Belfast powerhouses Pegasus, who are gunning for a three-in-a-row. UCD must quell what is arguably the country’s most dangerous forward trio — Claire McMahon, Alex Speers and Suzanne Beaney — to pull off another major upset.

The Irish Junior Cups are also down for decision, with Pembroke’s men chasing a senior and junior double.

Their seconds meet Cork C of I (tomorrow, 2pm) for whom two players will be looking to roll back the years in style.

Derek Hales and Richie Dorman were part of the last C of I side to win this competition, with a 1-0 win over Lisnagarvey in 1993. Dorman’s last-gasp winner helped them see off Cookstown 4-3 in the last four, and he will be hoping to repeat the feat to help Dermot Judge’s side bridge a 16-year gap.

The women’s competition has been dominated by Leinster sides this term, providing all four of the semi-finalists.

Hermes and Railway Union who have progressed to the decider, with the latter favourites to end a 32-year famine based on league form, where they topped Leinster’s Division Two, 12 points ahead of sixth-placed Hermes.

But the majority of attention in Munster will turn to Harlequin Park on Sunday (1pm), where UCC bid to end Cork Harlequins’ 13-year stranglehold on the Munster women’s title.

The sides finished locked on 36 points in the regular league campaign after College pulled off a thrilling last-day 4-3 win over Quins, forcing a title play-off. It will be an proud day for Mount Mercy College, with 11 alumni and three current students of the Model Farm Road nursery going into action on both sides of the divide.

SATURDAY

Irish Men’s Junior Cup final: Pembroke Wanderers vs Cork C of I (Belfield, 2pm)

ESB Irish Women’s Junior Cup final: Hermes vs Railway Union (Belfield, 4.15pm)

Sunday

Irish Men’s Senior Cup final: Pembroke Wanderers vs Cookstown (Belfield, 1.15pm)

Munster Men’s Barber Cup final: Belvedere B vs UCC C (Harlequin Park, 3pm)

ESB Irish Women’s Senior Cup final: Pegasus vs UCD (Belfield, 3.30pm)

Munster Div 1 title play-off: Cork Harlequins vs UCC (1pm).


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