How strong the leading lights in the regional leagues are will be put to the test on Saturday in the men’s Irish Senior Cup as high-flying Cookstown make the trip to Railway Union in round two.
Captained by Greg Thompson, the Co Tyrone head the Ulster Premier table on goal difference, scoring 24 times in the process with Stu Smyth, Mark Crooks and Ryan Millar bringing experience to the table.
Railway, though, have been even more free-flowing having already scored more than 50 goals this term, including six against Mossley in round one of this cup and hitting double-figures twice with Mark English and Rob Abbott running riot.
It is one of two ties in the men’s competition not to feature an EYHL top tier side with Cork C of I against Bandon the other one.
Both have gone unbeaten after four rounds of the Munster top tier with C of I edging things by a point at this early stage with a perfect start to life under the now player-coach Jonny Bruton.
Jonny Spillane has also impressed since his arrival from Midleton while the addition of youth internationals Ian Balding and Rory Treacy from Waterford has given them a large panel to work with.
It is one which looks well equipped to make a charge for promotion back to the top tier of the EY Hockey League despite the departure of Kevin O’Dea to UCD.
For Bandon, the timeless Dave Smith continues to bang in the goals and, despite their young age, Ian Perrott, Karl Smyth and Ethan Hamilton-Foott have amassed lots of experience which they will aim to call on in this showdown.
Harlequins are the third Munster side involved at the last 16 stage but have the toughest draw on offer, travelling to Glenanne who have a perfect record of five wins from five in the top tier.
Quins did win 5-0 at Clontarf in round one but this will be a hard ask against an in-form opposition and they will need top gun Jack O’Meara to fire.
Elsewhere, in a quirk of the fixture list, both Three Rock Rovers will meet Corinthian and YMCA are up against UCD for the second time in a week. Rovers beat the reds in the EY Hockey League last Saturday 4-1 while the students drew with YM 3-3.
Reigning champions Lisnagarvey are huge favourites against Leinster side Rathgar, particularly with home advantage. Garvey were given Copenhagen as their destination for next June’s EuroHockey Challenge I campaign, placed in a group with Turkish, Slovenian and Croatian opposition.
Banbridge and Monkstown’s meeting at Havelock Park is undoubtedly one of the pick of the fixtures but both clubs could be without their international stars due to the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in Cardiff.
Another intriguing contest pits Annadale against Pembroke. The former have drawn four of their five league contests but there has to be a winner on the day with a shoot-out beckoning if it stays level.
But it will be potentially how they manage the free-scoring Pembroke captain Julian Dale which will could be the decisive factor at Lagan College; the Cork man has netted seven times in five games despite playing in a side who have only registered one point in the league.
In the women’s competition, EYHL table-toppers Pegasus host Ulster Premier side Ulster Elks in a derby contest while, nearby, Queen’s welcome UCC – victors over Monkstown in round one – to the Dub with youth internationals Jessica McMaster and Caoimhe Perdue likely to lock horns.
Defensively, the Cork side have been superb, Perdue marshalling a side that has conceded just three times in five outings while Elva Kerr, Hilary Balding and Rebecca Kingston are also kicking on.
Harlequins will hope to find form against an impressive Pembroke. Eddie Gash’s side have not scored since the opening day of the campaign and will find things difficult against an impressive outfit who are a point off top spot in the EYHL.
Catholic Institute will be favourites when they meet Leinster Division One outfit Corinthian at Rosbrien but their opposition will not be taken lightly having gone unbeaten in Leinster thus far this season.
Indeed, they had already pinned down a promotion playoff spot in 2020 before the pandemic hit, denying them an opportunity to join the highest league.
Lisnagarvey will be eyeing a decent scalp when they face Muckross at Comber Road. Garvey, for their part, have 13 points out of 15 on their card and will relish this challenge against the EYHL side.
Banbridge – quarter-finalists in 2019 – are looking to reach that stage once again; they travel to Glenanne who are a resilient and battling outfit who will not make life easy.
Of the top tier sides in action, reigning champions UCD face Old Alex in a potential classic while Railway Union’s derby date with Loreto is another one to catch the eye, particularly if they can serve up the drama of their 2-2 league draw.
There is also a full series of 16 games across the men’s and women’s Irish Hockey Trophy competitions, making for a busy weekend across the island.
Saturday 16th October 2021
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2:
Annadale v Pembroke Wanderers, Lagan College, 2.30pm; Banbridge v Monkstown, Havelock Park, 3pm; Cork C of I v Bandon, Garryduff, 1pm; Glenanne v Cork Harlequins, St. Andrews, 1.15pm; Lisnagarvey v Rathgar, Comber Road, 3.30pm; Railway Union v Cookstown, Park Avenue, 1.15pm; Three Rock Rovers v Corinthian, Grange Road, 1pm; YMCA v UCD, Wesley College, 4pm
Irish Hockey Trophy – Round 1:
Ashton v Portadown, Ashton School, 3pm; Avoca v South Antrim, Newpark, 12.30pm; Ballynahinch v Catholic Institute, St. Colmans HS, 1pm; Bangor v Kilkenny, Bangor Aurora, 2.30pm; Belfast Harlequins v UCC, Deramore Park, 2.30pm; Dublin North v Bray, National Sports Complex, Abbottstown, 1.45pm; NICS v Queens University, Stormont, 2.30pm; North Down v Newry, Londonderry Park, 2.45pm
Irish Senior Cup – Round 2:
Catholic Institute v Corinthian, Rosbrien, 2pm; Cork Harlequins v Pembroke Wanderers, Farmers Cross, 1.30pm; Glenanne v Banbridge, St Andrews 3pm; Lisnagarvey v Muckross, Comber Road, 1.30pm; Pegasus v Ulster Elks, Newforge Country Club, 1.30pm; Queens University v UCC, Malone Playing Fields, 12.45pm; Railway Union v Loreto, Park Avenue, 3.15pm; UCD v Old Alexandra, Belfield, 1pm
Irish Hockey Trophy – Round 1:
Bray v Raphoe, Loreto Bray, 1pm; Clontarf v Rathgar, Mount Temple, 1pm; Greenfields v Bandon, Dangan, 2.30pm; Kilkenny v Armagh, Kilkenny, 2pm; North Kildare v North Down, The Maws, 2pm; Portadown v Mossley, Edenvilla, 2.30pm; Three Rock Rovers v Ashton, Grange Road, 3pm; YMCA v Galway, Wesley College, 1.45pm