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Weekend Hockey - Preview

Irish international star Eugene Magee is an injury doubt as he struggles to make a return to the Banbridge line-up for the weekend's EuroHockey League first phase series in Barcelona.

Magee missed Ireland's European Championship campaign with a broken ankle but remains doubtful as Bann prepare to face Poles Grunwald Poznan tomorrow and Belgian side, Racing Club des Bruxelles, on Sunday. Magee's fellow international Johnny McKee has already been ruled out of the trip due to an ankle injury making Bann's task all the more difficult.

At domestic level, the last of the Kirk Cup semi-finalists will be decided tomorrow with Mossley favourites to join Instonians, Civil Service and Kilkeel in the last four. A win for Mossley over Portadown will see them clinch the last remaining place but if South Antrim were to beat Newry and the Newtownabbey side were to slip up, then the Lisburn outfit would progress.

Meanwhile, the EYHL continues with Cookstown and Annadale hoping to bounce back from opening defeats. The Dale, who lost 7-1 to Three Rock rovers, are away  to Cork C of I on Sunday while Cookstown are away to Glenanne on Saturday following their 3-2 opening defeat by Pembroke.

Saturday also sees the continuation of the women's Ulster Premier League with all eyes on the meeting of Queen's and champions Lurgan at Upper Malone. Lurgan had the edge in last season's encounters, including a 3-1 win over the students in the final of the Denman Ulster Shield.

But it was Queen's who drew first blood in the current campaign as they defeated Lurgan 4-1 in the group stages of the Shield. Simon Bell's team have won all six of their games so far, conceding only that goal to Lurgan in the process but the students' coach says there is still room for improvement.

"Whilst we have made a good start, we have been missing a lot of chances after dominating most games and last week's 1-0 league win over Banbridge was a case in point." he said.

"We had a lot of pressure but didn't make the most of our chances so we'll be looking for improvement in our finishing. I expect Lurgan to be a different proposition this time around because you never know what sort of team they were able to field in that midweek Shield game so it's going to be much tougher, I am sure."

Dungannon also made a winning start to the league campaign, beating North Down 5-1 last week and they will be confident of making it two from two when they take on winless Portadown at Edenvilla Park.

In the other games, Ballymoney, who also have three points in the bag, are at home to Banbridge, and the two newly-promoted sides, Mossley and Rainey, whose game was abandoned last week face North Down and Randalstown respectively.

In the EYHL, Belfast Harlequins will be hoping to make it two wins from two when they travel to Dublin to face champions UCD,, who fell to a 2-1 loss against Cork Harlequins last week. Quins reversed a 10-1 defeat by Monkstown on day one last season when they beat the 2016 champions 3-2 on Saturday at Deramore.

Zoe Wilson, whose arrival, along with that of fellow international Lizzie Colvin has boosted the squad at Deramore, is quietly confident that Saturday's win wasn't a flash in the pan. However, she recognises the size of the task ahead against a side that is brimming with Irish internationals, including Ulster's Katie Mullan, the current national team captain.

"I don't think any game in the EYHL is going to be an easy one and I do believe UCD will come out fighting after their narrow loss." she said.

"But after our gutsy performance on Saturday I know we will take confidence going into this weekend and continue to keep building throughout the season. Everyone is delighted that we got our first three points on the board on Saturday, we knew it the game would be hard to predict since both teams have lost and gained players."

"However we had the mind-set to focus on ourselves and knew that if we played to our strengths we could secure the three points."

The three Ulster teams had an unprecedented clean sweep of victories last weekend but a repeat performance on Saturday will be a more difficult proposition.

Pegasus, who thumped newly-promoted Trinity College 6-1 face a daunting trip to Cork where they will face a Harlequins side, buoyed by that impressive win over UCD. However, coach Ali McNeill was happy with her team's display, especially in one important area of the modern-game which had proved to be an Achilles heel last season.

"Four of our goals came from penalty-corners and I'm pretty sure that's near enough the number we scored in the entire season last time around." she said.

"Trinity started the game well and we were a bit ropy in the first quarter but once we got into our rhythm, we played pretty well although away to Cork is always going to be a difficult fixture."

Pegasus are hoping to have Ireland's most-capped player Shirley McCay back on board as she recovers from a broken thumb while team captain Alex Speers, who scored twice against the students, is doubtful with a hand injury.

Ards had an impressive 2-1 win over Pembroke Wanderers last weekend and, with the benefit of home advantage, they will be hoping to build on that when they take on Railway Union at Londonderry Park.


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Saturday
EYHL

Glenanne v Cookstown 4.00pm @ St Andrew’s College

Kirk Cup
Pool A

Mossley v Portadown 2.30pm @ The Glade
Newry v South Antrim 2.30pm @ Newry HC

Pool B

NICS v Instonians 1.00pm @ Stormont
Queen’s v North Down 2.30pm @ The Dub

Linden Cup
Raphoe v Ballynahinch 2.30pm @ Royal & Prior
Cliftonville v Antrim 2.30pm @ CIYMS
Bangor v Armagh 2.30pm @ Bangor Aurora

Sunday
EYHL

Cork C of I v Annadale @ Garryduff 1pm


WOMEN
Saturday

EYHL:

Ards v Railway Union (2.30pm)
Cork Harlequins v Pegasus (1.05pm)
Trinity v Pembroke (2pm)
UCD v Belfast Harlequins (2.50pm)

Ulster Premier League
Ballymoney v Banbridge (2.30pm)
North Down v Mossley (2.30pm)
Portadown v Dungannon (2.30pm)
Queen's v Lurgan (1pm)
Mossley v Randalstown (4pm)

Senior One:
Ballymena v CI (2.30pm)
Omagh v Lisnagarvey (2.30pm)
Raphoe v Ballyclare (1pm)
Victorians v Priorians (4pm)



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