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Weekend Preview

Cookstown face one of the biggest challenges of the year with the visit of EY Hockey League leaders Glenanne to Steelweld Park on Saturday.

The Dublin team have been unbeaten in their matches this season, winning nine and drawing three to top the table and build up a seven-point gap over the chasing pack. Cookstown sit second bottom but put in an excellent performance when they last played the Glens, losing out by an odd goal in five.

"We can take a lot from that performance down at St Andrews earlier in the season," said Reds captain Jon Ames.

"We ended the match better than they did, but we started very nervously and it was just too far to get back from 2-0 down. They have kicked on from there and lead the table. They will come to Steelweld Park full of confidence and we cannot rely on getting back into the game in the second half again. We have got to get stuck in right from the start."

"Numerous times this year Glenanne have scored goals right at the death to win or draw games, and you have got to say 'well done' when you see that fighting spirit. It is up to our guys to match or better that effort, and to show the killer instinct to execute our opportunities when they come about." 

"Hopefully we will have a big turnout from our supporters to cheer us on at home."

In Saturday's other EYHL clashes involving Ulster sides, Lisnagarvey host Banbridge in a crucial game for both sides while Annadale entertain Cork c of I at Strathearn.

Garvey need a win to keep the pressure on Glenanne and will be hoping that Cookstown can do them a favour by taking something from their game with the leaders. Bann, meanwhile, will be hoping they can secure maximum points to keep their chances of a play-off place alive.

Annadale are fresh from a very creditable draw against Three Rock in Dublin last Sunday and have been enjoying a decent return to the top-flight this season. 

At domestic level, it's the first series of matches after the 'split' between the top and bottom seven teams in the Ulster Premier League. Instonians will be aiming to bounce back from their 4-3 loss to Belfast Harlequins when they face South Antrim. Quins are away to Mossley while Portadown host Kilkeel in the other Division A games with Newry, NICS, Raphoe and Bangor all involved in the Irish Hockey Trophy.

On the women's front, Pegasus host Cork Harlequins in a crucial EY Irish Hockey League game at Queen's on Saturday. Pegasus, who have a game in hand, are just a point behind the Munster side, who in turn, trail leaders UCD by four.

Team captain Alex Speers said:
"The next two games are vitally important as we play UCD next and we certainly haven't given up on winning the title rather than just making the play-offs."

"We are looking forward to playing both the teams above us at home and, after that, we only have one out-of-province match away to Loreto."

Pegasus will be hoping that Belfast Harlequins can do them a favour by taking something from their game with UCD at Deramore. Quins were unlucky not to have taken something from their last game with their Cork namesakes, going down 4-3 to a last-minute goal.

Ards, meanwhile, travel to Dublin for an important game against Railway Union, with both sides still in contention for a place in the play-offs. 

Elsewhere, Rainey have slipped into the Ulster Premier League relegation play-off position despite securing their best result of the season after holding Queen's to a scoreless draw on Saturday to end the students' 100% record.

A 3-0 win for North Down over basement side Portadown saw the Comber team leapfrog Rainey but Magherafelt coach Richard McGaw is confident his youthful team can stay up after earning promotion last season.

They will be aiming to spring another surprise when they host leaders Ballymoney on Saturday. McGaw said:
"The aim was to improve both individually and as a team this season and I have stuck by my kids and handful of experienced players and each of them has grown, both physically and mentally."

"We have a massive run in from now to the end of the season and we will take each game as it comes but we are ready for a fight."

In Saturday's other Premier games, Queen's will be hoping to bounce back when they host Mossley, with champions Lurgan travelling to Dungannon and Banbridge entertaining Randalstown.

Senior One leaders Lisnagarvey have a tough one away to Priorians in Derry where Jill Kennedy, who hit a hat-trick last week, will pose a big threat to the Hillsborough side.


FIXTURES
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Saturday
EYHL

Annadale v Cork C of I 2.30pm @ Strathearn School
Cookstown v Glenanne 2.30pm @ Steelweld Park
Lisnagarvey v Banbridge 3.00pm @ Comber Road

IHT 
Bandon v NICS 2.30pm @ Bandon Grammar
Newry v Raphoe 2.30pm @ Newry HC
Bangor v UCC 3.00pm @ Bangor Aurora

Premier Division A
Portadown v Kilkeel 1.00pm @ Edenvilla
South Antrim v Instonians 2.30pm @ Friends’ School
Mossley v Belfast HQ 2.30pm @ The Glade

Premier Division B
Cliftonville v Antrim 2.30pm @ CIYMS
North Down v Queen’s 2.30pm @ Comber LC


WOMEN

Friday
Senior 1

Omagh v CI Ladies 8.00pm @ Omagh HS

Saturday
EYHL

Belfast HQ v UCD 2.30pm @ Deramore
Pegasus v Cork HQ 2.30pm @ The Dub
Railway Union v Ards 2.40pm @ Railway Union HC

IHT
Bandon v Ballymena 12.00pm @ Bandon Grammar

Premier
Banbridge v Randalstown 2.30pm @ Havelock Park
Dungannon v Lurgan 2.30pm @ Royal School Dungannon
Queen’s v Mossley 1.00pm @ The Dub
Rainey v Ballymoney 4.00pm @ Meadowbank Sports Arena

Senior 1

Ballyclare v Knock 2.30pm @ Ballyclare HS
Priorians v Lisnagarvey 2.30pm @ St Columbs Park
Raphoe v Victorians


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