19Sep
By: Alan Good On: September 19, 2014 In: Club, Features, Opinion Comments: 0

The dust has long since been wiped off the sticks and it’s hockey season time again; SFH continues it’s pre-season preview tradition with a team-by-team breakdown of the men’s Division 1 sides. Compiled by Andy Gray, written by Alan Good, pictures with thanks to Adrian Boehm/Irish Hockey Photographers

CORK CHURCH OF IRELAND

Last Season: 1st in Div 1
Coach: David Hobbs
Captain: TBC
Players In: None
Players Out: Nigel Buttimer (Retired), Clyde Buttimer (Ashton), Ben O’Mahony (UCC), Luke Kingston (Bandon)
First Three League Games: Ashton (H), Bandon (H), Cork Harlequins (A)

The champions will hope this is the year their young guns who have shown so much promise with Munster and Ireland underage teams begin to strut their stuff on the national stage. Perfecting the fast-passing game which David Hobbs has been a keen proponent of and keeping ace drag-flicker John Jermyn fit will also be pivotal to their IHL and ISC hopes. A settled panel should help their cause – aside from Nigel Buttimer, their departures came from lower down the club – while in Munster the title is theirs to lose.

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UCC

Last Season: 2nd in Div 1
Coach: Neil Welch
Captain: Fionn O’Leary
Players In: Andrew McGregor, Daniel Moore (Midleton), Ben O’Mahony (Cork C of I)
Players Out: Andy Colton, Greg Chambers (Erasmus)
First Three League Games: Limerick (A), Cork Harlequins (H), Catholic Institute (H)

Last year’s campaign didn’t yield the trophies of 2012 but was easily their most consistent, with a maiden qualification for the IHL, wins over C of I and Quins and runs to two cup finals, both of which required extra time for C of I to shake them off. Again likely to utilise an aggressive press and the pace of Gary Wilkinson, Fionn O’Leary and Shrew Power to get goals on the counter, but the absence of a recognised drag-flicker amid Andrew Scannell’s injury problems is a major worry.

CORK HARLEQUINS

Last Season: 3rd in Div 1
Coach: John Hobbs
Captain: Daniel Hobbs
Players In: Mark Holland (Wales)
Players Out: Colin Ross, Jordan Donald (China), Darren Beamish (Bandon)
First Three League Games: UCC (A), Limerick (A), Cork C of I (H)

Quins continue to have to play the numbers game with an ever-dwindling first team panel while the sterling work being done at underage level is a few years away from bearing fruit in senior hockey. Massively over-reliant on a core of players in their 30s but still with plenty of quality around, while Mark Holland adds pace and trickery to complement Julian Dale’s (pictured) power in attack. Hard to know what they’d consider a fruitful campaign but it likely begins with consolidation of third place while aiming higher.

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BANDON
Last Season: 4th in Div 1
Coach: Denis Pritchard
Captain: Alastair Smith
Players In: Darren Beamish (Cork Harlequins), Luke Kingston (Cork C of I)
Players Out: None
First Three League Games: Cork C of I (A), Catholic Institute (H), Limerick (H)

Optimism abounds in west Cork this season with the arrival of one of Ireland’s best coaches, Denis Pritchard, after stints in Belgium and with the women’s national side. Clinton Sweetnam should play a more pronounced role this term having rejoined midway through last season while Darren Beamish is back playing hockey, and they also have a healthy number of Ireland U16 players – led by David Jennings – looking to come on this year. Expect them to trouble the sides above them a lot more than they have in recent years.

LIMERICK
Last Season: 1st in Div 2
Coach: Aamir Khan
Captain: Justin Scheffel
Players In: Ian Gibson (Injured), Ben Murphy
Players Out:
Roger Clarke, Glenn Morrow (UCD)
First Three League Games: UCC (H), Ashton (A), Cork Harlequins (H)

The likeliest of the new boys to rock the boat in the top tier this season, as evidenced by a Munster Junior Cup victory over C of I seconds last term. The relative depth of quality in their squad compared to Ashton or Institute is the primary reason for this, backboned by improving standards in Villiers over the past couple of years. Roger Clarke and Glenn Morrow are heavy losses to take but the likes of Nathan Eacrett, David Cardy and Andrew Tutty have been waiting for this chance to take on the best in Munster for some time and Cathal Duggan (pictured) will be keen to see can he transfer his uncanny goalscoring record to Division 1.

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CATHOLIC INSTITUTE
Last Season: 3rd in Div 2
Coach: TBC
Captain: Alan Swanton
Players In: None
Players Out: None
First Three League Games: Bandon (A), Ashton (H), Cork Harlequins (H)

Having won trophies at Munster and Irish level during their couple of years outside the top tier, Insta’s return is probably timely but very little has changed in their squad. A handful of older players are expected to step away from first-team duty but there is nonetheless a strong spine from goalkeeper Tristan Murphy and Ed Gleeson at the back through to Simon Brickenden and Eric Callender higher up. Brickenden had some fitness worries last season however while Callender is currently based in Midleton, so continuity may be an issue.

ASHTON
Last Season: 7th in Div 2
Coaches: Kieran Healy, Phil Oakley & Graham O’Keeffe
Captain: Damian Buttimer
Players In: Clyde Buttimer (Cork C of I), Graham Catchpole (UCC)
Players Out: Roger Gray (France)
First Three League Games: Cork C of I (A), Limerick (H), Catholic Institute (A)

Facing the biggest challenge of all the promoted clubs, having won just once in Division 2 last term. They pushed everyone close, however – particularly when Roger Gray and Rory Coomey were available – but lost a criminal number of games by a single goal. Ireland U18 panellist Clyde Buttimer adds pace and finishing ability to the mix while Graham Catchpole’s return to hockey after two miserable years out with injury is a major boon. Nonetheless, Ashton will be looking to a longer-term development project while hoping the lessons absorbed along the way aren’t too harsh, starting with a visit to the champions tonight.

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