Early test for title contenders as Three Rock Rovers and Pembroke clash

Pembroke have seen top scorer Alan Sothern and defender Conor Harte taking up contracts in Belgium

Three Rock Rovers and Pembroke's early-season title credentials face a major test in Leinster Division One as last year's Irish Senior Cup finalists show down in the first big game of the new campaign.

Both recorded clean-sheet wins on day one, seeing off Rathgar and Railway Union respectively, but neither found full flow as the early season cobwebs took a while to be shaken off. Nonetheless, they will both expect to contest for honours as the year progresses even though Pembroke coach Paddy Conlon suggests that Rovers – along with Monkstown – are "a little bit ahead of us".

Contracts in Belgium

His side has seen plenty of changes over the summer, with top scorer

Alan Sothern

and defender

Conor Harte

taking up professional contracts in Belgium with Racing Club de Bruxelles. Mark Loughrey’s move to University of Exeter, and David Kane’s switch to Rovers leaves Conlon down four of last year’s panel. On the flip side he has added Austrian international

Matthias Podpera

and Irish under-21 skipper

Nick Burns

.

Rovers are more settled with Kane and Jonathan Roberts arriving, with Shane Madeley moving to UCD. Last year they won all four meetings between the teams.

It is the marquee game of a well-matched weekend. After a week's grace, UCD – who saw eight players move over the summer – have two big games. Key among the departures was Irish midfielder Shane O'Donoghue, who has gone to Dragons in Belgium, while Kirk Shimmins is currently in New Zealand playing in the national league for the Southern Dogs.

On Saturday they face a new-look Corinthian before playing their back match on Sunday against YMCA. The Y have brought in two Australian players to add to South African pair Jacques Odendaal and Jaco Fourie under new coach Jacob Klinkradt.

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about hockey

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