Long road north beckons again for busy Cork Harlequins
Club face Pembroke at home on Saturday before travelling to face Pegasus in Belfast
Winning the Irish Senior Cup will, of course, guarantee a place in the Champions Trophy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
At this stage Cork Harlequins’ team bus could probably find the hockey pitches of Ulster all by itself, so often have the Munster side had to make the journey north this season.
On Sunday, just 24 hours after playing Pembroke Wanderers at home in the Irish Hockey League, they take on Pegasus at Queen’s in the semi-finals of the Irish Senior Cup, the third successive round they’ve been drawn away to an Ulster team.
Including two IHL fixtures that also took them north, Harlequins’ record against Ulster sides this season is so far unblemished, and they will also take confidence going in to Sunday’s tie from their 3-1 IHL home win over Pegasus back in October. And, lest they miss Ulster, they’re back up there again in a week to play Pegasus in the IHL.
The Belfast side have the comfort of both their weekend games being at home, but the first of them will be as testing as can be, leaders Hermes-Monkstown the visitors to Queens.
UCD are also on home turf for their two games, the students, two points behind Hermes-Monkstown in second, hosting Railway Union on Saturday in the IHL, before taking on Pembroke in the cup.
Winning the Irish Senior Cup will, of course, guarantee a place in the Champions Trophy, thereby relieving the victors of the pressure of having to finish in the top three of the IHL to make it through.
UCD and Harlequins, five points behind in third, are on course to do that any way, but with a six-point gap between themselves and Harlequins, the cup might be the more realistic route for Pegasus in to the end of season finale. Pembroke are still mired in an IHL relegation battle but their form of late has been encouraging, not least last weekend’s draw at home to Pegasus.
Hockey League – Saturday: Cork Harlequins v Pembroke Wanderers, Farmers Cross, 1,0; UCD v Railway Union, Belfield, 1.0; Ards v Loreto, Ards Park, 2.30; Belfast Harlequins v Ulster Elks, Deramore Park, 4.0; Pegasus v Hermes-Monkstown, Queens, 4.0.
Irish Senior Cup – Sunday – Semi-finals: UCD v Pembroke Wanderers, Belfield, 2.0; Pegasus v Cork Harlequins, Queen’s, 3.30.