Munster Men’s Division 1 Previews

Ashton Hockey Club

Coach: Pat Healy and Phil Oakley (1st season)

Players In: John Sweetnam (Railway Union), Euan Stothers (UCC), Mark Falvey (UCC), Ethan Ball (Free agent)

Players Out: Kieran Healy (Retired), David Doherty (Travel), Gary Wilkinson, Andy Lane, David Treacy (work outside of Cork), Henry Donnelly (work commitments), James Allen (UCC)

Captain/Vice: Stuart O’Grady/Malcolm Coombes

Players to watch out for: John Sweetnam, Calvin Casey

Rising Star: Craig Byrne

A new pitch and a new look team. New coaching partnership, Phil Oakley and Pat Healy, bring a depth of hockey knowledge to a team that has seen its squad empty and re-fill over the summer. The squad exodus was mostly driven by players emigrating the city with James Allen the sole player transferring to a rival Munster team. Re-joining the Ashton cause are a trio of players – John Sweetnam, Mark Falvey and Euan Stothers who will all bring some experience and directness to the Ashton attack. With the new pitch in place this season Ashton will be hoping this season can bring some improved performances at home. A small squad will be a challenge for the players and coaches alike but within the squad there is some seasoned Division 1 players who should bring some consistency and stability to a squad in flux.

Bandon Hockey Club

Coach: Dave Buttimer (3rd Year) and Nigel Buttimer (1st Year)

Players In: Ian Hosford (Sabbatical), Rob Smith (Sabbatical) and Calum Crowley (Sabbatical)

Players Out: Rob Sweetnam (CI), Mark Collins (CI)

Captain & vice: Fionn O’Leary Captain and Ross Smyth VC

Players to watch out for: Calum Crowley, Ross Smyth and Rob Smith

Rising star(s): Karl Smyth, Iarlaith O’Neill, Ian Perrott and Ethan Hamilton Foote

Nigel Buttimer will be hoping to use experience of playing hockey at the very top level to drive the standards in Bandon this season and take them to the next level. David Buttimer also returns this season to make up a formidable coaching team that will be looking to lead Bandon back to winning ways after a relatively disappointing season last time out.

Bandon will be disappointed to lose some of their young talent as Mark Collins and Rob Sweetnam made the move to C of I to play EY IHL 2. However they had great representation on the Munster underage squads recently and no doubt this talent will be blooded throughout the season.

Captain Fionn O’Leary was clear on the targets for the year. “The main ambition this year is to get back into the IHL 2 for the following season. We believe that is where we belong. We will also be targeting a win in one of the Munster Cups/Leagues competitions.”

Catholic Institute Hockey Club

Coach: Ivan Moore (1st year)

Management team members: Dave Brosnan and John Geary.

Players In: Simon Brickenden (back from a few years abroad)

Players Out: Jannis Von Maydell (THK Rissen Germany)

Captain & vice: Cormac O’Byrne (c) & Roy Gleeson (vc)

Players to watch out for:

– Chris Ryan will be looking to assert himself in a strong front line for institute this year after a very successful season last year topped off with an u18 interpros victory. Chris will be looking to fill in the goalscoring gap left by Jannis along with vice-captain Roy Gleeson and Ger Hodkinson.

– Cian Sparling, another member of the victorious u18 interpros team will be keen do build on the huge progress made over the last few seasons which saw him being a key player for the firsts last season.

Rising star(s):

1) Jim Roulston gained a lot of invaluable experience as part of the back four last season and will no doubt be looking to secure his spot again this season which will prove to be a tough task with other young players knocking on the door for game time.

2) Cillian Archer will no doubt be looking to get as many minutes under his belt this season to build on a very successful season with the seconds last season along with Cian Nolan who is now based in Limerick which should help him assert himself as a key player for the firsts this season.

3) Stephen Healy has been a natural between the posts since coming through the ranks with huge performances throughout last season. With club stalwart Tristan Murphy around again this season competition promises to be strong.

Ivan Moore’s thoughts:

“With it being my first year in the role I am looking forward to seeing what this relatively young group of players can do this season. We have some young guys coming up from the seconds and a few older heads returning after a few year(s) so it’s exciting to see what we can do with this strong team! This year we would like to compete in the league and really cement a position in the top half of the league table. After missing out in the first round of the Irish Trophy to a strong NICS side, we are hoping to go a few steps further and hopefully put our hands on some silverware come the business end of the season. Overall we have a strong unity within the squad and we are all excited and raring to get going this weekend.”

Cormac O’Byrne’s thoughts:

“Our main ambition this year is to bring through our young players and build on the tough season we had on the pitch last year where a lot of tight matches we had weren’t reflected in the final score. Team morale is high which is helped by the successful season we had last season off the pitch with Gary O’Connor as captain. With 4 weeks of preseason complete and 3 preseason matches under our belt I know the squad is fit and ready to compete with any team in the league. From what I can gather from the players it would be a disappointing season for us not to have a piece of silverware to show for at the end of the season. “

Cork C of I Hockey Club

Coach: Denis Pritchard (2nd year as Head Coach)

Management team members: Barry Crowley and David Harvey

Players In: Eoin Finnegan (UCC), Mark Horgan (UCC), Robert Sweetnam (Bandon), Mark Collins (Bandon), Philip Sweetnam (Ashton), Andrew Fenske (S. Africa)

Players Out: Alex Burns (Pembroke), Tony Brophy (TBD) and Billy Lynch (break from hockey)

Captain & vice: Philip Byrne & Simon Wolfe

Players to watch out for: John Jermyn & Jonny Bruton

Rising star: Kevin O’Dea (Munster and Ireland U18)

Denis Pritchard’s thoughts:

“This will be an important season for the team to get back into the top tier of the Irish Hockey League. The year will be mainly focused on developing a strong team for the coming years by integrating the young talent in the team with the experience of senior players.”

Phil Byrne’s thoughts:

“The main objective is to get promoted from Irish Hockey League (IHL) Division 2 into the top National league (EYHL) for next season. The overall squad has gotten stronger with the arrival of new players and it’s important to start strong and get some confidence back in our team. We are also aiming for success in the provincial cups, league and have a good run in the Irish Sr. Cup.“

Cork Harlequins Hockey Club

Coach: Stephen Dale (2 years in role)

Management team members: Donal Holland, Manager

Players In: none

Players Out: Graham Daunt (retired)

Captain & vice: Jack O Meara capt, Ross Bailey vice captain

Players to watch out for: Jack O Meara, Julian Dale & John Whyte

Rising star(s): Ben Roberts, Andrew Dale, Michael Holland and Ross Bailey.

Stephen Dale’s thoughts:

“We are looking to be competitive in the Munster League and EYHL2. We want to play open attacking hockey and score plenty of goals.”

Jack O’Meara’s thoughts:

“We are looking to improve further on a good showing last year as we move up a level with EY IHL 2. We will be looking to test ourselves against the next level and at the same time requalify for EYHL 2 the following season.”

UCC Hockey Club

Coach: Andrew Scannell (1st Year)

Management team members: Paudi Hartnett Hockey Developement Officer, Patrick Ryan Strength and Conditioning

Players in: Sam Lilburn (Limerick), Evin Mclure (Killkenny) James Feely (Kilkenny), Garrett Sparling (Limerick), James Allen (Ashton), Simon Dring (CofI), Wouter Worms (Nijmegen HC)

Players Out: Mark Horgan (CofI), Eoin Finnegan (CofI), Sam Grace (TRRHC), Brandon Mcevoy (Queens University), Ciaran McGregor (-), Euan Stothers (Ashton).

Captain and Vices: Darren Wilkinson, Billy Mulcahy, Conor Beck

Players to watch:

Darren Wilkinson last year with the club plenty of experience.

Simon Dring on his return to hockey after a brief hiatus.

Conor Beck as our Quercus athlete for this year looking to maintain good form in front of the net.

Rising Stars:

– Sam Lilburn from limerick looking to lead from behind with a cool mind-set in the back.

– Evin McClure looking to lock down the middle of the park in his first year with the club.

Andrew Scannell’s thoughts:

“Coming back for my second stint as coach is extremely exciting, with the new players arriving to add to the quality of the players remaining from last year it should be an extremely positive season. Preseason has been good for us as a team, with so many new players it was important to get matches under our belt in order to be ready for the season ahead. We have a tough opening fixture but with the work we have done over preseason we feel we will be ready for the season to start.”

Darren Wilkinson’s thoughts:

“We are aiming to bounce back after a tough season last year. The squad has changed a lot since last year with the addition of many experienced and talented players. The cyclical nature of a college team is all too familiar to Head Coach Andrew Scannell. His understanding of college hockey and his coaching CV makes for an exciting season which we hope will be a successful one for UCC.”

Waterford Hockey Club

Coach: Senior players within the team, with Bryan Madden

Management team members: David Quinn, Brad Rouhana

Players in & where from: Teo Sitjar (Spain)

Players out & where to: Ben Johnson (Three Rock), Harry McCarthy, Ethan McInerney, David Gahan (All YMCA)

Captain & vice: Rory Isaacs- Cpt, Isaac Johnson- Vice

Players to watch out for: With the loss of a few instrumental players to Dublin an opportunity for some players to take on the responsibility of leading the team- Isaac Johnson has been building a reputation for never giving an inch. Ian Balding and Ben McInerney are 2 other players who can change the outcome of a game.

Rising star(s): Rory Treacy fresh off Ireland u16s will make an impact for WHC, with his versatility and composure. Donnagh Toomey has stepped up in the preseason games and shown he has what it takes to make an impact.

Rory Isaacs thoughts:

“This year we have a good young squad with the potential to recreate the successful league and cup campaigns we had last season, with the hope of maybe even improving in the league. It will be tough, that much is certain, but we believe that we have the depth to be able to compete with the likes of Church Of Ireland, Harlequins and Bandon for a top 4 spot once again. The growth of JAG internationals like Ian Balding, Ben McInerney and Rory Treacy, as well as the emergence of Cameron Wagenaar and Isaac Johnson, topped off with the experience of David Quinn and Irish O35 international Brad Rouhana, we feel the balance is good. I look forward to the season ahead.”