Men’s Premier League preview

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Ulster Hockey’s Men’s Premier League returns to action this weekend as ten teams compete for the title between now and May.

Today sees four fixtures take place across the province with each team hopeful of this being their year.

The first game of the day will see Cookstown host Raphoe with the County Tyrone hoping to secure an immediate bounce back to the EYHL having spent last season in the division.

However, this season they will play their hockey in the league that they won just two seasons ago when they stormed to the title with relative ease, something they will be looking to do once more.

As for their opponents, Raphoe are hopeful of building upon their promotion last year when they won the Intermediate League but face arguably their toughest opposition on matchday one.

Elsewhere Portadown host the Irish Hockey Trophy champions Belfast Harlequins at Edenvilla.

Last campaign the sides were only separated by five points as they finished fourth and fifth respectively, whilst it was the home side who won both meetings between the pair with an aggregate score of 9-3.

Last season’s runners-up South Antirm will host North Down at Friends School Lisburn as they look to bounce back from going agonisingly close to winning the title in 2022/23.

Having come second on goal difference to Queen’s University, the Lisburn-based side will be confident of putting together another challenge amidst stiff competition.

Meanwhile opponents North Down will be hoping they can break into the top half of the table after comfortably finishing mid-table last time out.

The final game of the day sees Kilkeel Hockey Club go head-to-head against Bangor at McCauley Park.

Despite finishing eleven points behind Bangor last season, Kilkeel held their own on the pitch with each side picking up a win in their two meetings, however, it was the visitors who won this exact fixture last time out.

Having come third, just six points off top spot in their first season back in the Premier League, Bangor will also have EYHL2 to contest as they try to make it two promotions in three seasons, all whilst having the youngest side in the league.

There are also a further two games in the Linden Cup with Mossley hosting Antrim at the Glade and Newry Olympic travelling to Belfast to take on CIYMS.

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