Ulster’s Junior hockey teams will be aiming to land an interprovincial double this weekend in Cork as they bid to emulate their achievement of two years ago.
For the women, it would represent the icing on the cake for team captain Tara Malcolmson (pictured), who has already enjoyed an unforgettable season in the same leadership role with Dromore.
Tara captained the Co Down side to the Senior Two title and promotion to Ulster hockey’s second tier and an Irish Hockey Challenge triumph.
So, if she can enjoy a similar success this weekend, Tara would complete a memorable hat-trick as would Dromore coach Davy Menaul, who is also in charge of Ulster juniors.
“Representing Ulster in previous Interpros has been a great experience for me. This year will be even more special having been asked to captain the squad, needless to say this is a tremendous honour and I can’t wait to lead the girls out on to the pitch,” said Tara.
“I feel confident leading into the weekend as training has been good over the last few weeks with a positive atmosphere within the squad.”
“Myself and all the girls are excited and hopefully if we perform to our best, we’ll be bringing the trophy home to Ulster. Preparations have been great, despite the girls coming from different clubs, we have gelled well together over the past few weeks.”
“Training has been intense but enjoyable and we have developed a strong team spirit to allow us to play solidly as a team and prepare us for the tournament ahead.”
“I would expect tough competition from all the provinces but in particular, Leinster, as they always field a strong, competitive team. I am in no doubt that the squad will have to perform to our best in this fixture to get a result.”
“I have had a great season with my Dromore squad, with winning the Irish Hockey Challenge and Senior Two. Winning the Interpros would definitely top it all off! It would make it my most successful season and one I definitely wouldn’t be forgetting in a hurry.”
“Davy has been a fantastic, supportive coach for the squad at Dromore which was reflected in our success on the pitch. Having worked closely with him over the last two seasons, I know what he expects and I’m confident that he is able to motivate the girls to succeed in the Interpros.”
“I would just like to thank the squad for their dedication and efforts over the last few weeks and a special mention to our coaching and management team for the work and effort they have put into the team and hopefully we can reward them with success this weekend.”
Ulster’s men are also quietly confident they can rise to the challenge that lies ahead in Cork on Saturday and Sunday.
“We have five returning members from last year including this year’s captain Jordan Barr and preparations have gone well, especially considering we have 12 new caps,” said Ulster manager Andrew Coates.
“We have played a few friendlies against NICS and Mossley and have played very well in both. We have a much younger side from last year and we are all looking forward to seeing how they develop over the weekend.”
“With Connacht back in there are only three games, and as we have to play two on Saturday back to back, you could argue that they will be the most difficult especially as Munster is the second game.”
“We are pleased to have our two goalkeepers from last year back also, as they bring much needed experience to the defence. I feel all the players’ commitment to the training has been exceptional and we look forward to the competition with confidence.”
Meanwhile, Lisnagarvey start favourites to overcome Instonians in Saturday’s Anderson Cup semi-final at Comber Road to earn a meeting with Banbridge in Monday’s final at Havelock Park.
However, the Hillsborough side won’t be taking anything for granted against the Ulster Premier League champions as they attempt to bounce back from successive defeats against Three Rock Rovers in the Champions Trophy and Irish Senior Cup finals.
Garvey captain James Corry said: “The boys are really looking forward to this weekend and it’s another good opportunity for this young team to do well in another cup competition.”
“All our focus is on Saturday against Inst and we know they are dangerous and have quality players throughout the team. It will be a good test but hopefully we can bounce back after the last couple of weeks’ disappointments.
Junior Interprovincial Squads
Ulster Women: Kathryn McGregor (Owls), Amber Dempster (Bangor LHC), Caris Greenwood (Belfast HQ), Kerry McIlwaine (Lisnagarvey), Leigh Snoddy (Larne), Tara Malcolmson (Dromore), Sarah McGrath (Owls), Christine Waide (Ulster Elks), Ellen Rodgers (South Antrim), Shannon Atkinson (Ulster Elks), Sarah Wilson (Dromore), Chelsey Whan (Dromore), Sarah Crompton (Pegasus), Jane Clarke (NICS), Jade Liggett (Lurgan), Carla Smyth (Ulster Elks), Sarah Craig (Owls), Jordann Finch (Larne)
Ulster Men: Chris Kent (Bangor), Marc Bennett (NICS), Sam McMurray (Lisnagarvey), Matthew Sullivan (Saintfield), Stuart McQueen (Lisnagarvey), Adam Louden (Lisnagarvey), Stuart Chisholm (Lisnagarvey), Chris Sloane (Armagh), Adam Monahan (Mossley), Brandon Anderson (Instonians), Jack Taylor (Saintfield), Jordan Barr (Mossley), Callum Kirkpatrick (Armagh), Graeme Christie (Portrush), William Booker (CI), Richard McClintock (Antrim), Harry McKeown (North Down), Cody Walker (Bangor)
Anderson Cup Semi-final: Lisnagarvey v Instonians (1pm)
Junior Interprovincials (Cork Harlequins)
Saturday: Ulster v Connacht (12noon); Munster v Ulster (3.30pm)
Sunday: Ulster v Leinster (3.30pm)
Saturday: Connacht v Ulster (1.30pm); Ulster v Munster (5pm)
Sunday: Ulster v Leinster (5pm).