Two of Ulster’s five representatives - Annadale and Banbridge - go into Saturday’s final round of Irish Hockey League pool fixtures still very much in the frame for reaching the semi-finals.
Cookstown, Instonians and Lisnagarvey all have lost their chance of qualifying in this inaugural season, and the province’s chances now lie with the Dale and Bann who both still have a lot to do.
Andy Smyth’s lads shot into contention when they ended Cookstown’s long-standing unbeaten home record with a 4-0 success on Tuesday evening.
The three points for the victory and the bonus point for winning by more than three goals took the Dale to top of their pool, ahead of Glenanne and Pembroke.
It’s Pembroke they face in Dublin on Saturday and they must raise their game again if they are to get a positive result against the team now almost certain to regain the Leinster League title.
A win would give Annadale top spot and arguably the easier crossover game in the semi-finals, while two points for a draw also might be enough.
But, most importantly, they have a safety curtain. If things don’t go well at Serpentine Avenue, they can afford to lose by a single goal and earn a valuable bonus point to qualify.
They could also lose by two goals and would go through on a marginally better goal difference.
There’s also the chance that Cookstown could do them a favour and win or draw at Glenanne ... not an easy task, but the Red Army have a point to prove, as they don’t want to finish their pool programme without a win.
Bann’s position is slightly more precarious - at the moment Suzanne Evans’ lads trail C of I by three points and Three Rock by two points ... but these two meet at Grange Road.
Bann’s first priority is to win their match against Monkstown , otehrwise it’s all over, and hopefully by a sufficient margin to earn a bonus point.
A five-goal win would automatically put them through regardless of the other game but they can ill afford to give too much space to Monkstown’s Gareth Watkins who made his international debut last week and was instrumental in inflicting a league defeat over Three Rock last weekend.
Ideally, Bann would like Three Rock to lose at home, but whether C of I - coached by Ulsterman Stephen Jackson - can win in Dublin remains to be seen ... especially as skipper Philip Smith is out with a broken wrist.
The other alternatives are for Three Rock to win by a several clear goals, while a draw leaves much depending on the extent of a Bann win.
With each Pool A game starting at 3pm, and each Pool B game starting at 3.30pm, no team will have a perceived advantage.
Rest assured, though, there will be numerous mobile phone calls around the country as each team tries to keep abreast of what clearly is a complicated but thrilling climax to the pool phase.
Irish Hockey League Pool A: (all 3pm): Glenanne v Cookstown, Tallaght (Umpires, W McCully, G Conn); Cork Harlequins v Instonians, Harlequins Park, Cork (Umpires, S MacAllister, A Shute); Pembroke v Annadale, Serpentine Avenue, Dublin (Umpires, C Hutchinson, A Groves).
Pool B (all 3.30pm): Three Rock v Cork C of I, Grange Road, Dublin (Umpires, K Bolger, G Caulwell); Banbridge v Monkstown, Havelock Park (Umpires, R Johnston, D Stewart); Lisnagarvey v Fingal, Hillsborough (Umpires, K Cholewa, D Clarke).
Podium Anderson Cup Group A: Antrim v North Down, Antrim Forum, 1pm (Umpires, C Beattie, N McBride); Ballynahinch v Belfast Harlequins, Donard Park, Newcastle 1pm (Umpires, R Nesbitt, D Corry). Group B: Portadown v Cliftonville, Edenvilla, 1pm (Umpires, A Napier, J Wray); Bangor v Newry, Ballykillaire, 2.30pm (Umpires, K McCalister, G Herron). Group C: Kilkeel v Armagh, Kilkeel HS, 2.30pm (Umpires, K Glass, C Telford); Civil Service v Raphoe, Stormont, 2.30pm (Umpires, T Lorimer, A Campbell ).