Danni Wilson hopes to put Ulster Elks on track for cup hat-trick
Ulster Elks will be looking to a South African newcomer to shunt Railway Union on Saturday when the Jordanstown team open their defence of the Irish Senior Cup.
Danni Wilson joined the club in the summer after completing a hockey scholarship in the United States, and the midfielder has impressed despite what has been an indifferent start to the EY Irish Hockey League campaign.
The Elks have just three points to their name after four matches but, in recent seasons, they have saved their best performances for the knock-out competition.
Not many people gave them a chance of beating Hermes in the final two seasons ago, and this year they will be aiming to complete a hat-trick of triumphs following their win over Ards earlier this year.
Wilson is the second family member to play their hockey in this part of the world and she follows in the footsteps of her older sister, Jen, who spent two successful seasons with Coleraine at the turn of the decade.
Jen went on to play for South Africa at the 2002 World Cup in Australia and, while she was in Northern Ireland, represented Ulster at U21 level.
Danni says she is enjoying life and hockey in Ulster and is looking forward to the clash with the Elks' IHL rivals on Saturday.
"Jen told me that there are so many great opportunities over here and that the people are great and so friendly, with the hockey being of a good standard and quality," she enthused.
"The other girls in the squad and management take such great care of me and everyone has been so friendly and welcoming, so being here has already met with my expectations.
"Compared to back home in South Africa, the standard of hockey is a lot higher and the players here are more skilful and aggressive.
"Accents here are hard to understand and I have to ask people to repeat themselves, which I feel terrible about.
"But the weather hasn't been too bad so far, although everyone has warned me what is to come.
"I was in snow and -15 degrees conditions in America, so I should be fine!"
The Elks haven't played Railway yet this season but several of Danni's team mates can recall that the Leinster side were beaten on penalties in the 2015 semi-final staged at Jordanstown.
"The team has improved so much together over the last four weeks of training and games; we have grown so much and I'm sure it will be a good game."
The Elks-Railway game is one of five cross-border first round ties on Saturday with last season's runners-up Ards favourites to progress against Leinster top-flight side Muckross.
Dungannon will start as underdogs when they host Loreto, while Lisnagarvey will fancy their chances of progressing at the expense of Trinity at Comber Road.
And Belfast Harlequins should be capable of overcoming Limerick at the Munster venue.
Women's Senior Fixtures
FRIDAY: Senior One: Mossley v Knock (The Glade, 6.45pm)
SATURDAY: Irish Senior Cup 1st round: UCD v Old Alex; Cork Harlequins v UCC (1pm); Ards v Muckross (Londonderry Park, 2pm); Limerick v Belfast Harlequins (Villiers, 2pm); Ulster Elks v Railway Union (UUJ, 2pm); Dungannon v Loreto (Royal School, 2.30pm); Lisnagarvey v Trinity (Hillsborough, 2.30pm); Monkstown v Corinthian (2.30pm)
Senior One: Armagh v Larne (Ardmore, 2.30pm); Ballymena v Victorians (Showgrounds, 2.30pm); CI Ladies v Ballyclare (CIYMS, 4pm); Cookstown v Rainey (Cookstown High, 2.30pm)