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Grundie hoping Ards will have double the reason to celebrate

By John Flack

Ards are expecting a tougher than usual battle as they bid to extend their remarkable record in the Irish Indoor Championship in Dublin on Sunday.

The defending champions will be attempting to lift the title for the seventh year in a row, having retained the Ulster crown with a 100% record at the weekend.

However, they have had just three matches to prepare for Sunday's series in which they face Leinster runners-up Glenanne in the semis with the winner taking on either Railway Union or Galway in the final, with a place in Europe the reward.

While the Ulster Championship has been a one-off round-robin event in recent years, there are now full-blown leagues staged over several weeks in both Leinster and Connacht.

That's a source of concern for Ards, going into a crucial weekend in both versions of the game as they prepare for Saturday's EY Irish Hockey League game with Pembroke Wanderers before turning their attention indoors.

Ards stalwart Naomi Grundie explained: "We'll stay overnight in Dublin on Saturday to be in the best possible shape for the Indoor Championship but the Pembroke game is obviously important as well.

"I wouldn't say we are particularly confident for the indoor due to our relative lack of preparation.

"I know it's a bit of an old chestnut but I really think it's time to consider expanding the competition in Ulster, to be played over the winter weeks."

Meanwhile, Pegasus will be confident of strengthening their claims for a place in the IHL play-offs as they prepare for Saturday's game with Trinity in Dublin, having beaten the students 6-1 on the opening day of the season.

However, team captain Alex Speers is taking nothing for granted following Saturday's 2-0 Irish Senior Cup quarter-final win over Old Alex which proved to be a tough encounter.

All three Ulster teams are in Dublin on Saturday and Belfast Harlequins will be hopeful of ending a run of draws when they take on basement side Monkstown.

At domestic level, it should remain neck and neck at the top of the Ulster Premier League with Ballymoney and Dungannon expected to overcome North Down and Banbridge respectively.

There's one game down for decision on Friday night with Ulster Elks hosting student rivals Queen's at Jordanstown.

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