Sean Murray hopes to get the thumbs up
Sean eyes Ulster return after hand injury
Sean Murray, one of the hottest young properties in Irish hockey, is to wear a special glove when he makes his comeback this week in Dublin as Ulster bid to land the Under-18 inter-provincial title for the first time in four years.
The Wallace High midfielder hasn't held his stick in earnest since breaking his thumb in the All-Ireland schoolboy championships last month but is optimistic that he can play some part as Fergie Cosgrove's lads attempt to end a mini-famine at this level.
Murray has already established himself in Lisnagarvey's senior squad this season but has been an absentee over the past few weeks, and indeed his presence in midfield was sorely missed as the Blues lost 3-2 to Cookstown in the GOC Estate Agents Kirk Cup semi-finals last Sunday.
But now he's ready to make his comeback against Leinster on Friday afternoon (1.00pm) at Three Rock's Grange Road ground in the Dublin Hills and, providing there is no bad reaction, against Munster on Saturday, and then against both provinces on Sunday.
"My hand has been in plaster cast since being injured during the All-Ireland schoolboy championships, and it was just taken off on Monday, so it's touch and go," reveals Murray.
"There is now a splint on it, but I hope that with the help of a special glove and good strapping, I will be able to feature over the weekend.
"We have a good squad and are hopeful of doing well."
Coach Cosgrove is glad that Murray should make it, and with a strong player base to choose from, there's every confidence that Ulster can finally end Leinster's dominance at this level.
The Ulster lads will be captained by Regent House's Peter McKibbin, who has already established himself at the heart of Annadale's defence in the Premier League and included are six members of the Wallace High team that reached the All-Ireland schoolboy finals.
In fact, Cosgrove will be looking to Wallace hitman Andrew O'Hare to convert some of the chances created by the mercurial Murray.
The Under-16 inter-provincials will be run at Three Rock simultaneously and Ulster coach Richard Fairman is keen to keep a grip on the trophy won last season.
Banbridge Academy supply four of his squad while Wallace High, Sullivan Upper and Cookstown High each supply three.
Like the Under-18s, the Under-16s face four games in three days, starting with Leinster on Friday afternoon, followed by Munster on Saturday morning and then both provinces on Sunday.
The inter-pros naturally has hit the domestic schedule, with Annadale's Premier League game against Mossley a casualty.
And the men's Linden Cup semi-finals scheduled for this Sunday have been postponed - the Ulster Hockey's Competition Committee agreed to put back the double-header programme due to player involvement in the inter-pros.
But it shouldn't prevent the trio of Banbridge, Lisnagarvey and Cookstown from maintaining their good starts to their league programme.
Rampant Bann will have a tough test at Instonians but expect Garvey to give former stalwart Robbie Taylor a hot reception when he brings his newly promoted Newry side to Hillsborough.
And Kirk Cup finalists Cookstown should be too strong for Kilkeel while Belfast Harlequins and Civil Service meet up for the second successive week.