Queen’s University ladies have received a boost by securing a three-year deal with local software company Etain as they prepare for the new Ulster Premier League season, which kicks off this weekend.
Last season, Simon Bell’s team narrowly missed out on the title as Lurgan pipped them to the post on the last night of the season.
However, Bell realises that there will again be stiff competition both domestically and at all-Ireland level as they prepare for IHL 2.
He said: “We had a big turnover of players this year as many of the students complete their studies and move on.
“Leaving the club are: Robyn McKee, Paige Brown, Rachael Henderson, Anna Hutchinson, Ellen Hood, Beccy Anderson and Jodie Kee.
“In terms of new arrivals, we have Alyssa Jebb (Lisnagarvey), Madison Bowyer (Pegasus), Emma Gregson (Banbridge) and Koren Ferguson (Rainey).
“All of the new signings travelled with the 1st XI to Edinburgh last weekend for three training games and we expect more new players to be added to the squad as we move towards the start of the new term,” he added.
“As we look forward to the season starting, we are delighted to have secured the sponsorship of our senior squad.”
Champions Lurgan open their campaign on Saturday with a tough trip to Mossley in a game that has been switched to Jordanstown.
On the male front, the Premier League kicks off on Saturday, but the main focus will be on the Under-18 and Under-16 inter-pros in Cork.
The U18s warmed up with a silver medal finish at the UK School Games in Loughborough but coach Adam Louden says he is taking absolutely nothing for granted.
“I think going into this tournament all three provinces will want to win it,” he said.
“All three provinces are very close and it will take every team to perform at their best to take the title home.
“Last year we came runners up, losing out on a one goal difference to Leinster, which again goes to show just how tight these tournaments are.”
Ulster’s Under-16s, coached y Rio Olympian Peter Caruth, are also in it to win it in their series which runs parallel to the Under-18 event in Cork.
“We have had a solid pre-tournament preparation taking on national and international teams and playing boys that are older to see how we can cope,” said Caruth.
“I would have liked longer with the team but with Irish commitments that just wasn’t possible.”
Peter believes he has the squad that is capable of going all the way and praised the boys’ commitment to the cause.
He added: “This bunch of boys are great. They have listened, learned, bonded and put it into every practice and running session that I have organised.
“There is an abundance of talent and I’m sure that will be noticed at the tournament.
“The squad has a great mix of speed, skill and firepower.
“We are going out to win the tournament simple as that.
“I don’t like to lose and neither do the boys so we have a plan and we’ll stick to it.”