What a difference a year makes ! That’s what Queen’s must be thinking these days as they stay rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table without a point after three matches.
Under 12 months ago they were sitting proudly at the top of the table and looking good for an automatic place in the Irish Hockey League.
A late slump in form saw them slip down to fifth place and they declined the invitation to play Old Alex in the wild card play-off.
That was for a variety of reasons including the cost and the fact that Alex had been playing in the IHL whereas the students would have had to wait seven weeks without a competitive match.
More significantly perhaps was the fact Queen’s players and coaches knew they would be without half a dozen members of last season’s squad had they qualified for the IHL which is based on the previous campign’s results.
Their current league position would appear to justify their decision not to run the risk of playing in the all Ireland competition.
Naturally they don’t expect to stay at the wrong end of the table for too long but tomorrow’s clash with Pegasus could well leave them in a similar position.
Having made the traditional slow start, the champions seem to be gradually clicking into gear and would regard themselves as a tad unlucky not to have beaten Ards last Friday night.
The Co Down side, most people’s favourites to push Pegs all the way if not actually lift the title, scored late on to snatch a 1-1 draw from the jaws of defeat.
However such as has been the topsy turvy sequence of results so far this season even Queen’s might not rule out the prospect of taking something from tomorrow’s clash at the Dub.
Simon Bell’s team can boast a 3-1 win over Pegasus already this season in the Shield but the champions were then without a handful of regulars. Last weekend Bell was cursing his team’s luck after they went down 3-2 to newly-promoted Harlequins at Deramore.
“The penalty corner count of 8-3 in our favour was a more accurate reflection of the game than the score.” he said.
“But we didn’t score any of ours and they put two of theirs away - that was the difference on the day.
“It was one of those bad days at the office because we also missed an open goal and hit the post.”
Leaders Ballymoney, who are ahead of Ards on goal difference, will be wary of ‘Quins having ‘only’ beaten them 1-0 in the Shield but will be favourites with home advantage.
Ards will also be expected to overcome Armagh, who will be anxious to bounce back from that 8-1 defeat by ‘Money last week.
So too will Randalstown, who lost to Lisnagarvey last time around, as they host Lurgan at the Antrim Forum where it should be a close encounter.
The Ulster Elks, who are among the unbeaten sides, will be wary of ‘Garvey after the latter’s win last week while the Hillsborough outfit will be anxious to prove that they aren’t ‘one hit wonders.’