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Big challenge for Fingal trio in Leinster’s second tier

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First-team men's player Ross Hetem will coach the Portrane women's first XI.

First-team men's player Ross Hetem will coach the Portrane women's first XI.

First-team men's player Ross Hetem will coach the Portrane women's first XI.

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THE Leinster Women’s Hockey League season kicks off this weekend and there will be keen Fingal interest in the Challenge A section where the competing teams include Portrane, Skerries and Dublin North.

With two sides going up and two going down this seven-team division could easily go down to the wire in terms of both promotion and relegation.

Having won the Challenge B division last season, thus sealing their fifth consecutive promotion, Portrane would surely be happy to finish in the top half of the table in what is the province’s second highest division. However, after a meteoric rise for the club, many people will be anticipating a push for a top-two finish.

They have bolstered their coaching division with the addition of South African Ross Hetem who will assist head coach Anita Patterson. Hetem will take charge of the men’s team for the 22/23 season.

Patterson is under no illusion of the challenge ahead, citing the likes of YMCA, Bray and Genesis as the teams to beat. She also expects Rathgar, relegated from the top flight, to be somewhat of a wildcard.

Portrane have added to their playing squad also. Sarah-Jane Clarke has moved to the area and signed, having played with Glenanne last season. They have retained their Leinster U21 cohort in Nadine Patterson and Hailey Clarke and in two weeks’ time South African Donna Small will join the team also.

They begin their season on Saturday in a Northside derby as they welcome Dublin North to Donabate on Saturday (11.30am). There will be plenty of familiarity between the teams and the hosts will be hoping to get their season off to the best possible start.

The goal for Portrane has always been to have a men’s and ladies team competing at the highest level in Leinster and a promotion for Patterson’s side would see them achieve that.

Dublin North, last season’s Challenge B runners-up, had a good pre-season which included a fixture against Skerries and will be looking to claim the early Fingal bragging rights when they travel to Donabate for that derby fixture.

For Skerries, a side who avoided relegation last time out, this season they will no doubt be hoping to consolidate their place in the second tier. They face a tough trip to Wexford on Saturday to open their season.

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