Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Banbridge hockey players off to winning start

After more than five years in the planning, matchday one in the much-heralded All-Ireland League has come and gone, with players and fans finally getting to see what all the fuss was all about.

Ulster staged three games over the weekend, involving all five of the province's contestants, where the ultimate prize is European Champions League hockey for the victors.

The common denominator was the breakneck speed of the ties, with the new "autopass" rule on taking frees, sideline hits and long corners limiting stoppages and ensuring virtually unrestricted free-flowing play.

The two-minute suspension for a green card offence also figured prominently in all three games, and was particularly pivotal on Saturday night when Lisnagarvey conceded a crucial second goal at Banbridge while down to nine men.

The new-look game has already doubled the normal gates at the various venues.

As far as the action went, Banbridge were the only Ulster winners over the weekend, getting the better of their oldest rivals Lisnagarvey by 2-0 in Pool B courtesy of goals from Ross McCandless and Simon Magowan.

The 1-1 draw between Instonians and Cookstown in Pool A was a surprise of sorts given the latter's strong start to the domestic season.

Despite dominating all before them domestically, the Tyrone men have set their stall out to reach finals weekend in the AIL, but after going ahead through a great goal from David Ames (pictured), would have been expected to press on for victory.

Chris Barnes levelled matters and earn both teams two points.

That's exactly how the scoreline panned out yesterday as well when Annadale hosted Glenanne at UUJ.

Elsewhere, Cork Church of Ireland are already setting the pace in Pool B with a 6-2 demolition of Fingal. Three Rock Rovers needed two goals in the final five minutes to see off Monkstown 4-2.

In Pool A Pembroke Wanderers saw off Cork Harlequins by the odd goal in three.

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