Garvey and Bann to the four as IHL finally starts
Ulster giants Lisnagarvey and Banbridge sent out a warning that they mean business in the EY Irish Hockey League this season - which finally got under way a fortnight later than scheduled - by opening their accounts with comfortable victories.
But despite their 4-0 win at Railway Union and 4-2 win against Monkstown respectively, the sides know that current all-Ireland champions Three Rock Rovers are going to be hard to knock off their pedestal.
The south Dublin team shocked promoted Annadale with a thumping 7-1 success at Strathearn, with new signing South African Richard Pautz chipping in with four goals.
Nevertheless, it was a fine start by Bann and Garvey after the disrupted opening to the programme due to that impasse between Hockey Ireland and the Umpires' Association.
Garvey had a youthful look to their side, with internationals Paul Gleghorne and Timmy Cockram absentees and Michael Robson now in Germany.
They went a goal down after just two minutes to a Karl Lynch penalty corner rebound, but responded in style with Matthew Nelson sliding in to deflect home a penalty corner and new signing James Corry volleying home at chest height following a rebound.
But just on the stroke of half-time Andrew Ward forced home the equaliser after keeper James Milliken had twice saved.
Garvey, though, stepped up a gear thereafter, with international midfielder Sean Murray showing his creativity, and it was no surprise when they wrapped up the win with two further goals.
James Lorimer slotted the ball home following another penalty corner and Andy Williamson made sure of the points when he squeezed home a beauty past international keeper David Fitzgerald from a tight angle.
"They beat us here last season, so that means we are already three points better off after just one game," said Garvey captain Daniel Buser afterwards.
Two of Bann's new signings, Luke Witherow and Alex Tinney, stepped up to the mark with a goal apiece in the 4-0 success at Railway Union.
Jamie Wright and Dane Ward were also on the scoresheet in a good performance which should give them some confidence going into next week's EuroHockey League campaign.
Annadale were unable to cope with Three Rock's Richard Pautz who rammed in four on his competitive debut.
And Cookstown went down 3-2 at home to Pembroke where they trailed to two Alan Sothern goals and one from new signing Cedric Mushiete from Belgium, although they had a much better second half when goals from Michael Kerr and Stuart Smyth kept them in the frame.
Meanwhile, we now know three of the Kirk Cup semi-finalists with one round of pool fixtures to go.
Kilkeel topped Pool A with a 2-1 win at Portadown and Instonians went top of Pool B as Chris Kirk grabbed a hat-trick in a 5-0 romp over Queen's.
North Down's 3-2 win over Belfast Harlequins means that Civil Service also go through, with their final game against Inst still to come.
Bangor made it four wins from four in the Linden Cup but it was Ballynahinch who were the biggest scorers of the day with William Edgar bagging five in a 11-1 win at Armagh.
EY Irish Hockey League: Lisnagarvey 4 (Nelson, Corry, Lorimer, Williamson) Monkstown 2 ( Lynch, Ward); Railway Union 0 Banbridge 4 (Wright, Witherow, Ward, Tinney); Cookstown 2 (Kerr, Smyth) Pembroke 3 (Sothern 2, Mushiete); Annadale 1 (Caruth) Three Rock 7 (Richard Paut 4, Ben Walker 2, Canning)
Kirk Cup: Portadown 1 (Magee) Kilkeel 2 (Aiken, Stevenson); South Antrim 2 ( Brown, Glass) Mossley 2 (Todd, Monaghan); Instonians 5 (Kirk 3, Leckey, Palmer) Queen's 0; North Down 3 (McKeown 2, Gilmore) Belfast Harlequins 2 (Patterson, McKenna)
Linden Cup: Armagh 1 Ballynahinch 11 (Edgar 5, M Martin 3, Miller 3); Antrim 0 Raphoe 1 (S Cleverley); Cliftonville 1 (McParland) Bangor 4 (Easlie, Campbell, R Cunningham, A Creane)