Garvey just champion as Ulster claim Euro spots
Ulster will supply both of Ireland's representatives in Europe for the first time in five years after Lisnagarvey beat arch rivals Banbridge 3-1 in the EY Irish Hockey Trophy final at Havelock Park.
Goals from Mikey Watt, Daniel Buser and Matthew Nelson did the trick and that means they will go on to the EuroHockey League next season with Bann also bound for Europe, but which tier will depend on how they do in this season's EuroHockey Trophy series in Glasgow later this month.
It is great news for the province that two of its teams dominated the end-of-season finals weekend, but there was disappointing news too when Cookstown slumped to a 2-1 defeat against UCD in the IHL promotion/relegation play-off, which means Ulster's representation in the all-Ireland set-up next season slips to three.
However, it was a great weekend's hockey, tremendously well organised by the Bann club and the final proved enthralling and entertaining for the big crowd.
International striker Mikey Watt put Garvey ahead after 11 minutes in the final, deflecting in a penalty corner, and their next two goals came at decisive times to break Bann's bid.
Stephen Dowds had just equalised with a penalty stroke, but Garvey responded by restoring the lead within a minute from Daniel Buser and then getting the crucial third from schoolboy Matthew Nelson right on half-time.
Bann had chances in the second period through Jonny McKee twice and from Eugene Magee and Stephen Dowds from corners, but Garvey held on.
"I have great respect for Bann, who came at us in the second half, but it was wonderful for us to end up with two national trophies after a great season," said Garvey captain Jonathan Bell.
There was no question of Bann's hero in the semi-final against Monkstown - goalkeeper Gareth Lennox saved four in the penalty shoot-outs, and all from Irish international players.
It meant Eugene Magee and Peter Brown's conversions were enough to send them through.
During normal time McCandless struck twice to give Bann the initiative but Monkstown roared back to force the shoot-out.
Garvey had their semi wrapped up by the interval, with goals from Andy Williamson, Timmy Cockram and Daniel Buser in the 3-1 win over Pembroke.
Cookstown looked good to beat UCD in the promotion/relegation play-off but were hit by a Jeremy Duncan penalty corner conversion and a David Nolan penalty stroke, and Simon Todd's goal from a blistering reverse shot wasn't enough to save them.
Meanwhile, North Down are looking forward to their Anderson Cup semi-final against Kilkeel, following their success in knocking out an Instonians team who were bidding for their fourth title of the season.
Two goals from Gareth McKeown inspired them a 3-1 win in the quarter-finals, giving them five wins from their last seven games after a disappointing start to the season, and they'll face a Kilkeel team who qualified for the last four by knocking five past Civil Service.
Portadown crushed Queen's 5-1 and will take on Belfast Harlequins in the second semi-final.
EY Irish Champions Trophy: Semi-finals: Lisnagarvey 3 (A Williamson, T Cockram, D Buser) Pembroke Wanderers 1 (J Lynch); Banbridge 2 (B McCandless 2) Monkstown 2 (R Sykes, L Cole) Bann won shoot-out 2-0
Final: Banbridge 1 (S Dowds) Lisnagarvey 3 (M Watt, D Buser, M Nelson)
EY Irish Hockey League Promotion/Relegation Play-off: Cookstown 1 (S Todd) UCD 2 (J Duncan, D Nolan)
Anderson Cup quarter-finals: North Down 3 (G McKeown 2, P Wilson) Instonians 1 (M Martin); Civil Service 0 Kilkeel 5 (L Russell, D Finlay, D Rae, J Aiken, W Annett); Portadown 5 (R Scott, G Titler, S Johnston, Z McClelland, A Stevenson) Queen's 1 (T Sturgeon)