Impressive Instonians clinch place in all-Ireland
Ulster may be able to maintain four teams in the all-Ireland league for next season after all, following Instonians' success in winning the EY Provincial Play-offs over the weekend.
The Premier League champions saw off Munster representatives Bandon 3-0 in the semi-final on Saturday at Three Rock's Grange Road ground in the Dublin foothills, with striker James Dowling bagging himself a first-half hat-trick.
And they completed their task yesterday by coming from behind to beat UCD 3-1 in the decider to clinch their place in the Irish Hockey League next season.
At one stage it looked like Ulster's IHL representation could be reduced to just Lisnagarvey and Banbridge after Annadale and Cookstown finished in the bottom two.
But the Instonians win means they replace Annadale for next season and it's now up to Cookstown to make sure the status quo of four Ulster teams remains, by beating Provincial Play-offs runners-up UCD in a one-off play-off at Banbridge's Havelock Park next weekend.
Steven Redpath's lads certainly have had a fine season, winning the Kirk Cup at Christmas followed by the Premier League title last month.
Then last weekend they qualified from the first phase of the provincial play-offs to earn their place at this week's semi-finals, from which they went on to reach the decider which they have now won.
Bandon's resistance barely lasted 10 minutes in the semi, with Dowling striking twice early on to put the Belfast lads on their way.
His first was a sweet reverse and the second came three minutes later after a lovely break from the halfway line, and then he went on to complete his treble by finishing off a fine move involving James Corry.
Inst were able to ease off a little in the second-half, rotating players and preserving energy for the decider 24 hours later against a UCD whom they had squeezed past 2-1 in the first phase of the play-offs last weekend.
The Dublin students won their semi against Clontarf 2-0 with first-half goals from David Nolan and Jeremy Duncan.
But against Inst they struggled to create chances, although they managed to hold a slender interval lead when Jeremy Duncan scored against the run of play in the 34th minute.
But the Inst experience came to the fore in the second-half and their constant pressure finally paid off.
The impressive Corry levelled matters and then midfield powerhouse William Robinson put them ahead before John Watson wrapped up the win with the third.
Meanwhile, the Anderson Cup quarter-final between Belfast Harlequins and Kilkeel was postponed following the sudden death of the Mourne club's stalwart John Charleton.
A real character, John loved his hockey and the Kilkeel club and penned many of their reports for the local papers and previously for the Ireland's Saturday Night.
The delayed second round tie between Portadown and Raphoe was postponed again but both games will hopefully get sorted out this week.
EY Provincial Play-offs (Grange Road, Dublin): Semi-finals: Instonians 3 (J Dowling 3) Bandon 0; UCD 2 (D Nolan, J Duncan) Clontarf 0.
Final: Instonians 3 (J Corry, J Watson, W Robinson) UCD 1 (J Duncan)
Senior League Top Four: Queen's 1 (M Warnock) Campbellians 3 (A Brown, C Mack, J Easlie)
Anderson Cup 2nd round: Portadown v Raphoe (postponed); Quarter-final: Civil Service v Kilkeel (postponed)
Sussex Regiment Cup: Armagh v Ballynahinch (postponed): Cliftonville v Portrush (postponed)