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Instonians prepare for hectic three-week spell

By Graham Hamilton

The next two weeks are going to be huge for Instonians as they battle for survival in the EY Irish Hockey League. After a spate of postponements, they're going to play catch-up with five games in a 16-day period, the bulk of them at their Shaw's Bridge base.

Steven Redpath's lads start the crucial period with an Ulster derby clash against joint leaders Banbridge on Saturday and 24 hours later they'll take on holders Monkstown in the delayed Irish Senior Cup quarter-final.

Then comes a home IHL game against UCD on February 18 and another busy weekend lies in store with a trip to Glenanne on February 25, followed 24 hours later, with a home clash against Cork C of I.

There might only be crumbs on offer when they take on Bann on Saturday, and a cup exit is possibly on the cards when they face Monkstown on Sunday.

But the next three games are potentially within their grasp, and they really need to turn them into wins rather than the close defeats that have been a defining feature of their season so far.

At the moment, Inst lie bottom, five points adrift of Railway Union, six points behind UCD and seven behind Glenanne, so wins are vital if they are not to return to the provincial set-up next season.

They really need to score more goals, and that's where players like William Robinson and Stephen Kelso in particular, can contribute over the crucial next few weeks.

Lisnagarvey will hope Instonians can do them a favour by getting something from their Bann clash on Saturday, as they are favourites to see off Pembroke at Hillsborough.

Ulster Premier League leaders Kilkeel have no game on Saturday, as opponents Campbellians are involved in the Irish Hockey Trophy quarter-final against South Antrim, and that gives Cookstown and Annadale the chance to close the gap.

The Tyrone men have the harder task at Belfast Harlequins, who have shown improvement in recent weeks, while the Dale are also on the road with the short trip to North Down.

Meanwhile, Cliftonville's Billy Pollock is the new acting chairman of Ulster Hockey's Management Board.

Billy takes over from Mark Murray who has stepped down, although retaining his position as a member of the Board, and he becomes the third person to hold the position over the past year.

Peter Kelly remains vice-chairman.

Belfast Telegraph

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