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Lisnagarvey have one hand on the title after tenth win

By Graham Hamilton

Published 22/02/2016

Eyes down: Banbridge’s Stephen Dowds tries to keep control of the ball under the close attention of Monkstown’s Richard Sykes
Eyes down: Banbridge’s Stephen Dowds tries to keep control of the ball under the close attention of Monkstown’s Richard Sykes

Lisnagarvey strengthened their grip on the EY Irish Hockey League when they chalked up their tenth successive victory on Saturday... and then learned that main rivals Banbridge and Monkstown had cancelled each other out in a 1-1 draw at Havelock Park.

There seems to be no stopping Garvey at the moment following their 4-3 success at Three Rock Rovers in Dublin which moves them nine points clear at the top of the table with just six games to go.

Bann and Monkstown were anxious to hang on to Garvey's coat tails but the draw was what neither wanted and they slip further adrift.

However, both remain firmly in the end-of-season play-off places after fourth and fifth placed Three Rock and Glenanne lost at home to Garvey and Pembroke Wanderers respectively.

Irish coach Craig Fulton was among the many fans at Havelock Park where around a dozen of his senior training panel were in action, but there were no goals until the third quarter when Eugene Magee's reverse found the net following a penalty corner.

Bann, though, were unable to get the killer second goal and were punished when Gareth Watkins converted a penalty stroke to tie things up.

Bann now have four away games on the trot - against bottom four Pembroke, Cookstown, Annadale and Cork C of I - before completing their programme with two home games.

And they know what they must do to stay in those play-off places, as they want to be part of them when they host them at the end of April.

Garvey, meanwhile, seemed home and dry at Grange Road when Paul Gleghorne, Neal Glassey and Paul Ritchie put them three ahead but two goals in a minute from Ross Canning and Jimmy Walker suddenly thrust Three Rock back into the frame.

But Timmy Cockram once again was the Blues' hero, popping up at the far post to put the result beyond doubt before Luke Madeley converted a penalty corner to make it 4-3.

One win from their final six guarantees them a play-off place while three wins would land them the league title.

Cookstown had plenty to celebrate when they made it two wins on the trot to lift themselves off the foot of the table and leave Ulster rivals Annadale in a precarious position.

Mark Crooks and Robbie Maguire swapped goals but Jonathan Ames ensured the 2-1 win for the Tyrone men who are now just three points behind third bottom Cork C of I and in with a chance of climbing clear of the relegation zone.

The Dale, who have shown much improvement recently, are now faced with the proposition of winning a minimum three games out of the last six to ward off the threat of an instant return to provincial hockey.

In the Ulster Premier League, North Down finally chalked up their first win after 12 attempts to close the gap at the bottom to two points on South Antrim who crashed 4-1 at Stormont to Civil Service.

The top of the table clash between Kilkeel and Instonians was called off on Friday evening due to floodlighting problems.

And in the Senior League Bangor came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 at Queen's to put them back on top of the table, although Campbellians can leapfrog when they complete the regular programme at Armagh before the split between top four and bottom four.

RESULTS: Irish Hockey League: Three Rock 3 (R Canning, J Walker, L Madeley) Lisnagarvey 4 (P Gleghorne, N Glassey, P Ritchie, T Cockram); Banbridge 1 (E Magee) Monkstown 1 (G Watkins);Cookstown 2 (M Crooks, J Ames) Annadale 1 R Maguire); Glenanne 2 (G Shaw, S Boucher) Pembroke 3 (A Sothern 2, D Ryan); Cork C Of I 1 (D Harvey) Railway Union 2 (E McArthur, J Dick)

Premier: Newry 0 Mossley 0; North Down 5 (D Shepherd 3, T Donnan 2) Raphoe 3 (L Witherow, S Cleverley, A Lyttle); Civil Service 4 (C Barnes, S Armstrong, P Johnston, A Saunders) South Antrim 1 (C Henry)

Senior League: Queen's 3 (P Watt 2, A Chisholm) Bangor 3 (M McComb 2, D McClune); Antrim 5 (L Kane 3, J McMeekin, A Morrison) Cliftonville 2 (J Allen, J Milligan); Ballynahinch 1 Armagh 2

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