Hockey: Banbridge and Lisnagarvey in Ulster show of strength
Banbridge and Lisnagarvey both booked their places in the Irish Hockey League semi-finals at the weekend, blasting out of the water the theory that Ulster hockey is not as strong as it once was.
As well as two teams in the IHL semis, we have three teams in the Irish Senior Cup semi-finals; one team in the Irish Hockey Trophy final and both teams in the Irish Junior Cup final.
Bann and Garvey's success over Dublin opposition on Saturday saw them finish runners-up in their pools and they'll miss each other in the semis scheduled for Saturday April 16, with Garvey against Pembroke and Bann facing Glenanne.
It was a thrilling finale to the IHL pool games on Saturday, with mobile phone calls flowing fast across the border to find out the latest scores, as there were so many permutations as to who would get through.
Garvey needed a win of any description against Corinthian at Hillsborough to qualify and after a shaky first-half, they stormed to a bonus point 4-1 win, although finishing behind Glenanne on goals for, who had a similar 4-1 score against Cookstown.
“We weren't good in the first-half, showing signs of tiredness after Thursday’s game, but we finally put it together in the second half and were well worth our win,” said Garvey skipper John Gray.
Bann needed a two goal winning margin to be certain of qualifying, but injuries took a heavy toll — Ross McCandless and Dane Ward were already out, and they were joined by Stephen Dowds who broke his ankle late last week, Hugh McShane who pulled a hamstring before the game and Dairmuid Reay, who came off injured during the game.
But they too came strong in the second-half to beat Dublin YMCA 4-2 to go through on goals for behind pool leaders Pembroke, who beat Monkstown 2-1.
Bann didn't get that precious fourth goal until two minutes from the end when Simon Magowan did the business to ensure they just pipped Monkstown for the runners-up place.
“To beat Pembroke 6-2 last week and then beat YMCA 4-2 when we were crippled by injuries, speaks volumes for these players,” said coach Mark Tumilty (pictured).
“We’ve lost our way in the Premier League, but we're in both the IHL and Irish Senior Cup semis.”
South Antrim will face UCC in the Irish Hockey Trophy final after beating Harlequins 2-1. Garvey II beat Three Rock II in the Irish Junior Cup semi-final and await the winners of Annadale II v Banbridge II.
Irish Hockey League Pool A: Lisnagarvey 4 (G Thompson 2, A Forrest 2) Corinthian 1 (C Pelow); Glenanne 4 (S O'Donoghue, P Jaros, G Shaw)Cookstown 1 (A Barbour); Cork C of I 3 (J Jerymn, P Sweetnam, own goal) Annadale 6 (N Hamilton 3, A Williamson, D Nicholl, R Maybin). Pool B: Banbridge 4 (B McCandless, J Moffatt, S Magowan, own goal) Dublin YMCA 2 (M Richardson, P Marshall); Pembroke 2 Monkstown 1; Cork Harlequins 4 Instonians 1 (C Kirk)
Senior One: Raphoe 5 Portadown 2 (N Gilmore, G Titler); Antrim 5 (A Reilly, D Mailey, M Smyth, N McCullough, A Mullan) Cliftonville 0; Armagh 3 (D Warnock, A McRoberts), G Croft) Queen's 0; Ballynahinch 1 (D Ross) Newry 4 (K McWilliams 2, K McCombe, R Nummy)
Irish Hockey Trophy semi-final: South Antrim 2 (R O'Neill, H Cartmill) Belfast Harlequins 1 (R Aiken)
Irish Junior Cup semi-final: Lisnagarvey II 8 Three Rock Rovers II 0