Irwin makes his Mark as Inst grab glory
Instonians captain Mark Irwin is determined to keep his feet on the ground after completing an amazing weekend.
He led his team to an astonishing 4-1 Podium Premier League win at Annadale on Saturday — the heaviest home defeat inflicted on the former Ulster champions for a long time.
And then he followed it up by playing a key role as Inst chalked up a last-gasp and totally unpredicted 3-2 win over Pembroke Wanderers at Shaw's Bridge yesterday in the Irish Hockey League, the first domestic defeat in a major competition for the Leinster kingpins this season.
And to crown a remarkable 24 hours, it was Irwin who scored the dramatic winner just three minutes from the end as the Belfast side overturned a two-goal deficit with three goals in a thrilling final 11 minutes.
"It has been a great weekend, and in fact a great two months as we climbed the Ulster table from a lowly sixth to within distance of leaders Cookstown," said Irwin after that tremendous win over Pembroke.
"But we've a few more hard games coming up — we face Cookstown in the league next week, followed by Cork Harlequins in the Irish Senior Cup, so we must keep our focus."
Few could have expected Inst to come from two down to beat Pembroke, but as the Dubliners continued to protest after the game about two of the Inst goals, there's little doubt they shot themselves in the foot by not going for the third and decisive goal in the final quarter, which would have buried the game and given them a bonus point.
Instead Inst got a foothold when Chris Kirk fired home from the edge of the circle 11 minutes from the end, and Chris Barnes slotted home a penalty corner to level the game.
And then Irwin collected a free three minutes from the end and promptly dispatched it past Irish international goalkeeper David Harte to grab the historic win.
"The momentum swung our way when we scored the our first goal late on," said Irwin.
"So we kept up the pressure, knowing that Pembroke have crumbled against us in the past, and that's what happened again."
The 4-1 league win at Annadale the previous day leaves Inst as effectively the only real challenger left to Cookstown in the Ulster league race. Teenagers Matthew Martin and William Robinson did the damage, scoring three of the Inst goals between them, and Mark Gleghorne getting the other.
But Cookstown's 4-2 win at Mossley keeps the Tyrone team in pole position while Lisnagarvey's 4-2 defeat at Bangor means they slip to sixth are in real danger of not qualifying for the Irish Hockey League next season.
Irish Hockey League: Instonians 3 (C Kirk, C Barnes, M Irwin) Pembroke Wanderers 2 (A Sothern).
Podium Premier League: Annadale 1 (M Purcell) Instonians 4 (M Martin 2, W Robinson, M Gleghorne); Banbridge 4 (R McCandless 3, E Magee) Raphoe 0; Bangor 4 (G Morton, A Reading, M Manogue, D Holley) Lisnagarvey 2 (T Cockram, B Waring); Mossley 2 (R Lee, R Beattie) Cookstown 4 (I Steen 2, T Hutchinson, A Barbour).
Senior One: Armagh 0 Belfast Harlequins 5 (D Anderson 2, A Knox, C Lemon, N Crawford); Ballynahinch 1 (G Graham) Antrim 10 (J McMeekin 2, S McIlroy 2, R Maybin 2, P McKeown, I Brownless, I Creighton), A Reilly); Cliftonville 0 Kilkeel 10 (W Annett 5, E Agnew 2, G Russell, S Graham, B Niblock; Portadown 1 (D Winter) Newry 1 (R Taylor); Queen's 2 (S McCormick, S Watt) North Down 5 (M Forrest 2, A Forrest 2, I McKeown).
Irish Hockey Trophy: Civil Service 5 (A Gill 2, D Bradley 2, S Anderson) UCC 1 (S Sweetnam)