No cup of joy for Ulster clubs
Lisnagarvey coach Mark Tumilty and his Instonians counterpart Paul Cooke were both reflecting today on how things could have turned out so different in the weekend's Irish Senior Cup semi-finals.
An embarrassing 3-2 home defeat for Garvey against fourth-placed Leinster team Monkstown and Inst's golden goal 4-3 defeat at All-Ireland champions Pembroke Wanderers, means that the decider on April 19 will have no Ulster representation.
Both Ulster giants came so close to making the final and are still kicking themselves for missing out on what is always a memorable occasion.
Few gave Inst a chance at all-conquering Pembroke, and trailing by three goals with just 10 minutes left, it indeed seemed everything was going according to the form book.
Then suddenly Inst kicked into life.
Mark Gleghorne pulled one back from a penalty-corner and then he repeated it a minute from time, with Andrew Cousins completing an astonishing climax when he scored from open play in the dying seconds to force the game into extra time.
Unfortunately Inst conceded a penalty-corner within three minutes and Alan Sothern dispatched it to the net to save his teams's blushes and earn a place in the decider.
Tumilty watched in agony as his young team started nervously and finished nervously, but outplayed Monkstown in between.
Ian Allen's early goal gave the Dubliners an unexpected boost and then the same player wrecked Garvey's cup final dreams by grabbing the winner with just over a minute remaining.
Garvey had fought back from that early setback to take a 2-1 lead through Timmy Cockram and Mark Robinson with just 12 minutes to go, but unusually they folded in the final six minutes, allowing Gareth Watkins to level matters and Allen to score that late winner.
There was some consolation for Garvey when they later heard that they had definitely qualified for the All-Ireland club championship play-offs at the start of May along with Cookstown and Banbridge.
That came about following Annadale's 4-2 home defeat against Bangor, which leaves the five-in-a-row champions back in fourth place and out of the all-Ireland equation.
Irish Senior Cup semi-fnals: Pembroke 4 (J Sherriff 2, J McInroy, A Sothern) Instonians 3 (M Gleghorne 2, A Cousins); Lisnagarvey 2 (T Cockram, M Robinson) Monkstown 3 (I Allen 2, G Watkins).
Podium Premier League: Mossley 2 (A Coulter, S Todd) Banbridge 2 (C Dowds, M Smyth); Annadale 2 (S Redpath, S McGimpsey) Bangor 4 (M Lappin, J McAuley, S Hunter, C Campbell).
Senior One: Down 2 (P Tate, J Elliott) Queen's 5 (S Watt 2, A Spratt, C O'Flaherty, M McGovern); Newry 1 (C Holmes) North Down 5 (G Bailie 2, A Forrest 2, R Willis); Portadown 1 (C Gregg) Civil Service 2 (R Anderson, P Johnston); Belfast Harlequins 4 (C Murphy 2, N Crawford 2) South Antrim 0; Cliftonville 3 (L Burrows 2, D Cromwell) Antrim 4 (N McCullough 2, A Reilly, I Brownlees).