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Banbridge blow it again but talk of relegation a little premature

 

By Graham Hamilton

Banbridge's chances of making the end of season Irish Champions Trophy play-offs are fading fast after they surrendered a two goal lead on Saturday to lose out to IHL leaders Glenanne with a goal scored just 30 seconds from the end.

The 3-2 defeat was the Havelock Park side's fourth reverse from six league games and leaves them languishing three from the bottom, a distant 13 points from the top of the table Dubliners.

It was a glorious chance for Mark Tumilty's lads to close in on the frontrunners as they played arguably their best hockey of the season, but they froze in the last quarter.

The absence of injured strikers Eugene Magee, Johnny McKee and Owen Magee are hitting them hard and their cause wasn't helped by the absence of defensive stalwart Philip Brown who was unavailable on what originally was a free date but saw a programme of rearranged games following the 'umpires strike' earlier in the season.

But talk of possible relegation can be dismissed here and now.

Tumilty hopes to have his three injured stars back after the Christmas break, and with half of the programme still to be played at that stage, there is plenty of scope for recovery.

Everything looked rosy when Dane Ward put them ahead when he deflected in Neil Gilmore's shot and schoolboy Mark Barlow (below) made it two when he forced home at the far post after a good run by Fraser Mills.

But Shannon Boucher's goal on the half-time whistle gave the Glens hope and then Bann blew it big-time in the last quarter.

Gareth Lennox defied Shane O'Donoghue from four penalty corners but after conceding a soft penalty stroke, he was finally beaten by the Irish international.

And then in a kamikaze final few minutes, both Jamie Wright and Fraser Mills received yellow cards and the nine men were punished when Boucher fired in the winner with almost the last play of the game.

Garvey, as expected, beat bottom of the table Railway 2-0 while Annadale eased any relegation worries with a superb 2-0 win over Monkstown in Dublin.

Cookstown, though, lost 4-1 at Three Rock which means it will be difficult when they travel to the same opposition next week in the Irish Senior Cup.

Meanwhile the three unbeaten teams in the Ulster Premier League - Bangor, Instonians and Kilkeel - failed to produce a win between them.

Bangor's 100% record fell with a 2-1 home defeat against Portadown and then Instonians and Kilkeel drew 1-1, allowing Mossley and South Antrim to join the top six.

Kilkeel thought they were about to pull off a single goal win at Inst after Eddie Agnew put them ahead and Luke Russell struck the crossbar, but it was goalkeeper Sam Morris who kept them ahead with a string of fine saves until the final minute.

That was when a Kilkeel clearance almost hit one of their own players and it was deemed dangerous much to the Mournemen's annoyance, and Stuart McWilliams equalised from the penalty corner variation.

EY Irish Hockey League: Banbridge 2 (D Ward, Barlow) Glenanne 3 (S Boucher 2, S O'Donoghue); Railway 0 Lisnagarvey 2 ( Nelson, J Corry); Cookstown 1 (S Smyth) Three Rock 4 (M Darling 2, C Empey, B McCrea); Monkstown 0 Annadale 2 (D Tremlett, R Carr); Cork C of I 2 (J Jermyn 2) Pembroke 2 (A Sothern, H Spain)

Ulster Premier: Instonians 1 (S McWilliams) Kilkeel 1 (E Agnew); Cliftonville 1 (T McKane) Raphoe 1 (T Orr); Antrim 2 (A Mullan, D Wilson) Harlequins 4 (M Gray 2, M McKenna 2); Queen's 2 (R Kelly 2) North Down 1 (G McKeown); Mossley 2 (J Robinson, T Moreland) Newry 0; Civil Service 1 (C Barnes) South Antrim 2 (P Maguire, R Brown); Bangor 1 (R Burgess) Portadown 2 (A Stevenson, G Titler).

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