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Banbridge's pursuit of a win now into third month

 

By Graham Hamilton

Banbridge's nightmare run of results has now stretched to nine weeks and counting.

The Havelock Park lads slipped up 3-2 at home to Monkstown on Saturday to leave them just a single point above the relegation zone, extending a run of defeats which stretches away back to their second game of the season on October 14.

And with the EY Irish Hockey League going into shutdown over the Christmas and New Year period, Bann won't get the chance to put things right until January at least.

It's a scenario you could never have expected from a team that won the IHL title last season with only one defeat, although it has been well chronicled that coach Mark Tumilty lost two key players to overseas and then four of his strike force through injury.

There is some good news that international Johnny McKee made his long-awaited comeback after collar-bone and ankle injuries against Monkstown, although the Magee brothers Eugene and Owen are still sidelined.

It has meant a rebuilding job for Tumilty and although things have been slowly going in the right direction, results refuse to go their way.

Saturday saw them ship three goals to Guy Sarratt, David Carson and Stephen Cole, leaving them with a mountain to climb.

But they almost snatched a point with a tremendous fightback which most give them confidence for the programme that still lies ahead.

Fraser Mills set up Jamie Wright to begin the rally and then added a second himself to set up a tense finish.

But although it was backs to the wall for the Dubliners, they held out to impose further misery on Bann. In fact it wasn't a great day for the four Ulster teams in the Irish Hockey League, with Lisnagarvey's title hopes taking a dent when they went down 3-1 at home to Three Rock Rovers, while Annadale and Cookstown cancelled each other out and had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Strathearn.

It was Garvey's second defeat on the trot, and with current leaders Glenanne scoring twice in the final three minutes to pip derby rivals Pembroke Wanderers 4-3, it leaves them back in third place and 10 points adrift, albeit with two games in hand. Australian Rhiley Carr's seventh goal of the season, a fine drag-flick penalty corner, earned Annadale that point against Cookstown and should assure them of mid-table safety.

But it means the Tyrone men are still second bottom, with Railway Union cutting the deficit to three points after they toppled Cork C of I 2-1 in Dublin.

Although the IHL programme was completed in full, that wasn't the case in the Ulster Premier League where the only game to go ahead was at Stormont.

Civil Service, though, probably wished it had been postponed as they crashed 5-0 to Belfast Harlequins, with Chris Lemon leading the way with a brace of goals.

Newry also got a game and it proved fruitful with a Matthew Russell double helping them to a 3-0 away win against Dublin side Weston in the Irish Hockey Trophy.

EY Irish Hockey League: Lisnagarvey 1 (M Nelson) Three Rock Rovers 3 (L Madeley 2, R Canning); Banbridge 2 (J Wright, F Mills) Monkstown 3 (G Sarratt, D Carson, S Cole); Annadale 1 (R Carr) Cookstown 1 (M Kerr); Glenanne 4 (S O'Connor, S Boucher, S O'Donoghue, G Shaw) Pembroke Wanderers 3 (S Sweetnam, A Sothern, R Lynch) ; Railway Union 2 (R Devlin, S McKeever) Cork C of I 1 (A Gray)

Ulster Premier League: Civil Service 0 Belfast Harlequins 5 (C Lemon 2, L McClelland, D Coates, A Tweed); Queen's v Bangor (postponed); Mossley v Cliftonville (postponed); South Antrim v Kilkeel (postponed); North Down v Instonians (postponed); Raphoe v Antrim (postponed)

Irish Hockey trophy: Weston 0 Newry 3 (M Russell 2, J Greer); UCC 5 Cork Harlequins 1.

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