Bangor and Cookstown to battle for last IHL slot
The line-ups for next season's EY Irish Hockey League and the inaugural second tier, the IHL2, are virtually complete after a hectic weekend which culminated with Bangor losing after a shoot-out to Dublin YMCA in the Provincial Play-Off final in Cork yesterday.
The only issue to be resolved is the promotion/relegation play-off between the IHL's second bottom team Cookstown and Provincial runners-up Bangor, which will take place in Ulster next weekend.
That means the IHL line-up will see Glenanne, Three Rock, Lisnagarvey, Pembroke, Banbridge, Monkstown, Annadale and Cork C of I joined by Provincial winners YMCA and either Cookstown or Bangor.
The IHL2 therefore should consist of Kilkeel and Instonians from Ulster; Corinthian, UCD and relegated Railway Union from Leinster; and Bandon and UCC from Munster, as well as the losers of that Cookstown and Bangor game. These teams will also take part in their provincial leagues, with the IHL2 fitted in where appropriate.
Bangor's hopes of claiming automatic promotion to the top flight ended when they lost the shoot-out 4-2 after drawing 4-4 against YMCA yesterday.
It seemed their chances had evaporated when they trailed to two Ben Campbell goals and an opener from Jamie Tobin, but Scott Parker's lads roared back in the final quarter to level matters at 4-4.
Ryan Burgess claimed a hat-trick and Rhys Cunningham got the other but the fairytale ending didn't happen.
A day earlier Bangor had kept their hopes alive by beating Bandon 5-4 in the semi-final, with Ryan Burgess scoring a dramatic last gasp winner.
But YMCA looked much sharper in their 5-1 success over Instonians, and sure enough they carried that form into the final.
Bangor get a second chance of reaching the top flight when they take on Cookstown in next week's promotion/relegation play-off but, whatever the outcome, Ulster's representation will remain at four.
Cookstown survived the automatic relegation spot despite losing 4-1 at Three Rock on Saturday, as bottom team Railway Union were unable to spring a surprise away at Lisnagarvey.
Railway were finally shunted out of the top division on a 7-0 scoreline which saw Daniel Nelson claim a hat-trick and younger brother Matthew and top scorer Andy Williamson each getting a brace.
Garvey will be Ulster's only representatives in next week's Champions Trophy finals and will take on hosts Three Rock in one semi-final (5pm) and champions Glenanne facing Pembroke in the other (3pm).
Banbridge fought to the end in their bid to reach the play-offs, beating Glenanne 3-2 in Dublin with two goals from Josh Moffatt and one from Eugene Magee.
But, coupled with last week's wins over Cookstown (5-0) and Garvey (2-1), they fell one point short of Pembroke who squeezed through 4-3 against Cork C of I on the final day.
Meanwhile Kilkeel and Mossley are through to the Anderson Cup semi-finals, with the remaining two quarter-finals to be sorted out on Thursday evening.
A Jordan Robinson hat-trick earned Mossley their 4-1 win over Newry but Ross Kelly's hat-trick wasn't enough to save Queen's who went down on a shoot-out to Kilkeel after a stirring 4-4 draw.
EY Provincial Play-Off Final (Cork): Yesterday: Bangor 4 ( R Burgess 3, R Cunningham) Dublin YMCA 4 (B Campbell 2, J Tobin, S Hyland) YMCA won 4-2 after shoot-out
Semi-finals (Saturday): Bangor 5 (R Burgess 2, S Hamill, D McClune, R Cunningham) Bandon 4 (C Sweetnam 2, D Smith 2); Instonians 1 (W Robinson) Dublin YMCA 5 (J Tobin 2, T Ritchie 2, B Campbell)
EY Irish Hockey League (Saturday): Lisnagarvey 7 (D Nelson 3, M Nelson 2, A Williamson 2) Railway Union 0; Glenanne 2 (S O'Donoghue, S Boucher) Banbridge 3 (J Moffatt 2, E Magee); Three Rock Rovers 4 (H Morris 2, K Mullins, B Walker) Cookstown 1 (A Barbour); Annadale 3 (C Robson, P Caruth, C Roberts) Monkstown 3 (G Sarratt 2, S Cole); Pembroke Wanderers 4 (A Sothern 2, S Sullivan, J Ryan) Cork C of I 3 (D Lynch, A Salter, J Dale)
Anderson Cup quarter-finals (Saturday): Mossley 4 (J Robinson 3, R Lyall) Newry Olympic 1 (M Russell); Kilkeel 4 (A Graham, J Aiken, E Agnew, M Stevenson) Queen's 4 (R Kelly 3, C Anderson) Kilkeel won 2-0 after shoot-out