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Blues a win away from Trophy bid


By Graham Hamilton

Lisnagarvey need jut one win from their remaining four EY Irish Hockey League games to book their place in the end-of-season Irish Champions Trophy play-offs after they picked up four points from a possible six in back-to-back games over the weekend.

Matthew Nelson's hat-trick gave Errol Lutton's lads a 3-1 success at Cookstown on Saturday but 24 hours later they had to storm back from two goals down against Pembroke Wanderers to claim a 3-3 draw at Hillsborough yesterday.

It means Garvey are up to second in the table - nine points behind with a game in hand - but with joint fourth placed Pembroke still nine points adrift with four games to play, and with poorer goal difference of 21 goals, the Blues are close to guaranteeing one of the three automatic places for the play-offs.

The fourth slot is reserved for the Irish Senior Cup winners. Garvey are still in the frame too, with a semi-final coming up on April 7 against Pembroke at Hillsborough.

Glenanne will face Dublin rivals Three Rock Rovers in the other after edging out Monkstown 3-2 with another last-gasp winner yesterday in the delayed quarter-final. It was Matthew Nelson who did the damage for Garvey at Cookstown, bagging a hat-trick in the 3-1 win that leaves the Tyrone club second bottom on goal difference.

But Pembroke showed they will be difficult semi-final opposition by bursting into a 3-1 lead yesterday through goals from Nick Byrne and penalty corner conversions from Keith O'Hara and Alan Sothern.

Michael Robson got Garvey's opening goal and when Sean Murray made it 3-2, it set up a thrilling finish.

Garvey's pressure finally paid off when Paul Gleghorne converted a penalty corner just six minutes from the end but they had to settle for a draw when a win would have put them straight through to the play-offs.

Meanwhile there were celebrations for Ballynahinch when they won the Irish Hockey Challenge final.

Goals from William Edgar and Grant Hayes in the second half earned them a 2-0 win over Catholic Institute in Dublin yesterday, the first piece of silverware for the heart of Down club in many years.

At domestic level, Kilkeel can be crowned Ulster Premier League champions if they win their final two games.

The Mournemen's 4-2 success over Instonians on Friday evening means they are now just four points behind leaders Bangor but with a precious game in hand. Kilkeel and Bangor have to play each other, probably on Saturday April 7, and whoever wins that will surely claim the silverware, although in Kilkeel's case they would have to secure a win over Belfast Harlequins in their game in hand to keep alive their chances of a first top-flight title success.

Mossley are looking good to finish fourth after goals from Joel Cathcart, Harry Dow and Richard Lyall saw them come from two down to beat South Antrim 3-2 on Saturday.

Belfast Harlequins continue to challenge them but despite Luke McClelland grabbing a hat-trick, they had to settle for a draw in a 10-goal thriller.

In the bottom seven split, Newry Olympic closed the gap on North Down by beating the Comber boys 3-1 at the border venue.

David England struck twice and Kris Fletcher was also on the mark, with Gareth McKeown getting North Down's goal.

Finally, both Ulster teams -Bangor and Raphoe - lost out in the Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals, leaving it as a Bandon and Portrane final.

Bangor, with the Linden Cup already under their belt and currently leading the Premier League, missed the chance of a possible trophy treble by going down 3-2 despite goals from Stephen Hamill and Ryan Burgess.

EY Irish Hockey League: Lisnagarvey 3 (M Robson, S Murray, P Gleghorne) Pembroke Wanderers 3 (N Byrne, K O'Hara, A Sothern); Cookstown 1 Sloan) Lisnagarvey 3 (M Nelson 3); Pembroke 2 (A Sothern, T Hill) Annadale 1 (C Roberts); Three Rock Rovers 6 (P Blakeney 2, C Empey 2, L Madeley, D Walsh) Banbridge 3 (E Magee 2, J Moffatt); Glenanne 1 (S O'Donoghue) Railway Union 0; Cork C of I 1 (J Dale) Monkstown 1 (G Sarratt)

Irish Senior Cup quarter-final: Glenanne 3 (G Giney, S O'Donoghue, S Boucher) Monkstown 2 (A Ward, D Carson)

Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals: Bandon 3 (D Jennings, S Smyth, I Sweetnam) Bangor 2 (S Hamill, R Burgess); Raphoe 0 Portrane 2 (I Kahn, S Graham)

Irish Hockey Challenge: Ballynahinch 2 (W Edgar, G Hayes) Catholic Institute 0

Ulster Premier League: Belfast Harlequins 5 (L McClelland 3, J Metcalfe, R Quigley) Portadown 5 (J Curran 2, J Brown, A Stevenson, M Baird); Mossley 3 (J Cathcart, H Dow, R Lyall) South Antrim 2 (R Brown, J Deane); Newry Olympic 3 (D England 2, K Fletcher) North Down 1 (G McKeown); Kilkeel 4 (W Annett 2, D Finlay, J Aiken) Instonians 2 (W Robinson, J Watson); Cliftonville 2 (D Hurley, P McKane) Antrim 3 (A McBride 3).

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