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Champions Banbridge slump into bottom four



Close encounter: Banbridge’s Bruce McCandless with Three Rock Rovers ace Kevin Mullins

Close encounter: Banbridge’s Bruce McCandless with Three Rock Rovers ace Kevin Mullins

Close encounter: Banbridge’s Bruce McCandless with Three Rock Rovers ace Kevin Mullins

It's hard to take in but current Irish Hockey League champions Banbridge are languishing in the bottom four after Saturday's 4-1 home defeat against Three Rock.

And it could get even worse for coach Mark Tumilty and his players as they prepare to face the two unbeaten teams in the league - Glenanne and Lisnagarvey - over the next fortnight.

However, Tumilty - who last week was named Sport NI's Team Coach of the Year - remains upbeat and flatly refuses to believe his team won't make the end-of-season play-offs.

"We are where we are, but things can't get any worse," he insists. "The loss of quality players during the close season, followed by a spate of long-term injuries hasn't helped our cause.

"But the players coming in are fast getting used to our system and better days surely lie ahead."

It has been very frustrating for Tumilty, particularly with news that Ireland's most capped player - Eugene Magee - is going to miss a further 12 weeks of the season having already been sidelined after an ankle injury.

Magee broke a finger at Pembroke last week and needs an operation which could keep him out until February.

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Strike partner Johnny McKee also got hit by a double whammy - first his collarbone and then his ankle and is expected to be out for another six weeks, while Owen Magee is also sidelined, meaning Bann have lost much of their attacking force.

That was evident against Three Rock, for they had more circle penetrations than their opponents but despite numerous pull-backs from the byline, they couldn't find the midas touch.

It means Bann have lost six on the bounce - two in Europe, three in the league and one in the cup - but rule them out at your peril.

With Cork of I beating Railway 2-0 in yesterday's rearranged game, they are up to sixth, pushing Bann into the bottom four.

Neil Gilmore gave Bann the lead against Three Rock when he roofed a penalty corner variation but Kevin Mullins and Mitch Darling turned things round.

International keeper Jamie Carr came on at half-time for Three Rock and kept out Philip Brown's penalty stroke, which proved the turning point of the game as Ross Canning was gifted the third and Ben Walker added a flattering fourth.

The all-Ulster showdown saw Garvey held to a 2-2 draw by Cookstown, and it was largely due to the McCabe twin brothers. Keeper Josh had an outstanding game while sibling Scott grabbed the late equaliser. Jonathan Bell had scored a sublime opener, as did Neal Glassey with a shot on the reverse.

Annadale went down 3-0 at home to Pembroke, whose Alan Sothern scored twice more to top the goalscoring charts.

And the three unbeaten teams in the Ulster Premier League -Bangor, Instonians and Kilkeel - maintained their records.

Rhys Cunningham scored a hat-trick in Bangor's 5-2 win at South Antrim and Instonians earned a 2-0 success at Newry.

Gareth Russell sparked Kilkeel's 4-2 win at Belfast Harlequins with a penalty corner double as they came from a goal down to take all the points.

Luke McClelland and Michael Patterson were the Quin's marksmen but David Finlay and Johnny Aiken secured the win, although keepers Iain Kelly and Sam Morris were the man of the match contenders.

EY Irish Hockey League: Lisnagarvey 2 (N Glassey, J Bell) Cookstown 2 (S McCabe, S Smyth); Banbridge 1 (N Gilmore) Three Rock 4 (K Mullins, M Darling, R Canning, B Walker); Annadale 0 Pembroke 3 (A Sothern 2, K Shimmins); Monkstown 3 (G Sarratt 2, A Ward) Cork C of I 2 (P Brownlow, J Jermyn); Railway 0 Glenanne 2 (S O'Donoghue, S Brownlow); Sunday: Cork C of I 2 (J Jermyn, A Moffatt) Railway 0

Ulster Premier: Portadown 3 (S Johnston, G Titler, J Brown) Antrim 1 (D Wilson); Raphoe 1 (J Wilson) Mossley 4 (H Dow 3, J Robinson); Queen's 4 (J Hermon, B Wolseley, C Anderson, M Getty) Cliftonville 0; South Antrim 2 (P Maguire, J Moore) Bangor 5 (R Cunningham 3, R Burgess, M McComb); Newry 0 Instonians 2 (W Robinson, G Leckey); North Down 5 (J Gilmore 2, J Clarke, P Wilson, J Moore) Civil Service 4 (C Barnes 2, M Johnston, S Armstrong); Harlequins 2 (L M McClelland, M Patterson) Kilkeel 4 (G Russell 2, D Finlay, J Aiken)

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