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Champions Kilkeel reject chance to reach IHL stage

 

By Graham Hamilton

Newly-crowned Ulster Premier League champions Kilkeel have turned down the chance to win a place in next season's EY Irish Hockey League.

And that means fourth-placed Mossley will join Instonians in the first phase of the play-offs this weekend in Dublin, with second-placed Bangor taking the Mournemen's place in the second phase in Cork a fortnight later.

Kilkeel have been deliberating the situation over the past fortnight, as the play-offs involve Sunday games and their club constitution forbids that.

Attempts were made to get round the predicament but in the end these proved unsuccessful, particularly as they would have been able to supply only 11 players from their 18-strong squad.

A club statement explained: "We can't do it this season. We would be missing seven players from our squad and that would make it impossible.

"Neil Stevenson is getting married this Saturday and will still be on honeymoon for the play-offs, others are heading off on holiday and one is out injured and requiring surgery.

"Add that to the three or four who decline to play on Sundays and we are left with insufficient players to do ourselves or Ulster Hockey justice.

"As a hockey outpost, we work on a small squad and it's hard to attract players other than what comes through from the High School.

"But we plan to move forward in the future, whatever that entails.

"We are willing to enter the new Irish Hockey League Two which starts next season, if Hockey Ireland will accept us."

And so Instonians and Mossley will be representing Ulster in this weekend's Provincial Play-offs first phase at Old Alex's ground in Dublin.

The Ulster duo meet on Saturday (11.45am), with Inst's second game that day against Leinster runners-up Corinthian (3pm) and Mossley's second game against Munster runners-up UCC (4.45pm).

Sunday's schedule sees Instonians take on Leinster's third-placed team UCD (9.45am) and then UCC (1pm), while Mossley face Corinthian (11.15am) and UCD (2.30pm).

The overall winner of the five-team round-robin series will then go through to the second phase of the play-offs in Cork on April 28-29 where they will join Leinster champions Dublin YMCA, Munster champions Bandon and Ulster runners-up Bangor.

Meanwhile, Cookstown hope to climb clear of the Irish Hockey League's lower reaches when they meet Cork C of I at Steelweld Park on Sunday.

The Cork men are immediately above Cookstown in the table, and actually play Banbridge at the Academy ground a day earlier, the only team taking in a double-header.

Annadale could do the Tyrone men a favour by beating bottom team Railway Union in Dublin on Saturday.

And Lisnagarvey have the chance to inflict the first league defeat of the season on current leaders Glenanne - and also close the gap on them at the top of the table - when they meet at Hillsborough on Saturday afternoon.

Belfast Telegraph

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