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Dale are set to fall through trapdoor

By Graham Hamilton

Two of the four Irish Hockey League clubs from Ulster - Lisnagarvey and Banbridge - will be taking part in the end-of-season Irish Champions Trophy... but unfortunately the other two could be relegated to provincial hockey next season.

Yes, the back-to-back IHL games over the weekend have sorted out some more of the various issues with only next week's final round of fixtures to come.

Garvey, of course, had already clinched the title earlier this month and continued their winning streak with wins over Glenanne (5-2) and Cookstown (2-1) to leave themselves a massive 16 points clear of the pack.

Banbridge, who will be hosting the play-off series at Havelock Park at the end of this month, qualified yesterday when they saw off fourth-placed Three Rock Rovers 2-1 at their ground with goals from Stephen Dowds and Owen Magee to guarantee a top-three finish.

However, Mark Tumilty's lads could well have been up to second had they not slipped up unexpectedly at Cork C of I on Saturday when they lost 2-1.

That Cork win effectively doomed one Ulster club to relegation - most likely Annadale unless they can pull off a massive shock when they travel to Irish Senior Cup champions Monkstown in their final game next week. The Dale gave themselves some hope of survival when they came from two down to bag a 3-3 away draw at Railway Union on Saturday, with Irish international Michael Robson knocking in two.

But 24 hours later, the 5-2 defeat at home to Pembroke has left them teetering on the edge.

Cookstown gave Monkstown and Garvey a run for their money over the weekend but the 2-1 defeats against both mean they remain second bottom, two points ahead of Annadale and three behind Cork.

Basically, the Tyrone lads need to win their final game at Three Rock and hope Cork lose at Pembroke and also in the rearranged home game against Monkstown, which was postponed yesterday, to have a chance of avoiding the dreaded promotion/relegation play-off.

Yes, it's looking increasingly likely that Ulster's IHL quota for next season could be halved to two.

To avoid that, it would need either Instonians, Belfast Harlequins or Raphoe to win the eight-team provincial play-offs outright to bring the quota back to three. That involves qualifying from next weekend's round-robin format - four teams at Lisnagarvey and four at Monkstown - to go through to the finals weekend at Three Rock the following weekend, which they must also win.

And finally it would also need Cookstown, or Annadale if they overtake them, to win the promotion/relegation play-off against the provincial play-offs runners-up to maintain the status quo of four Ulster teams in the IHL.

Meanwhile, Campbellians have a slender lead in the Senior League Top Four after they beat Antrim 3-0 and main rivals Queen's lost 4-2 at Bangor.

Finally, two of the Anderson Cup quarter-finalists are now known after Kilkeel squeezed through on penalty strokes after a 2-2 draw at Mossley, and Harlequins edged out South Antrim 4-3 thanks to as Luke McClelland hat-trick.

EY IHL: Saturday: Cork C of I 2 (J Jermyn, J Dale) Banbridge 1 (S Dowds); Lisnagarvey 5 (A Forrest 2, M Watt, M Nelson, J Lorimer) Glenanne 2 (S Bucher, D Keogh); Railway Union 3 (M English 2, E McArthur) Annadale 3 (M Robson 2, J Cox); Monkstown 2 (D Carson 2) Cookstown 1 (S Todd); Three Rock Rovers 1 (F Morris) Pembroke (J Lynch) 1

Sunday: Banbridge 2 (S Dowds, O Magee) Three Rock (J Hoskins); Annadale 2 (M Crookshanks, A McKibben) Pembroke 5 (A Sothern 2, T Hill, N Burns, J Lynch); Cookstown 1 (R Millar) Lisnagarvey 2 (J Lorimer, A Williamson); Glenanne 3 (S Boucher 3) Railway Union 1 (R Forrest); Cork C of I v Monkstown (postponed)

Senior League Top Four: Antrim 0 Campbellians 3 (A Saunders, J Hall, C Mack); Bangor 4 (R Burgess 2, M McComb, J Trimble) Queen's 2 (R Blair, M Warnock)

Anderson Cup 2nd round: Mossley 2 (C McLean, A Monahan) Kilkeel 2 (W Annett, J Aiken) Kilkeel win 3-1 on strokes; South Antrim 3 (L Marshall, A Glass, M Gray); Belfast Harlequins 4 (L McClelland 3, M Gray)

Sussex Cup: Armagh 2 Cliftonville 1

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