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Derby rivals Lisnagarvey and Banbridge to square up in all-Ireland semis


 Lisnagarvey celebrate their Ulster Premier League title success after the trophy was presented to them on Saturday,

Lisnagarvey celebrate their Ulster Premier League title success after the trophy was presented to them on Saturday,

Lisnagarvey celebrate their Ulster Premier League title success after the trophy was presented to them on Saturday,

Ulster will definitely have a representative in the Irish Hockey League final on Sunday after arch rivals Lisnagarvey and Banbridge ended up being paired together following the completion of the pool games.

At one stage it looked like Garvey were going to miss out when they fell two goals behind to Cookstown at their Hillsborough ground but they stormed back in style to win 3-2 to finish top of Pool A after previous leaders Pembroke Wanderers lost 3-1 at home to Dublin rivals Three Rock Rovers.

This pool was wide open going into Saturday's last round of pool fixtures whereas Pool B had already been decided, with both Monkstown and Banbridge having qualified the previous week. But Monkstown, despite giving up home advantage, beat Bann 4-1 to finish top, and so Mark Tumilty's lads, as runners-up, face Pool A winners Garvey.

It was Daniel Buser who proved Garvey's hero with two goals in a splendid fightback, although special mention goes to goalkeeper John Tormey who pulled off a vital save just at the end of the first quarter, thus denying Cookstown what would have been an unassailable three-goal lead.

"Cookstown worked their opening goals very well," admitted Garvey captain Jonathan Bell afterwards,"but maybe we were sleeping a bit.

"But we didn't lose our composure and it augurs well to come from two down to win against such opposition".

Bell received two trophies from the Ulster Hockey president William Stewart after the game – the Keightley Cup for winning the Ulster Premier League title and the Corken Cup for the Ulster team which goes the furthest in the Irish Senior Cup.

But he didn't miss the opportunity to pay tribute to coach Errol Lutton for his contribution.

"Our coach has taken our training to a new level this season and it is reaping rewards, but we mustn't lose focus yet, with next week's IHL semi-finals to come."

Cookstown certainly stunned Garvey when they scored direct from the hit-off, with Stuart Smyth creating the chance for Raymond Millar to net after just 12 seconds.

And when Millar returned the favour barely three minutes later, it began to look like Garvey were going to miss out.

But the Blues didn't lose their pattern and Buser proved to be the catalyst in their great comeback.

He forced home their first goal despite being grounded in the 23rd minute and after Timmy Cockram converted a penalty corner a minute from the interval to level matters, Buser flashed home a great winner five minutes from the end to secure the win.

Cookstown had five players sin-binned at various stages of the second half and indeed could have gone further behind when Cockram's penalty corner thudded against the crossbar.

Banbridge's 4-1 defeat at home to Monkstown underlines the strength of the Dublin side but perhaps Bann didn't give too much away in terms of tactics or penalty corner routines, with both having already qualified.

Indeed, with Bann hosting the men's and women's finals weekend – the two deciders are on Sunday – you can expect them to step up a level against near neighbours Garvey in their bid to land the all-Ireland trophy. The other semi-final sees Three Rock facing Dublin rivals Monkstown.

Irish Hockey League Pool A: Lisnagarvey 3 (D Buser 2, T Cockram) Cookstown 2 (R Millar, S Smyth); Pembroke Wanderers 1 (A Sothern) Three Rock Rovers 3 (P Blakeney, A White, J Hosking); Cork Harlequins 1 (D Hobbs) Instonians 5 (A Patterson, J Corry, J Watson, S Kelso, C Kirk)

Pool B: Banbridge 1 (S Dowds) Monkstown 4 (A Ward, L Cole, K Goode, D Nolan); Cork C of I 2 (J Jermyn, S Parker) Annadale 1 (M Robson); UCD 6 Corinthian 3

Belfast Telegraph