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Gilmore back in groove at Ports

By Graham Hamilton

Neil Gilmore, whose goals helped Banbridge to stay unbeaten until the last game last season, has left the Irish Hockey League club to rejoin Portadown in the Ulster Premier League.

In a season when the IHL clubs have been attracting players, the nippy striker has gone the other way and returned to his roots at Edenvilla Park.

And in his first game back he was immediately on the mark, although Portadown lost 3-1 to Kilkeel on Saturday to dent their hopes of reaching the end-of-season provincial play-offs which offer a place in the new all-Ireland set-up.

And with Instonians winning their 10th straight game in the league, it's looking like the Shaw's Bridge outfit and the Mournemen will be going into those play-offs, with the third place still wide open.

First the Inst success, a hard-earned 4-2 home win over bottom club North Down.

It seemed Steven Redpath's lads were going to coast it against the Comber team when Alan Patterson and Stephen Kelso gave them a two-goal lead, but when David Shepherd and Stephen Dalzell levelled matters, it looked like Inst were about to drop their first points of the season, particularly with North Down goalkeeper Ally McArthur starring between the posts in his senior comeback game.

But Kelso squeezed home his second goal with three minutes left on the clock, and Matthew Martin added the clincher in the final seconds to secure the points.

Kilkeel stay five points adrift but now nine ahead of the chasing pack after Luke Russell scored twice and David Finlay the other in that 3-1 success at Portadown.

And Raphoe served notice that they are gunning for that third play-off place when they secured a good 3-3 draw at Civil Service.

Chris Barnes put away two penalty corners for the Stormont side but Ben Wallace also got a brace to keep the Donegal men well placed.

Mossley chalked up their first league win of the season with a comfortable 3-0 victory in the six-pointer against Newry, with Joe Cathcart, Aaron Boyd and Rory Brown all on the mark.

But the top scorer of the day was Luke McClelland who bagged four as Belfast Harlequins crushed visiting South Antrim 8-1 at Deramore.

The Senior League's top marksman, Bangor's Ryan Burgess, took his season's tally to 43 when he rammed home another hat-trick as the Seasiders extended their lead at the top to a healthy nine points. Rhys Cunningham also got two in the 6-0 win over Portrush, and with Queen's falling to their first defeat, 4-2 at Antrim, Scott Parker's side are now sitting pretty in their bid for promotion.

Campbellians are now second after their 5-0 win at Ballynahinch where Craig Mack was a hat-trick man and have two games in hand.

And Cliftonville maintained their top-four place with a 3-1 win over bottom team Armagh who are battling hard to get their first point.

Meanwhile the Irish men's training squad - with 11 Ustermen among the 25 - arrived safely in Cape Town today ahead of their two-week training camp, which sees them kick-start their preparations for the Rio Olympics.

Craig Fulton's lads will play eight games during the trip - against Argentina, Belgium, Spain and Canada - as well as practice routines and brush up on tactics as they plan ahead for an exciting summer.

RESULTS: Ulster Premier League: Instonians 4 (S Kelso 2, A Patterson, M Martin) North Down 2 (D Shepherd, S Dalzell); Portadown 1 (N Gilmore) Kilkeel 3 (L Russell 2, D Finlay); Belfast Harlequins 8 (L McClelland 4, J Hutchinson 2. R Quigley, N Anderson) South Antrim 1 (J Brown); Mossley 3 (J Cathcart, A Boyd, R Brown) Newry Olympic 0; Civil Service 3 (C Barnes 2, P Gaston) Raphoe 3 (B Wallace 2, I McGonigle)

Senior League: Antrim 4 (S McIlroy 2, J McMeekin, S Clyde) Queen's 2 (J McCaigue, T Sturgeon); Ballynahinch 0 Campbellians 5 (C Mack 3, C Bannister 2); Bangor 6 (R Burgess 3, R Cunningham 2, M Riordan) Portrush 0; Cliftonville 3 (D Hurley, E Patterson, R Wolsely) Armagh 1 (M Russell)

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