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How Cookstown and Instonians' Irish Hockey League woes mean misery for four more Ulster clubs

 

Making his mark: Banbridge’s Mark Barlow (right) battles hard in the win over Cookstown
Making his mark: Banbridge’s Mark Barlow (right) battles hard in the win over Cookstown
Troy Chambers

By Graham Hamilton

There was major disappointment for Cookstown as they crashed out of the EY Irish Hockey League's top flight, and equal misfortune for Instonians who failed to gain promotion out of the second tier.

But the ramifications of Saturday's final round of the all-Ireland set-up and the IHL 2 promotion play-offs runs deeper as it also means misery for Ulster Premier League clubs Mossley, Bangor, Belfast Harlequins and Civil Service.

So let's explain. Cookstown's 5-1 home defeat to Banbridge means the trapdoor opened wide for them to tumble into next season's IHL 2 and the Ulster Premier League.

And Inst's 2-1 defeat to UCD in the second tier play-off semi-final means the promotion door was slammed shut in their face - they too will take their place in next season's IHL 2, having qualified as Premier champions.

Unfortunately that means there is room for just one more Ulster representative in IHL 2, and that goes to Ulster Premier runners-up Kilkeel, which leaves third placed Mossley and fourth placed Bangor missing out.

The Newtownabbey side had every right to feel they had made it to the all-Ireland set-up for the first time, as a month ago it looked like Cookstown would survive and that Inst might make it up, which would have left Kilkeel, Mossley and Bangor as the IHL 2 representatives.

But it all went belly-up, with the Tyrone side unable to pick up any points from their final four games, leaving them one point adrift of Cork C of I who drew 2-2 with Three Rock and now go into a play-off with IHL 2 runners-up UCD in a bid to retain Munster's only top flight place.

So it's misery for Mossley and Bangor who miss out on an IHL 2 place. But why, then, is there agony too at Harlequins and Civil Service?

Well, that's because Cookstown's drop into the Ulster Premier League and Inst's failure to get promoted out of it, would leave an unwieldy 14 teams in this division next year and, as per warning at the start of the season, the set-up would switch to a 12-team league.

That means 11th placed Harlequins and 12th placed Service will join automatically relegated Antrim on the way down to the Intermediate League, with champions Ballynahinch coming up, while 10th placed Raphoe will face Intermediate runners-up Ballymena in a play-off.

Meanwhile, with Corinthian booking the promotion slot to the IHL yesterday, the main all-Ireland focus now turns to the EY Champions Trophy finals at Banbridge's Havelock Park next weekend when Lisnagarvey take on Glenanne in one semi-final and Bann face Three Rock in the other.

Garvey beat Annadale 7-1 on Saturday, with schoolboy Troy Chambers scoring a hat-trick, to finish the regulation season six points clear at the top.

Bann's 5-1 win at Cookstown, sparked by two-goals from Johnny McKee, saw them draw level with Three Rock on 38 points but finish third on goal difference.

Finally, Newry Olympic and Queen's will fight it out for the Sussex Regiment Cup after both sides came through their semi-finals on Saturday.

Newry needed a penalty shoot-out after a goalless draw against Mossley but David England did the business in sudden-death with the winner, while the students saw off Civil Service 3-0 with two goals from Nathan Gamble and one from David Reid.

EY Irish Hockey League: Cookstown 1 (S McCabe) Banbridge 5 (J McKee 2, J Moffett, Z McClelland, E Magee); Annadale 1 (P Jack) Lisnagarvey 7 (T Chambers 3, D Nelson, M Nelson, H Morris, O Kidd); Cork C of I 2 (D Lynch, J Bruton) Three Rock Rovers 2 (K Mullins, C Empey); Glenanne 2 (B Venter 2) Monkstown 2 (G Sarratt, S Hohn); Dublin YMCA 2 (G Glutz, C Hynes) Pembroke 0

IHL 2 Play-off semi-finals: UCD 2 (Z Agnew, A Meates) Instonians 1 (R McCaughan); Corinthian 2 (I Stewart, J Roberts) Railway Union 2 (J McKeever, A O'Callaghan) Corinthian win shoot-out 3-0

Final: Corinthian 2 (C Perdue, D Howard) UCD 2 (D Nolan, I Styles) Corinthian win shoot-out 3-2)

Sussex Regiment Cup semi-finals: Civil Service 0 Queen's 3 (N Gamble 2, D Reid,); Newry Olympic 0 Mossley 0 (Newry win shoot-out 4-3)

Ulster Intermediate Cup: Ballynahinch 10 Parkview 0; Portrush 3 Ballymena 3

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