Instonians join Bangor in play-off showdowns
Ulster will have two representatives in the Provincial play-off semi-finals in Cork in a fortnight's time after Instonians won the wild card round-robin series in Dublin yesterday.
The Shaw's Bridge club came through their four games in two days unbeaten and will now join Bangor as well as Leinster champions YMCA and Munster champions Bandon in Cork from which the winners get into next season's EY Irish Hockey League's top flight.
The runners up will then get the opportunity to play the current second bottom IHL team in a play-off to decide the final top flight place, with the loser of that game dropping into the inaugural IHL2 competition.
The semi-final draw has kept the Ulster duo apart, with Inst to take on YMCA and Bangor to face the Bandon team who beat them 3-2 in the Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals last month.
And there was further good news for Ulster clubs when Cookstown beat Cork C of I 2-1 at Steelweld Park yesterday to take them two points clear of the automatic relegation place as they bid to retain their IHL status.
But first the Inst team that dug deep to get through the wild card series, beating Mossley 3-0 and UCC 5-0 on Saturday and then drawing 1-1 with Corinthian and beating UCD 2-1 yesterday to top the series by a point.
Inst's January signings of strikers Chris Barnes and Dane Ward were ineligible but they still had sufficient firepower to see them through, with Chris Kirk's last gasp equaliser against Corinthian and Stephen Kelso's winner against UCD particularly important.
It was early goals from Stuart Smyth and Michael Kerr that paved the way for Cookstown's 2-1 home win in the IHL over C of I at the Tyrone venue, a win that lifts them two points clear of bottom team Railway Union with a game in hand.
Railway had claimed a point in a 3-3 draw with Annadale on Saturday to move ahead of Cookstown at the foot of the table but slipped below the Tyrone team again after yesterday's result.
There wasn't such good news for Ulster giants Lisnagarvey and Banbridge, who both missed out on their targets on Saturday. Garvey were two up against unbeaten league leaders Glenanne through Daniel Nelson and Andy Williamson, but lost on their own ground for the second week running, the 4-2 defeat guaranteeing the Dublin club being crowned champions.
Bann had to settle for a 4-4 draw against Cork C of I despite Johnny McKee claiming a hat-trick, and so their chances of reaching the end of season play-offs are getting slimmer all the time.
It was John Jermyn who did the damage with a hat-trick - in fact all four Cork goals came from set-pieces - and Bann now need results to go very much their way in the run-in.
Bann have games against Cooksstown, Lisnagarvey and Glenanne coming up and can ill afford to drop any more points if they are to make the Irish Champions Trophy play-offs which they are hosting at Havelock Park next month.
Meanwhile, Cookstown's Ian Sloan and Antrim's Mark Gleghorne are on their way home from Australia's Gold Coast after winning Commonwealth Games bronze medals with England, following a 2-1 success over India on Saturday.
Provincial Play-offs (Dublin): Saturday: Instonians 3 (C Kirk, G Leckey, W Robinson) Mossley 0; Corinthian 1 (J Roberts) UCD 2 (A Tutty, J Henry); UCC 2 (B Cronin, E Finnegan) UCD 6 (J Guilfoyle 3, A Tutty 2, A Ramsey); Corinthian 4 (R Clarke 2, J Perdue, I Stewart) Mossley 0; Instonians 5 (J Watson 2, C Kirk, G Leckey, R McCaughan) UCC 0
Yesterday: Mossley 1 (J McCrea) UCD 5 (J Guilfoyle, J Schulte, A Tutty, J Henry, A Keane); Corinthian 1 (A Blennerhasset) Instonians (C Kirk); UCC 2 (A Power, B Mulcahy) Mossley 3 (R McIvor, S Todd, J Robinson); Instonians 2 (W Robinson, S Kelso) UCD 1 (J Guilfoyle); Corinthian 11 UCC 1
EY Irish Hockey League: Saturday: Banbridge 4 (J McKee 3, A Tinney) Cork C of I 4 (J Jermyn 3, J Dale); Lisnagarvey 2 (D Nelson, A Williamson) Glenanne 4 (S O'Donoghue 3, S Boucher); Railway Union 3 (M English, A Rooney, S McKeever) Annadale 3 (O Flack 2, P Caruth); Three Rock Rovers 3 (L Madeley 2, H Morris) Pembroke Wanderers 2 (R Sweetnam, J Ryan)
Yesterday: Cookstown 2 (S Smyth, M Kerr) Cork C of I (S Wolfe)
Ulster Premier League: Queen's 1 (C Anderson) Newry 3 (K Fletcher, K McWilliams, C McKnight)