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It's decision time for title kings Kilkeel


Hands on: Kilkeel captain Gareth Russell with the Ulster Premier League trophy
Hands on: Kilkeel captain Gareth Russell with the Ulster Premier League trophy

By Graham Hamilton

Newly-crowned Ulster Premier League champions Kilkeel will make their minds up today whether they are going to take part in the provincial play-offs, from which they can gain entry to the EY Irish Hockey League set-up next season.

The Mourne club's 3-1 win over main rivals Bangor on Saturday ensured they finished top of the table after a gruelling 19-game programme, a position that puts them straight through to the second phase of the play-offs in Cork from April 21-22.

However, therein lies the problem, as Kilkeel have long resisted playing on Sundays.

And now they must decide whether they will take up the offer or opt out and remain solely in the provincial set-up.

The club have been deliberating over the past week on the way forward and were reluctant to make any decision until it was known if they would finish as Ulster champions or runners-up.

That's partly because they would have been unable to play in the first phase due to a wedding, which nine of their players will be attending.

But, by being crowned champions on Saturday, that is no longer an issue - and so they must notify Hockey Ireland today of their intentions.

If they decide to go ahead, then Bangor and Instonians go into this weekend's first phase play-offs in Dublin and Kilkeel will go into the second phase a week later in Cork.

If they opt out, then Instonians and Mossley would take part in the first phase with Bangor going straight through to Cork.

It was Mark Stevenson who led Kilkeel to their first top-flight Ulster title, scoring twice in their 3-1 win over Bangor, having fallen behind to a Chris Campbell goal early on.

Meanwhile, Three Rock Rovers guaranteed themselves a place in the Irish Champions Trophy play-offs by landing the Irish Senior Cup after beating Pembroke 5-2 in yesterday's final in Dublin.

Three Rock's set-piece routine did the trick, with Luke Madeley converting three and John Mullins deflecting in another.

Lisnagarvey crashed 3-0 at home on Saturday to Pembroke in the semi-final, a game they should have won but nothing seemed to go right on the day.

Chances went abegging and 13 penalty corners failed to bring a goal, whereas Pembroke were clinical.

In the IHL, Banbridge remain in the hunt to reach the play-offs, with Johnny McKee's brace helping them to a 2-1 win over Railway Union.

With Three Rock winning the Cup, it means a top-four instead of a top-three finish will warrant a play-off place, although Bann must overtake Pembroke and Monkstown in the run-in.

Cookstown remain second bottom on goal difference after their 3-2 defeat at Monkstown.

Finally, Ulsterman Mark Gleghorne scored his third goal in two games for England as they drew 2-2 with Pakistan in their second pool game at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Irish Senior Cup final: Three Rock Rovers 5 (L Madeley 3, J Mullins, R Canning) Pembroke Wanderers 2 (K Shimmins, A Sothern).

Semi-finals: Lisnagarvey 0 Pembroke 3 (S Sweetnam, R Flannery, A Sothern); Glenanne 1 (E O'Malley) Three Rock Rovers 5 (M Darling 2, L Madeley, R Canning, J Mullins).

IHL: Banbridge 2 (J McKee 2) Railway Union 1 (K Carroll); Monkstown 3 (G Sarratt 2, A Ward) Cookstown 2 (S McCabe, S Smyth).

Ulster Premier League: Kilkeel 3 (M Stevenson 2, D Rae) Bangor 1 (C Campbell); Cliftonville 0 Queen's 2 (M Getty, R Kelly); Newry 4 (D Andrews, K McComb, D England, M Russell) Civil Service 7; Antrim 5 (D Wilson 2, R McClintock, S Clyde, A McBride).

Commonwealth Games: England 2 (M Gleghorne, S Ward) Pakistan 2

Belfast Telegraph


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