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It's green for go as Ulster's big guns return to domestic cups

 

By Graham Hamilton

Ulster Hockey has opened its arms and welcomed back its Irish Hockey League clubs into the various knock-out competitions.

The red carpet will be rolled out from next season allowing the likes of Lisnagarvey, Banbridge, Cookstown and Annadale from the men and Pegasus, Ards and Belfast Harlequins from the women to take part in the Kirk Cup and Ulster Shield competitions respectively.

The decision, which reversed that made two years ago, was taken at a Special General Meeting last night held at Deramore where delegates voted 37-18 to return to the status quo.

The 'ban' on Ulster's IHL clubs came after the fully fledged all-Ireland competition came into being, but the Management Board proposal to turn the clock back and fall into line with other provinces was given its backing.

There were a handful of other issues in the motion that was passed but it was the lifting of the cup ban which had most relevance.

Meanwhile the last round of EY Irish Hockey League fixtures before the Christmas and New Year break takes place on Saturday and one of the top games sees Ulster rivals Annadale and Cookstown meet at Strathearn.

The Tyrone side recall all too well that the Dale chalked up a 4-1 win at Steelweld Park, and with a meagre five points from eight starts to date, they know they really need to build on recent improved displays to kickstart their climb away from the trouble zone.

"Our performance against Monkstown, particularly in the final quarter, should give us a lot of confidence as well as setting out the standards that we will need to get back to if we want to get a positive result against Annadale," said Cookstown skipper Jonathan Ames.

"Annadale showed a real threat on the counter attack against Monkstown, and so we will have to be ready to nullify and disrupt that where we can. And we can't forget their strength at penalty corner time through Rhiley Carr.

"We have some great attacking threats of our own of course - Michael Kerr and Keith Black in particular have been creating a lot of opportunities in the last few games.

"And that will have to continue if we are to find a way past the excellent Johnny Moore in their goals."

There's a biggie at Comber Road too where third placed Lisnagarvey face second placed Three Rock Rovers, and so is the meeting between Banbridge and Monkstown at Havelock Park, especially as Bann need to start edging their way back up the table after the recent run of bad results.

In the Ulster Premier League, the two unbeaten teams - Instonians and Kilkeel - have tricky away games.

Inst go to North Down who are just a point behind them, while the Mournemen visit South Antrim who are currently second but have played two more games than them.

Leaders Bangor head to Queen's and will be anxious not to repeat their previous game when they squandered a two-goal lead against Belfast Harlequins.

Newry's game against Portadown is off, as the border men head south to take on Weston in the Irish Hockey Trophy tie which was postponed last week due to the snow.

Belfast Telegraph

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