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Lurgan hockey triumph puts Dungannon in play-off places

 

By John Flack

Dungannon have edged closer to a slot in the provincial play-offs which will determine a place in the EY Irish Hockey League next season.

They did so without hitting a ball on Saturday as a 2-0 win for Lurgan over Ballymoney has left them two points clear of the Co Antrim team in the race for third place in the Ulster Premier League. As things stand, if Dungannon were to beat Mossley on Wednesday night and Ballymoney were to lose to Queen's on Saturday, then the Tyrone side couldn't be caught.

However, should Dungannon progress, they will face a goalkeeping problem as first-choice net minder Vicky Kerr doesn't play on the Sabbath due to her religious beliefs.

Both phases of the provincial play-offs, to be staged over a total of four days in Dublin and Cork, involve Sunday action.

Dungannon faced a similar issue three seasons ago when they met Lurgan in the Denman Ulster Shield semi-final on a Sunday but they signed a temporary replacement on that occasion.

However, a club spokesperson confirmed yesterday that there is no possibility the club will pull out of the play-offs should they qualify. Instead they will probably promote their second team goalkeeper should the need arise rather than look outside the club.

While the final qualifying spot for the provincial play-offs is still undecided, the top two places in the Ulster Premier table will be occupied by Queen's and Lurgan, although in what order is anyone's guess.

Lurgan's 13th successive win has seen them leapfrog Queen's and move two points clear at the top, although the students have a vital game in hand - away to Randalstown on Wednesday night.

Lauren Wright got Lurgan's opener in Ballymoney in first half stoppage time before Chloe McCann sealed the win with 13 minutes left. An intriguing title race looks set to go down to the wire as champions Lurgan are due to face Queen's next week in a game which is likely to decide the destiny of the trophy.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Under 18s wrapped up a 3-0 series win over their French counterparts with a 2-0 victory yesterday.

Ulster girls Nadia Benallal (Banbridge Academy) and Kate Gourley (Lurgan College) were among the scorers in a 5-0 Irish win on Saturday.

Ulster Premier League: Ballymoney 0 Lurgan 2 (L Wright, C McCann)

Under 18 internationals: Saturday: France 0 Ireland 5 (N Benallal, Y Pratt 2, C Matthews, K Gourley)

Yesterday: France 0 Ireland 2 (KJ Marshall 2).

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