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McKee's rich vein of form warrants a World call-up

By Graham Hamilton

When Irish coach Craig Fulton names his squad this afternoon for the World League 2 series which starts in Belfast in 12 days time, it seems he will have virtually none of his attack from the Rio Olympics available due to injury or work commitments.

So when it comes to scoring goals, then surely he'll have to pencil in Banbridge's in-form striker Johnny McKee if the Green Machine is to come through the Stormont series successfully and reach the final qualifying process for the 2018 World Cup finals.

McKee has been in tremendous form, particularly since the turn of the year when he has scored 11 in seven games in 2017 and 15 altogether for the season.

He's marginally ahead of Pembroke's Alan Sothern at the top of the IHL scoring charts, which also takes in Irish Senior Cup games, and he proved his worth again to his club Banbridge with another brace as Mark Tumilty's side beat Pembroke 4-1 to leave them top of the league ahead of the month's break due to international commitments.

Eugene Magee and Ross Beattie got Bann's other goals to keep them two points ahead of Three Rock Rovers who came from two goals down to beat Monkstown 3-2, and three points ahead of Lisnagarvey who crushed Cork C of I 6-1.

Garvey certainly haven't given up the chase, and they too have an in-form striker for Fulton to seriously consider for the World series - Matthew Nelson.

The former Wallace High forward nabbed another two as the Munster side crumbled under pressure in the first half.

Instonians, though, failed to get anything from their trip to Dublin, losing 4-0 at Glenanne, and with UCD winning 3-2 at Railway Union, it means the Belfast side are five points adrift with games starting to run out.

Cookstown, Kilkeel and Annadale, who are separated by just one point at the top of the Ulster Premier League, weren't in action over the weekend, but chasing Belfast Harlequins and Portadown both lost and now have no chance of reaching the end-of-season IHL play-offs.

It was Campbellians who beat Quins and it was Mossley who beat the Ports - both by 2-0 scorelines - and in each case it eases their relegation worries.

Top marksmen for the day were Civil Service's Chris Barnes, and Bangor's Michael Riordan, who bagged four goals each against Raphoe and Armagh respectively.

Meanwhile Antrim completed their Senior One programme on 33 points with a 2-1 win over Cliftonville, but high-scoring South Antrim can still catch them with two games to play. The South reached the Irish Hockey Trophy final on Saturday with a 4-0 win at Queen's and they will now meet fellow Ulster Club North Down who came through on penalty strokes after a 3-3 draw in Limerick.

EY Irish Hockey League: Banbridge 4 (J McKee 2, E Magee, R Beattie) Pembroke Wanderers 1 (A Sothern); Lisnagarvey 6 (M Nelson 2, D Buser, S Murray, J Lorimer, T Cockram) Cork C of I 1 (A Gray); Glenanne 4 (S O'Donoghue 2, R Couse, G Shaw) Instonians 0; Railway Union 2 (R Devlin, P Catchpole) UCD 3 (J Duncan, B Campbell, B McCrea); Three Rock Rovers 3 (L Madeley 2, K Mullins) Monkstown 2 (G Watkins, K Good)

Ulster Premier League: Civil Service 5 (C Barnes 4, T Priestley) Raphoe 2 (L Witherow, A Tinney); Mossley 2 (S Todd, J Robinson) Portadown 0; Belfast Harlequins 0 Campbellians 2 (A Brown, J Easlie)

Senior One: Antrim 2 (A McBride, J McMeekin) Cliftonville 1 (M McParland); Armagh 1 (M Gray) Bangor 11 (M Riordan 4, R Burgess 3, D McClune 2, J McKee 2)

Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals: Queen's 0 South Antrim 4; Limerick 3 North Down 3 (M Shannon, R Dornan, J Gilmore) North Down won 4-3 on penalty strokes

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