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Mills marks his return as Bann stay in title frame

By Graham Hamilton

Fraser Mills marked his comeback from injury by scoring the winning goal as Banbridge maintained their strong position in the EY Irish Hockey League.

Mills has been an absentee from Mark Tumilty's side for a few months following a hand injury, but he made his return at Cork C of I and scored the winner just minutes from time.

The 2-1 success, oddly enough, sees Bann drop to second place in the all-Ireland set-up, because Three Rock Rovers played twice over the weekend and won both to leapfrog them, but with an extra game played.

The return of Mills, though, is a major boost for Bann as they now turn their attention to Sunday's Irish Senior Cup final against Monkstown, the next stage of the EuroHockey League in Eindhoven over Easter, and the run-in for the IHL followed by the end-of-season play-offs.

It has been Johnny McKee and Eugene Magee who have been producing most of Bann's goals this term, as well as defender Matthew Bell from set-pieces, but the addition of a fit-again Mills gives Tumilty another option upfront at an important stage of the season.

It was Dane Ward who put Bann ahead early on in Cork but Julian Dale's penalty corner levelled matters and it needed Mills to be in the right place at the right time to secure the 2-1 win and make the long journey home a lot more pleasant.

Garvey remain in the hunt for honours after James Lorimer's double in a 4-0 home success over Glenanne but it's bad news for Ulster's third all-Ireland club, Instonians, who now look doomed to relegation back to the Ulster Premier League after just one season in the top flight.

They crashed 6-0 on Saturday to Railway Union - who were the team immediately above them at the foot of the table - and then lost 4-1 to Three Rock yesterday afternoon to leave them seven points adrift with just four games remaining.

And those games are against leading teams - the return game against Three Rock who are now top of the table, home to third placed Lisnagarvey, away to fourth placed Cork C of I and away to cup finalists Monkstown.

Most of the issues in the Ulster Premier League are now sorted out - Cookstown were declared champions in midweek and Raphoe are relegated with Campbellians going into a promotion/relegation play-off with the second placed team in Senior One, which could be Antrim.

Annadale's 1-1 draw with Kilkeel on Thursday evening means they can finish runners-up in the Premier League if they win their final two games against North Down and Raphoe.

Meanwhile, North Down have the Irish Hockey Trophy in their possession for the second time after a double from Michael Shannon earned them a 3-2 success over South Antrim in Saturday's final staged at UCD.

Irish Hockey League: Yesterday: Instonians 1 (McClelland) Three Rock 4 (Darling 2, B Walker, C Empey). Saturday: Cork C of I 1 (J Dale) Banbridge 2 (Gilmore, Mills); Lisnagarvey 4 (Lorimer 2, Nelson, Glassey) Glenanne 0; Railway Union 6 (Springett 2, English 2, O'Callaghan, Forrest) Instonians 0; Pembroke 3 (Spain, Shimmins, Sothern) Three Rock 4 (B Walker, J Walker, Madeley, K Mullins); Monkstown 8 (Carson 2, Ward, Cole, Smyth, Cole, Hyland, Lynch) UCD 1 (Duncan)

Ulster Premier League: Campbellians 1 (Bannister) Belfast Harlequins 2 (Hutchinson 2); Kilkeel 4 (D Finlay, J Finlay, Annett, Aiken) Portadown 1 (T Watt); Cookstown 5 (Kerr 2, Thompson, Allen, Millar) Newry 1 (McWilliams); Raphoe 3 (Tinney, Witherow, Wauchope) Civil Service 4 (Barnes 3, Armstrong)

Senior One: Queen's 3 Bangor 0

Irish Hockey Trophy final: North Down 3 (Shannon 2, D Shepherd) South Antrim 2 (Brown 2)

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