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Portadown thrilled to be back in Ulster Premier League

PORTADOWN have clinched promotion back into the Ulster Premier League at the first attempt after their nearest challengers Cookstown surprisingly slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Banbridge at Havelock Park.

Second half goals from Anna Jess, Debbie Smith and Cathy Rees condemned Cookstown to their first defeat since November after they had taken an early lead through Claire Brown.

The Ports, who were relegated after just one season on their return to the top flight in 2012, have set themselves a modest target for the new campaign.

"Survival has to be our objective but I must say that the girls are looking forward to it and that wasn't the case the last time we got promoted," said coach Jane McKimm.

"To have got straight back up was important because we have basically the same squad as we had two seasons ago.

"But we have more experience now and having former Ireland players Jeanette Turner and Alison Vance helping out with coaching and playing has been a great help to me.

"It was a steep learning curve last time we were in the Premier League and one of the lessons we have to take on board is the need to avoid making mistakes and do better at penalty corners at both ends of the pitch."

Despite Cookstown's defeat they are guaranteed the runners up spot and will face a promotion play-off against the side that finishes second bottom in the Premier League table.

However, if new Irish Hockey League proposals were to be given the green light for next season rather than be deferred for 12 months, the top five finishers in the second tier would replace the top five from the top flight.

Belfast Telegraph