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Struggling Newry hockey give survival hopes a boost

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Out of reach: Andy Christie of Portrush shields the ball from Queen’s ace Simon MacLeod

Out of reach: Andy Christie of Portrush shields the ball from Queen’s ace Simon MacLeod

Out of reach: Andy Christie of Portrush shields the ball from Queen’s ace Simon MacLeod

Two teams from opposite ends of the province - Newry and Portrush - had big cause to celebrate over the weekend as they chalked up wins that could turn their respective seasons around.

Border club Newry have struggled since promotion to Ulster's top flight but a single-goal success over Belfast Harlequins on Saturday means they now have two wins on the trot and have moved out of the dreaded relegation zone.

And Portrush have also struggled badly since promotion to Senior One but Saturday's 2-1 success at Queen's in the Irish Hockey Trophy is just the tonic they need to try to pull away from the trouble area after Christmas.

First that win for Newry against fellow strugglers Harlequins, which was their second six-pointer success in a row and took them up three places to seventh.

Coach Robbie Taylor was pleased and felt his players deserved credit, particularly as he is working with a small squad.

"It has been a harsh start to life in the top flight," he admits. "But, realistically, there is a top half to this league and a bottom half, and we must focus on winning games against those at our end.

"I think we've deserved those wins, and it should give the lads some belief."

It was Robbie's son John who scored the vital goal against Quins, his penalty corner conversion coming in the 16th minute.

They did have a scare at the end when the visitors won a penalty corner which was taken three times, but the border boys survived and now look forward to a return trip to Mossley next week.

There was one other basement clash in the Premier League on Saturday with Civil Service and Mossley drawing 1-1 while there were also wins for Banbridge, Lisnagarvey and Instonians at the top of the table.

Needless to say, it was Stephen Dowds who was Bann's hero, claiming yet another hat-trick with two penalty conversions and one from open play in a slender 3-2 win over Annadale to take his tally to 45 this season.

The Dale gave Bann a fright, though, with Richard Kerrigan's penalty corner and Connor Allison's effort keeping them in the frame until the end.

Meanwhile, four Ulster clubs will go into the hat for the Irish Hockey Trophy's second round draw, with Portrush taking pride of place.

The newly-promoted Senior One side have managed just one win from seven league games as they adjust to the higher level but their 2-1 win at Queen's on Saturday has given them a boost.

Leon Smith and Aaron Kerr scored their goals in an unexpected win and now they're hoping to build on that over the coming weeks.

GOC Estate Agents Premier League: Kilkeel 2 (J Finlay, E Agnew) Lisnagarvey 5 (S Murray, D Nelson, J Lorimer, J Dowling, A Williamson); Cookstown 0 Instonians 3 (W Robinson 2, S McNeice); Newry 1 (J Taylor) Belfast Harlequins 0; Civil Service 1 (G Grundie) Mossley 1 (N Glassey); Banbridge 3 (S Dowds 3) Annadale 2 (R Kerrigan, C Allison).

Irish Hockey Trophy 1st round: Antrim 0 North Down 4 (R Poots 2, P Wilson, G Bailie); Raphoe 2 (M Leckey 2) Campbellians 0; Queen's 1 (M McCoy) Portrush 2 (L Smith, A Kerr); Bangor 1 (J Trimble) Clontarf 3; Catholic Institute 0 South Antrim 8 (C Henry 2, P Maguire 2, N Gamble 2, M Getty 2); Bandon 4 Portadown 1 (S Johnston); Kilkenny 4 Limerick 1; Ashton 1 Fingal 5.

Belfast Telegraph


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