Ulster clubs to miss out on Europe next season
Ulster won't have any representation in next year's European club men's event for the first time since the 2014/15 season after Lisnagarvey's gut-wrenching last minute defeat in the EY Irish Champions Trophy finals weekend in Dublin.
And the news isn't much better on the women's front, as the province's representatives, Pegasus, also fell at the semi-final stage after a disappointing show in the shoot-out against Loreto.
The good news came from Cookstown men who retained their place in the EY Irish Hockey League's top flight for next season by beating Bangor 4-0 in the Promotion/Relegation play-off at Shaw's Bridge yesterday.
Garvey's defeat came when Three Rock's Luke Madeley powered home a drag-flick penalty corner with literally the last touch of the game to make it 2-1 for the hosts.
It was devastating for Garvey who had edged the first half, went behind when Harry Morris deflected in Richard Pautz's cross and then levelled through Matthew Nelson who met Neal Glassey's reverse at the back post.
Three Rock emulated that late show when they beat Glenanne 2-1 in yesterday's final with Jody Hosking scoring the winner with 30 seconds remaining.
Cookstown came good in their play-off after Greg Allen gave them the lead when he converted a penalty stroke.
And further goals soon followed from Danny Kerr, following a penalty corner variation, Scott McCabe who deflected in Allen's reverse, and Timmy Sloan after a counter-attack.
"I'm really proud of the way the guys got stuck into the game," said Cookstown captain Godfrey Irwin.
"We've been up against it this season in many ways, but the guys stuck to the task and never let the heads dip."
Pegasus were left contemplating what might have been after Loreto defeated Cork Harlequins 2-1 in yesterday's final - the Ulster team missed out on a place in the decider after a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat to the Munster side following the 2-2 draw in the semi-final. Pegasus captain Alex Speers believes it's time her team kicked on after failing to deliver a trophy in a season of mixed fortunes.
"When you get into big games like that, you want to win them and, unfortunately, we weren't able to do that so we now want to take the next step."
Saturday's result means Pegasus now face the prospect of a fourth successive year without European hockey.
Old Alex defeated Trinity 2-1 in yesterday's play-off to secure promotion to the top flight.
Meanwhile, Ballymena will play in the Ulster Premier League for the first time next season after a 2-1 win over North Down in the promotion-relegation play-off at Mossley.
Men's EY Irish Champions Trophy semi-finals: Lisnagarvey 1 (M Nelson) Three Rock Rovers 2 (H Morris, L Madeley); Glenanne 3 (S O'Donoghue 2, S Boucher) Pembroke Wanderers 0
EY Champions Trophy final: Glenanne 1 (S Boucher) Three Rock Rovers 2 (P Blakeney, J Hosking)
EY Irish Hockey League Promotion/Relegation Play-Off: Cookstown 4 (G Allen, D Kerr, S McCabe, T Sloan) Bangor 0
Women's EY Irish Champions Trophy semi-finals: Cork Harlequins 2 (M Barry 2) Pegasus 2 (S Thompson, S McCay) (Cork won 3-1 on penalties); Loreto 1 (A Meeke) UCD 0
Final: Cork Harlequins 1 (M Barry) Loreto 2 (N Daly, M Jennings)
IHL Promotion/Relegation Play-Off: Old Alex 2 (L Jacob, S Roopnarinesingh) Trinity 1 (N Sweeney)
Ulster Premier Promotion/Relegation Play-Off: Ballymena 2 (R Reynolds, C Gillespie) North Down 1 (O Brown).