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Ulster rivals maintain push for league glory


Great stop: Gareth Lennox saves for Banbridge in the exciting 4-4 draw with Lisnagarvey at Havelock Park

Great stop: Gareth Lennox saves for Banbridge in the exciting 4-4 draw with Lisnagarvey at Havelock Park

Great stop: Gareth Lennox saves for Banbridge in the exciting 4-4 draw with Lisnagarvey at Havelock Park

The Irish Hockey League's big Ulster derby between Banbridge and Lisnagarvey certainly lived up to its top billing when they shared eight goals in a thriller in front of a big crowd under the Havelock Park floodlights.

But the excitement and quality of play between the fierce rivals turned out to be just one of the talking points over the weekend, as the other Ulster derby between Instonians and Annadale ended in controversy while Cookstown snatched a tremendous draw against all-Ireland champions Monkstown in Dublin.

Yes, there was plenty to mull over on the third round of fixtures in the IHL and with just two rounds to go - there's a big gap until February 7 and March 21 - there are still a lot teams in contention for the semi-finals and final in mid-April.

First the 4-4 draw between Bann and Garvey which saw the Blues lead twice before going 4-2 down and then scoring twice late on to snatch a draw at the home of their rivals.

Andy Williamson put Garvey ahead after 21 minutes only for Bruce McCandless to level it two minutes later and when Sean Murray restored Garvey's lead it took Stephen Dowds just two minutes to square it up.

When Matthew Bell and Dowds converted penalty corners for Bann it seemed all over, but Timmy Cockram gave Garvey a lifeline and Steven Arbuthnot finished the job to leave it level.

With Three Rock crushing UCD 5-1, they move to the top of Pool B, two points ahead of the Ulster duo - but the Dubliners have to come to Bann and Garvey in the run-in.

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The controversial ending to the Instonians-Annadale derby dominated Pool B.

The umpires blew the final whistle with the scores at 1-1 but Inst still had their prolongated penalty corner to take and it was saved.

But there were claims that the ball had hit a foot on the line, counter-claims that it didn't, and the outcome after a considerable amount of arguing was that a further penalty corner to Inst after the umpires had consulted and Chris Campbell was red-carded.

As fate would have it, Mark Irwin deflected the ball home to give Inst a valuable 2-1 win but the bonus losing point was of little comfort to Annadale who felt that matters had gone against them.

With Cookstown shocking current IHL champions Monkstown in their own backyard with a 1-1 draw, Pool A remains wide open, although a lot will depend on the outcome of the delayed Pembroke-Monkstown game.

At domestic level, Newry got their first win of the season in the GOC Estate Agents Premier League when they beat Mossley 3-1 to move off the foot of the table.

And in Senior One South Antrim made it seven straight wins with a 2-1 success at Queen's, although Portadown and Campbellians both won too to keep the pressure on.

Finally, the Sussex Regiment Cup final will be between Ballymena and Cliftonville after they won their respective semi-finals at Deramore.

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