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Ulster say sorry to Premier League champions Lurgan over no-show at title win

 

By John Flack

Ulster Hockey has issued an apology to Lurgan for not having an office-bearer on hand to present the Premier League trophy to the club after its title triumph this week.

Some players were disappointed that there was no official presentation after the 1-0 home win over Mossley on Wednesday.

Ulster Hockey executive manager Jill Poots said: "I can confirm that regrettably there was no representative at the match to present the trophy.

"The Ulster Hockey president attended the match between Queen's and Lurgan on Monday evening with a view to presenting the Premier League trophy, had a winner emerged on that night.

"The president unfortunately was not available to attend the Wednesday night match which had been arranged at late notice and, despite efforts to find a replacement, none of those approached were available at short notice.

"We have apologised to Lurgan and would like to congratulate them on winning the Premier League title for the third time in a row."

Lurgan will carry Ulster's best hopes of success at the provincial play-offs in Cork in a fortnight's time after their latest title success.

The tournament acts as a qualifier for next season's EY Irish Hockey League and, as a reward for their Ulster triumph, captain Sarah McClure (pictured) and her team have a bye into the final eliminator and so avoid this weekend's wild-card play-offs in Dublin.

While Penny Joyce's fourth-minute goal clinched Lurgan the title on Wednesday night, Dungannon booked their place in this weekend's first phase of the provincial play-offs.

Their 1-1 draw with Randalstown was enough to pip Ballymoney - who lost 3-2 at Banbridge - to the final qualifying berth.

Queen's had already progressed before being denied the title by Lurgan's win over Mossley but now the students and Dungannon have to do it the hard way, starting with four matches in two days at Alexandra College in Dublin this weekend.

Only the overall winners go through to join Lurgan and the other provincial champions in two weeks' time.

With Queen's being without several injury victims, and Dungannon making their debut in the provincial play-offs, it's the newly crowned champions who look best placed to progress to the all-Ireland top flight set-up.

In addition to having an extra week off to prepare and recharge the batteries, Lurgan are in a rich vein of form.

They have won 17 and drawn two league games since losing to Queen's on the season's opening day.

Coach Robbie McMinn said: "We have two weeks before heading to Cork and I have no doubt it will be a great event.

"We will give it a good go and see what happens.

"Ideally you want to win it but second place gives a team a very good opportunity in a one-off promotion-relegation play-off, probably against Trinity.

"It's our third season reaching the play-offs and we have gotten closer year on year, losing to Loreto and then to Belfast Harlequins in the promotion game, so, maybe this time we can make it."

Meanwhile, North Down remain a point behind Portadown at the bottom of the Ulster Premier League table following a 7-0 defeat by Ulster Elks.

Portadown have two away games to play, against Mossley this evening and against Banbridge on Wednesday while the Comber side have home games coming up against Banbridge on Wednesday evening and Rainey on Saturday afternoon.

In the EY Irish Hockey League, Ards kept alive their slim chances of reaching the Irish Champions Trophy end-of-season play-offs at Banbridge with a 2-1 win over Belfast Harlequins at Londonderry Park.

Irish international striker Chloe Brown hit both Ards goals before Jenny McAuley's late reply.

Belfast Telegraph

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