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Ulster sides set the pace as league is put on hold

By Graham Hamilton

Lisnagarvey and Banbridge are sitting joint top of the EY Irish Hockey League as the all-Ireland programme moves into a three-week break.

Bann were missing five regulars yesterday but two goals from Jonny McKee and a late winner from Eugene Magee saw them came from behind to beat Cork C of I by 3-2.

It means they maintain their lofty position, level on 23 points with Ulster rivals Garvey but marginally behind on goal difference, although they have a vital game in hand after Saturday's home game against Glenanne was frost-bound.

Garvey shunted Railway Union aside on Saturday with Neal Glassey and Matthew Nelson both getting hat-tricks in an 8-2 romp, and with international striker Timmy Cockram returning after a prolonged break, there was a huge smile on coach Errol Lutton's face.

It was crucial for Bann to win yesterday's clash with Cork and with goalkeeper Gareth Lennox, defenders Matthew Bell and Drew Carlisle, and forwards Fraser Mills and Jamie Wright unavailable for a variety of reasons, they faced a huge task.

Julian Dale converted Cork's second penalty corner on the stroke of half-time, but Jonny McKee struck twice either side of the three-quarter mark to turn things round.

Stephen Sweetnam levelled matters with a deflection but Magee's late winner sent Bann players delirious and now they can turn their attention to the Irish Senior Cup - against the same opposition next week - when they should have some of those absentees back in action again.

Neal Glassey's first hat-trick in Garvey colours came in the first half against Railway and Matthew Nelson completed his treble in the second half as the Blues ran riot.

Three Rock Rovers have climbed to fourth after a 6-1 drubbing of UCD with Monkstown down to fifth after their match with Instonians was called off following the untimely death of Peter Tipping.

Inst, though, were pleased that the two teams above them at the foot of the table - Railway and UCD - both lost heavily.

The frost curtailed the Ulster Premier League programme, with leaders Cookstown and second placed Annadale failing to get games, and that gave third placed Kilkeel the opportunity to leapfrog them both - and they did that in style.

William Annett returned for the Mourne men for the first time this season and was among the goalscorers as they beat Belfast Harlequins 3-0.

A brace of goals from Alex Tinney enabled bottom club Raphoe to close the gap on the pack with a 4-2 success over Campbellians while Bangor made some ground on Senior One leaders Antrim and South Antrim, whose games were postponed, by beating Queen's 3-2.

EY Irish Hockey League: Yesterday: Banbridge 3 (J McKee 2, E Magee) Cork C of I 2 (J Dale, Sweetnam); Saturday: Lisnagarvey 8 (N Glassey 3, M Nelson 3, J Lorimer, A Williamson) Railway 2 (M English 2); Pembroke 0 Cork C of I 2 (J Jermyn 2); Three Rock 6 (L Madeley 3, M Darling 3) UCD 1 (B Campbell)

Premier League: Raphoe 4 (A Tinney 2, A Meehan, I McGonigle) Campbellians 2 (J Easlie, S Moore); Kilkeel 3 (E Agnew, J Aiken, W Annett) Belfast Harlequins 0

Senior One: Cliftonville 5 (N McKimm 2, D Hurley, M McParland, C Mitchell) Armagh 1 (M Russell); Bangor 3 (D Edwards, R Burgess, A Martin) Queen's 2 (R Kelly, M Warnock)

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