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Pembroke and Garvey eyeing up treble on Irish Senior Cup final day

Pembroke and Lisnagarvey will look to add the third trophy of potential triples on Saturday as the Irish Senior Cup finals return to Belfield for the first time since 2018.

They won the respective EY Hockey League and EY Champions Trophy finals and now have Catholic Institute and Monkstown standing in the way of a national clean-sweep.

First on court, Pembroke will be looking to repeat last Sunday’s comprehensive success against Insta in which they produced a wonderful display of tight defence allied to a speedy counter-attacking.

A feature has been the spread of goalscorers, 16 different players weighing in with none scoring more than six. It’s a stat which makes it difficult for opponents to know where to defend according to Gillian Pinder.

“Sure, when you have so many people scoring goals, who do you pick up!” Pinder said. “It’s a great problem to have. We were never reliant on one or two individuals to make sure we get the win!”

For Catholic Institute, it has already been a groundbreaking season and they would dearly love to bring a first senior title back to Rosbrien.

“Our club has been to two Irish Senior Cup finals in the past [in 1979 and 1984] and yet to win any,” said captain Róisín Upton. “I don’t think the idea we are in Europe has sunk in yet. When we reflect on the season, we will be delighted. A final of the Champions Trophy and a final of the cup, it is a fantastic achievement for our little club in Limerick.”

In the men’s final, reigning champions Garvey are hoping to land a 25th title but they face a Monkstown side who pushed them to the limit last Saturday in the Champions Trophy semi-final.

Indeed, the Dubliners had one foot in the final with three minutes to go courtesy of Jeremy Duncan’s second half goal. But a stunning late salvo from Andy Williamson and Matthew Nelson with just seconds to go saw the Hillsborough side nab a 2-1 victory from the embers.

Matthew Nelson celebrates his winning goal against Monkstown Pic: Adrian Boehm

They followed up a day later with a shoot-out win over Banbridge in the final; having won the regular league season on goal difference from Three Rock Rovers, it shows how tight the margins are in the men’s top five but Garvey seemingly hold that vital mental edge in a clinch.

And they could conceivably win five titles if they win the Ulster Kirk Cup and the EuroHockey Club Challenge I in the Czech Republic in June.

“To win these two trophies and a massive test against Monkstown, to have that opportunity for the treble is fantastic,” said Daniel Nelson in the wake of the Champions Trophy.

“An Ulster Cup final and a European trip after that! Everyone thinks our season is almost done but we still have a month to go!”

Monkstown, meanwhile, are looking to score their first trophy since 2016 and fifth Senior Cup overall. Their opponent that day? Lisnagarvey with Jonny Bruton striking in the last 90 seconds to earn a shoot-out in which the sky-blues prevailed.

They have eight of that panel still around but Guy Sarratt was unavailable last weekend, their top scorer a big miss from play and corners.

Saturday 30th April 2022
Men
Irish Senior Cup Final:
Monkstown v Lisnagarvey, Belfield, 3.45pm

Women
Irish Senior Cup Final:
Pembroke Wanderers v Catholic Institute, Belfield, 1.30pm

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Irish men’s panel named for coming months as Paris 2024 groundwork begins

Mark Tumilty has named a 25-strong central squad to work with for the coming months ahead of a busy summer as the squad lays the groundwork for the Road to Paris 2024.

The squad ramps up its regional training sessions next week in the wake of the Irish Senior Cup final and will have their first camp of the summer program from May 13th to 15th.

The key event during the summer will be August’s EuroHockey Championship qualifier while there is also the FIH Nations Cup scheduled for December.

It is an important phase as the Green Machine look to get into position for the Olympic qualifiers which will take place in a new, tournament-based format in early 2024.

The panel features four uncapped players with Banbridge Academy schoolboy Charlie Rowe the youngest of the group following an exceptional season for school, province and club. His twin brother Louis has also been included in the Ulster regional training group.

Three Rock Rovers player of the season Ben Johnson, Donegal man Luke Witherow – who plies his trade with Banbrdge – and Lisnagarvey’s Jonny Lynch are also fresh faces looking to make their senior debuts.

Nick Page is looking to pick up his first formal cap having played a role in a number of challenge matches last summer in green. He enjoyed a strong club season with Old Geogrians – alongside Kyle Marshall – as the club won the English Premier Division for the first time.

There are five Belgian-based players involved. Ben Walker will link up with the panel following the playoffs with Braxgata while KHC Leuven quartet Luke Madeley, Daragh Walsh, Sean Murray and Jaime Carr also had strong seasons with a club who finished fifth in the Ion League.

Conor Empey, meanwhile, has been firing in the goals in the Dutch Hoofdklasse – world hockey’s strongest club league – with eight for SCHC. It is the highest total for an Irish player in a season in the competition.

Domestic champions Lisnagarvey provide four of the central panel: James Milliken, Mark McNellis, Peter McKibbin and Lynch. Milliken will vye for the goalkeeping duties with Carr and Pembroke’s Mark Ingram.

Michael Robson is the most experienced player in the panel and the link to the 2016 Olympic squad with 123 caps. His younger brother Callum and Tim Cross make up a trio of Annadale players.

Monkstown’s Jeremy Duncan and Crefelder HTC’s Neal Glassey are two more with extensive know-how while Glenanne’s Sam O’Connor, UCD’s Kevin O’Dea and YMCA’s Sam Hyland will look to forge ever-more prominent roles with the side.

Currently, David and Conor Harte (family reasons), Lee Cole, Shane O’Donoghue and David Fitzgerald (work commitments) and Matthew Nelson (travelling) are taking a break from the program but will potentially rejoin the panel in 2022 or early 2023.

Ireland senior men’s national training panel:
Jaime Carr (KHC Leuven, 40)
James Milliken (Lisnagarvey, 6)
Mark Ingram (Pembroke, 28)
Tim Cross (Annadale, 25)
Mark McNellis (Lisnagarvey, 6)
Luke Madeley (KHC Leuven, 26)
Kyle Marshall (Old Georgians, 10)
Neil Glassey (Crefelder HTC, 70)
Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey, 11)
Sam O’Connor (Glenanne, 14)
Sean Murray (KHC Leuven, 88)
Daragh Walsh (KHC Leuven, 61)
Michael Robson (Annadale, 123)
Kevin O’Dea (UCD, 7)
Nick Page (Old Georgians, 0)
Luke Witherow (Banbridge, 0)
Ben Walker (Braxgata, 45)
Johnny McKee (Banbridge, 52)
Callum Robson (Annadale, 3)
Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown, 66)
Conor Empey (SCHC, 5)
Sam Hyland (YMCA, 5)
Ben Johnson (Three Rock Rovers, 0)
Charlie Rowe (Banbridge, 0)
Jonny Lynch (Lisnagarvey, 0)

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Lisnagarvey in dreamland with part two of potential treble

Men’s EY Champions Trophy
Lisnagarvey 2 (J Lorimer, D Nelson) Banbridge 2 (J McKee, E Magee), Lisnagarvey win shoot-out 3-1

Daniel Nelson and James Milliken combined to send Lisnagarvey into raptures as they broke home Havelock Park hearts with a shoot-out win over Banbridge in the men’s EY Champions Trophy final.

Nothing separated the sides in their two league encounters and there was absolutely nothing between the sides once more following a cracking contest in front of a large Co Down crowd.

In normal time, Lisnagarvey led twice in the first half with James Lorimer’s drag-flick and a gorgeous Daniel Nelson finish putting them 2-1 up at half-time, Jonny McKee’s individual effort getting Bann on the board.

The hosts fought back brilliantly in the second half and forced a shoot-out when Eugene Magee volleyed in a corner rebound, sending the game to a shoot-out. Garvey, though, held their nerve and scored three of their four attempts, Nelson spinning to turn in the winning goal.

For Banbridge, it continues their frustration on finals day with the club losing out on the national stage for a fifth time in the last decade since their 2011 success. They will travel to Europe next season as Ireland’s second seed with Garvey the top seed and they will look to complete a treble next weekend in the Irish Senior Cup final against Monkstown.

For Daniel Nelson, the eldest of three brothers in action, he could not contain his excitement: “Unbelievable! Can’t put it into words. We lost this playoff three years ago and then with Covid, it has been a long time coming to get back to this point and this opportunity.

“To score in normal time, get the winning shoot-out, it is just unbelievable. Full credit to all the other boys – I get the glory but we wouldn’t be there without them and without all James Milliken’s fantastic saves. We are over the moon.”

For Garvey, it saw them add to the EY Hockey League title won three weeks ago on the final day of the season. Had it not been for Covid, that would have been three in a row as the curtailed 2019/20 season denied them that title when only a miracle would have seen them not finish first.

That scenario has added to the emotion of this success.

“We had a fantastic league win [in 2019] and were doing fantastically well in 2020 and then Covid hit; obviously bigger things came along than hockey. We always call this a 2.5-peat rather than a three-peat.

“To win these two trophies and a massive test against Monkstown next week, to have that opportunity for the treble is fantastic. An Ulster Cup final and a European trip after that! Everyone thinks our season is done but we still have a month to go!”

For Bann’s Alex Tinney, it was a unique occasion. Along with Garvey’s James Corry, it was the first time both clubs in the final had been captained by Donegal men.

The Banbridge home support. Pic: Max Fulham

“A tough defeat and a shoot-out is an unfortunate way to go out but we gave it our best shot,” Tinney said.

“The first five games, we only had five points and there was a lot of doubt in the squad nevermind the management. No one would ever thought we would be here but we will be back next year and fighting.”

Garvey made most of the early moves with Matthew Nelson’s spin shot bouncing just wide while Luke Roleston made an outstanding scrambling save.

The goal came in the 14th minute from their second penalty corner with James Lorimer’s drag having too much gas for Roleston into the left corner.

Garvey levelled, though, from their first major attack as Jonny McKee brilliantly robbed the ball on the right sideline. He drifted further and further left to get free before eventually unleashing a brilliant shot into the top corner.

The Hillsborough side, however, returned to the lead just before half-time in stunning fashion. Bann had a corner charged down which Lorimer filtered out to Ben Nelson. He had options left and right, picking his older brother Daniel who calmly feigned to pass across goal before lifting the ball in at the near post for 2-1.

Banbridge duly stepped up their press and intensity in the second half and it paid dividends with most of the play. Garvey were standing firm for the most part, Jonny Bell picking up huge amounts of ball in defence.

The pressure eventually told in the fourth quarter from their fifth corner, Philip Brown’s drag drawing a save from Milliken but only as far as Eugene Magee who controlled and volleyed in.

It sent the game to a shoot-out where Garvey soon took control, moving 2-0 up in the first two rounds with Milliken saving twice. McKee did get Bann on the board but they missed out in round four, allowing Daniel Nelson the chance to spin and whip home the clinching goal.

Lisnagarvey: J Milliken, J Lynch, J Bell, M McNellis, J Corry, A Williamson, D Nelson, A Edgar, M Nelson, T Chambers
Subs: P McKibbin, R Getty, O Kidd, H Morris, B Nelson

Banbridge: L Roleston, L Witherow, A Tinney, J McKee, Pe Brown, D Finlay, E Magee, Ph Brown, S Farson, M Cowan, C Rowe
Subs: H McShane, J Moffett, B Pollock, O Magee, M McKee

Umpires: B Bale, I Strange

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Brilliant Pembroke land their first ever women’s EY Champions Trophy title

Women’s EY Champions Trophy final
Pembroke 4 (S Loughran, A Griffin, E Horan, M McCready) Catholic Institute 1 (N Carroll)

Pembroke produced a perfect all-round team performance to add a first EY Champions Trophy title to the regular season crown to the regular season league title won a month ago.

Again, the season’s other breakout club Catholic Institute were runners-up who have to console themselves with a place in Europe and a quick revenge-mission next Saturday in the Irish Senior Cup final.

It was a win built around an outstanding first 10 minutes in which Sinead Loughran and Ali Griffin both netted and while Naomi Carroll got one back with a late goal of the season contender, Eanna Horan made it 3-1 at half-time before Martha McCready sealed the deal.

“It feels pretty incredible. It is an amazing journey we have been on for the last couple of years,” said Pembroke captain Gillian Pinder. She became a unique figure in club history, winning national honours with three different clubs following success with Hermes and UCD.

She said it was quite the journey for Pembroke who were competing in their first national final of any description in eight years. With the EY Hockey League title last month their first since 1975, they now have two in the bag and a potential treble in the pipeline when they meet Institute against next Saturday in the Irish Senior Cup final at Belfield.

“To take ourselves from flirting with relegation to mid-table and now into the top couple of teams, to be trophy winners is unbelievable and a dream come true for a few years of hard work.

“We haven’t had that experience before. We did really well to win the league as a consistent side but this is do-or-die and, yesterday, Loreto find themselves in finals weekends year-in, year-out. We did incredibly well to stay composed and do the same thing again today against Catholic Institute. We are delighted with a double and have our sights on a triple next week.”

For Insta’s Róisín Upton – named afterward as the player of the season – she said: “Tough way to bow out in the final but Pembroke were super clinical, catching us on the break in that first quarter. We dug deep and fought back but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Naomi Carroll on the attack. Pic: Max Fulham

“When we reflect on the season, we are delighted. A final of the Champions Trophy and a final of the cup, it is a fantastic achievement for our little club in Limerick.”

The final itself was guaranteed to produce a first time winner with Pembroke’s 3-1 win over Loreto and Insta’s 3-2 success against UCD meaning both clubs reached the final in their first attempt at the playoffs.

Pembroke got off to a flyer in normal time with Loughran striking just four minutes in from a cracking counter-attack move and it was 2-0 with Ali Griffin netting again in the ninth minute.

Insta got back into the contest when Upton’s glorious overhead found her partner in crime Naomi Upton at the right post to bat in a head-high volley, cutting the gap to 2-1.

But no sooner had they halved the deficit than Pembroke bounced back. Emily Beatty made all the inroads before laying the ball off to Eanna Horan and she swiped home a reverse-stick shot by Pam Smithwick.

Smithwick’s brilliant save from Aisling Naughton in the second half kept Insta alive as the speedy forward caused all manor of havoc but the game was done and dusted when Rachel O’Brien got around the right baseline. She slipped a great pass to Martha McCready to push in her second goal of the season, a clincher with 12 minutes to go.

Pembroke: E Buckley, L McGuire, A-K Trevor, S Loughran, E Beatty, O Macken, E Curran, R O’Brien, A Naughton, I Delamer, G Pinder
Subs: E Horan, A Griffin, H O’Donnell, C Foley, M McCready

Catholic Institute: P Smithwick, C O’Shea, N Carroll, R Upton, L Clery, L Foley, C Moloney, H Kelly, E Ryan, M Barrett, A Horan
Subs: A Hickey, B Murphy, A Bourke, L Ryan, J Clein

Umpires: A Keogh, E Duffy

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Insta, Pembroke, Lisnagarvey and Banbridge through to EY Champions Trophy finals

Dramatic late goals were the order of the day as both Catholic Institute and Lisnagarvey scored in the last 10 seconds of their EY Champions Trophy semi-finals to reach Sunday’s decider.

For Institute, it put them through to the women’s final, bringing with it a first ever European place in 2023 as they beat UCD 3-2 at Banbridge’s Havelock Park.

Carroll finished off a hotly contested move with UCD claiming two indiscretions in the lead-up to the goal but, after a long umpire’s consultation, the goal stood and the Limerick side added another big milestone to their breakthrough season.

Earlier, the tie was scoreless before a mad spell of four goals in six minutes in the third quarter ratcheted up the intensity.

Hannah Kelly opened the scoring for Insta but her twin sister Rachel, in UCD colours, levelled almost immediately. Laura Foley’s penalty corner deflection was cancelled out by a Hannah McLoughlin stroke in a mad-cap spell.

It remained that way until the very last play when Carroll finished off with just two seconds showing on the venue’s clock, leaving UCD crest-fallen.

In the first semi-final, two goals within a minute of each other were vital for Pembroke as the regular season champions beat Loreto 3-1.

An even first half saw Lisa Mulcahy score her first EY goal of the season to cancel out Claire Foley’s opener for Pembroke.

But Rachel O’Brien and Emily Beatty both netted just before the end of the third quarter for a lead they would never relinquish.

Pembroke will now hope to complete part two of a potential treble on Sunday at 2.30pm when they meet Catholic Institute in the final at Havelock. Either way, the competition will have a new winner with both sides contesting this national final for the first time.

In the men’s semis, Lisnagarvey produced an outrageous comeback in the last three minutes to deny outsiders Monkstown a place in the final with a 2-1 success.

It was scoreless until 12 minutes from the end when Town took the lead through Davy Carson. But they were unable to hold onto that advantage as Andy Williamson smashed in an equaliser with three minutes left on the clock.

And they were not finished yet with Matthew Nelson swopping following a brilliant run and spin-pass from his brother Ben to snatch the vital goal with nine seconds to go.

The regular season winners will now play Banbridge who dethroned Three Rock Rovers who had held the trophy since 2017.

It went to shoot-out after normal time ended 2-2 with all the goals coming before half-time. Luke Witherow finished off a Mark Cowan assist four minutes in as the hosts started off brilliantly and it was 2-0 courtesy of Josh Moffett, youngster Matthew McKee making the initial inroads.

Rovers fought back, though, and scored twice despite James Walker being in the sin-bin with Ben Johnson and Evan Jennings tying it up.

In the second half, Rovers had the best openings to win it in normal time but they could not further use of a series of penalty corners.

Bann, meanwhile, kept their nerve better in the shoot-out to win 3-1 and advance to Sunday’s final, an all-Ulster affair.

Women’s EY Champions Trophy semi-finals: Pembroke 3 (C Foley, R O’Brien, E Beatty) Loreto 1 (L Mulcahy); Catholic Institute 3 (H Kelly, L Foley, N Carroll) UCD 2 (R Kelly, H McLoughlin)

Men’s EY Champions Trophy semi-finals: Lisnagarvey 2 (A Williamson, M Nelson) Monkstown 1 (D Carson); Three Rock Rovers 2 (B Johnson, E Jennings) Banbridge 2 (L Witherow, J Moffett), Banbridge win shoot-out 3-1

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Hockey Ireland opens application process for CEO

Hockey Ireland is a non-profit, membership-based organisation recognised by Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland as the National Governing Body for all Field and Indoor disciplines of the sport on the island of Ireland.

Hockey Ireland is affiliated to both the European and International Hockey Federations (EHF & FIH).

There is currently c. 42,000 registered members and c. 155-160 registered clubs throughout the country.

Hockey Ireland is now looking to appoint a CEO.

THE POSITION

The CEO will be expected to understand all stakeholders’ needs, particularly those of our extensive club network which supports our players, coaches, and officials. In order to ensure our continued development and growth you will have the ability to manage a complex portfolio of organisational responsibilities that include developing and delivering on the vision, mission, strategic direction, and goals of the organisation.

The CEO will have overall accountability, responsibility, and authority for the management of the business and affairs of Hockey Ireland in collaboration with the Board of Management and its Executive Committees. This will be done in accordance with the organisations adopted policies and procedures. Under their overall direction and oversight and in close co-operation with the Board of Management, the CEO will establish, implement, and oversee the short and long term goals, strategies, plans and policies of Hockey Ireland in a manner that develops, enhances, and promotes a healthy, diverse and vibrant organisation; a flourishing club system; a growing membership base that encompasses all Olympic, Paralympic and non-Olympic disciplines of the sport.

How to Apply
A full role description is available on request from our recruitment partner Ascension Executive Recruitment – mairead.fleming@ascension.ie

Interested candidates should send their curriculum vitae and letter of application to mairead.fleming@ascension.ie no later than 5pm on Friday 13th May 2022.

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Women’s EY Champions Trophy stage set as Loreto and UCD join final four

The line-up for the women’s EY Champions Trophy semi-finals was completed on Wednesday evening with Loreto and UCD both landing 1-0 wins in their respective quarter-finals.

They go through to face Pembroke and Catholic Institute in the semi-finals with the question now how well the sides have coped with their contrasting preparations.

For the two sides already assured of semi-final spots, they have been waiting to know their opponents for three weeks, the plus side being the extra rest and focus.

For Loreto and UCD, the quick turnaround and managing three games in five days is a big ask but there is also a potentially big residual benefit from the Junior World Cup.

Both sides had large contingents from that event and being part of a full-time athlete setup for the duration could well elevate those involved’s performance. Alternatively, the comedown from Potchefstroom could be sharp given the exertions that went into the event – which way the cookie crumbles remains to be seen.

For Loreto, Yasmin Pratt carried on her excellent form from the Junior World Cup to impudently nick the ball off the last Old Alex defender and score in the 16th minute.

It proved the only goal of their game at Beaufort and it continued their excellent run of form, going seven games in the regular season without defeat to move up from seventh spot into fourth.

Loreto’s Aoife Taaffe celebrates. Pic: Adrian Boehm

They advance to play EYHL regular season champions Pembroke, a fourth meeting between the clubs this term. Pembroke swept aside Loreto 3-0 in the second week of the season and then picked up a crucial come-from-behind win just after Christmas with Leah McGuire striking three times in those meetings.

That second win came just a week after the Beaufort side had won 6-1 in the Jacqui Potter Cup and, in the end, it proved vital as Pembroke had a tricky second half to the season, winning four of their eight league games.

Pembroke’s manifesto is mainly built around a strong defence, letting in just 14 goals all season with Emma Buckley enjoying a fine season with Hayley O’Donnell, McGuire, Amy-Kate Trevor and Isy Delamer a mean outfit.

Catholic Institute’s Roisin Upton and Naomi Carroll have combined for over 30 goals. Pic: Adrian Boehm

It has helped them run up seven single-goal victories over the campaign despite only being the league’s seventh highest scorers. Such is the spread of scorers, meanwhile, in a share of 15th, midfield maestro Gillian Pinder and Aisling Naughton are their highest on the goal charts but, with 16 different players on the mark, the danger can come from anywhere.

For Loreto, JWC stars Siofra O’Brien (8 goals), Aoife Taaffe, Christina Hamill (both 7) and Hannah Matthews account for the majority of their tally. The aforementioned Pratt and Sarah Torrans, countering Sinead Loughran, Emily Beatty and Naughton, means this is a contest absolutely rammed with speed merchants and could flow quickly from end to end.

“We feel like we are in a good place to be able to perform this weekend,” said Pembroke coach Gavin Groves. “We know we have a spot secured in Europe after the League success but the challenge of this playoff weekend is one that we are really excited about. It’s an early start against a really good team but it’s a contest that hopefully bring the best out of us.”

His Loreto counterpart Paul Fitzpatrick added: “There are four really good teams there this year and it should make for an exciting weekend. A tough game on Wednesday against Old Alex was good preparation for Saturday and if we can manage the challenges of the week and weekend, we have a chance.

“Most importantly the team have worked and dealt really well with the challenges this season brought and know looking forward to playing some good quality hockey.”

The second semi-final at 12.30pm features newcomers Catholic Institute who are in the playoffs following what was their first complete season in the women’s EYHL.

It follows an immaculate home run of eight wins in succession and just an opening day draw to disrupt their perfect record. The side that did break that chain was UCD, their Saturday semi-final opponents.

Insta’s prowess was not solely down to their sand-based home advantage as they did raid UCD for a 3-2 success in November with Róisín Upton scoring a hat trick. Along with fellow Olympian Naomi Carroll, the international duo have provided over 30 goals between them across league and cup and occupy the top two positions on the goalscoring list.

Neutralising their threat will be the big challenge for the likes of Sarah McAuley, KJ Marshall and Emma Paul at the heart of the students’ defence in front of fellow JWC player Ellie McLoughlin.

Hannah McLoughlin got the only goal for UCD in their midweek quarter-final win over Pegasus that has them in this position as they go in pursuit of the title they won back in 2017. Of that vintage, only Gillian Pinder and Leah McGuire will be in action this weekend in Pembroke colours.

UCD team talk. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Indeed, Loreto have nine of their 2018 winning side still in situ and are the only side to have players to win the title for their current club. Naomi Carroll, Sally Campbell, Sinead Loughran and Ellen Curran all won in 2016 with Hermes.

It makes for a fascinating and hugely competitive weekend with plenty of new winners picking up national glory for the first time, no matter which club prevails.

Sunday’s final will be live-streamed via the Hockey Ireland Youtube channel.

Women’s weekend fixtures
Saturday, April 23rd
EY Champions Trophy Semi-Finals:
Pembroke v Loreto, Havelock Park, 10,30am; Catholic Institute v UCD, Havelock Park, 12.30pm

Sunday, April 24th
EY Champions Trophy Final:
Havelock Park, 2.30pm

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Banbridge’s men hoping to shine at Havelock home in EY Champions Trophy

Banbridge are hoping a large local support can propel them to EY Champions Trophy glory for the first time as they welcome Three Rock Rovers, Lisnagarvey and Monkstown’s men’s teams along with Pembroke, Catholic Institute, Loreto and UCD for the grand finale of the club season.

For Bann, they will bring in the evening crowd for their 5pm against Three Rock in what promises to be a cracker with the two sides playing out a thrilling 2-2 draw in February with plenty of fire thrown at either end.

It is a repeat of the 2019 match-up with Rovers prevailing that day 4-2 but there has been a huge regeneration in both squads in terms of players.

And for Bann coach Scott McCandless, he cannot wait to see what happens: “After the recent disruption, this season has been highly enjoyable return and we look forward to competing in the EYHL Champions Trophy Weekend.”

His side started the campaign slowly, taking just five points from their first five games, but have since gone unbeaten since October.

“After an injury disrupted start to the league, we have gradually raised performances to a desired level. The squad this season is a spilt of youth and experience with the seasoned players providing excellent guidance & leadership to a talented bunch of youngsters that have excelled as the season has progressed.

“Eugene Magee has nonchalantly moved to centre back and alongside Captain Alex Tinney, Peter Brown, Sam Farson, Luke Witherow and Jonny McKee forms the heartbeat to the Bann performance. Owen Magee, Phillip Brown, Hugh McShane and Josh Moffett play key roles in the support act, whilst recent signing from Kilkeel David Finlay has started to regularly add EYHL goals and assists to go alongside his blistering pace.

“Charlie Rowe, Mark Cowan, Chris Curry, Louis Rowe and Matthew McKee have been the stand out youngsters to date with other Schoolboys Ben Pollock, Aaron Baxter and recent Portadown signing Tommy Dobson all having several notable EYHL performances.”

They are up against a Three Rock side who are going for a fourth successive EY Champions Trophy title having won the last three editions to be played in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Amazingly, just five of the 2019 vintage are in situ this time around – Jody Hosking, Ross Canning, Harry MacMahon, Shane O’Brien and Harry Morris (though he is an injury doubt).

Three Rock Rovers Ben Johnson. Picture: Adrian Boehm

Like Bann, youngsters now abound with Evan Jennings, Ben Ryder, Rex Dunlop and Ben Whelan coming through the ranks while experienced stars like Ali Haughton, Mick Maguire and Peter Blakeney have come back into the fold.

Rovers come into the tie off the back of an excellent league run of five successive wins as well as the Leinster Mills Cup title but the EHL Cup last weekend in Spain was a tough one. They beat Austrian side Post SV with something to spare but came unstuck against elite sides HC Rotterdam (6-0) and Hampstead & Westminster (7-1).

How they recover from those three games in four days will be their big test as coach Elun Hack reflection: “I think they did give a good account of themselves against Rotterdam, despite of the score. In phases we were good but, against good sides, you get punished for errors.”

“We played in Spain at a much higher intensity than we would on some weekends at home, so I’m hoping that we can bring that to next weekend. Of course, we are facing quality sides, so we will need to be at our best.”

The first of the men’s semi-finals pits Monkstown against EYHL regular season winners Lisnagarvey with the Dubliners the last team to beat the sky blues in the competition.

Since then, however, Garvey picked Town apart in the return fixture at Comber Road 5-1 and will hope that freshness of mind will serve them well as they bid to pick up a second EY Champions Trophy, winning the first edition in 2016.

It will be one of two meetings between the two clubs in the next eight days with the Irish Senior Cup following next week at Belfield.

Lisnagarvey celebrate during the Irish Senior Cup semi-final. Picture: Adrian Boehm

For captain James Corry, reckons his side has grown as the season has developed and have the options to make a difference.

“The depth in the squad; we have had a lot of players out with injury and Covid and have used about 22 boys. When people aren’t stepping up, others have stepped up to the task.

“We were missing James Lorimer and Andy Williamson for the Three Rock games, our two flickers, but Ollie Kidd and Andy Edgar stood up and got one each. The younger boys have that bit more experience and can deal with the pressure.”

Monkstown’s issue has been consistency of players available with a large number of injuries leading to some erratic scorelines. They have plenty of experience of the big stage with Geoff Cole, Jazze Henry, David Fitzgerald, Lee Cole, Stephen Cole, David Nolan, Davy Carson, and David Cole playing a role in their three in-a-row series between 2013 and 2015.

Carson and strike partners Jeremy Duncan and Mark Gibbons both hit form late in the campaign while academy graduates Theo Kohlmann, Josh O’Neill, Callum Hewat and Sam Hickmott are all vying to play a part on this stage for the first time.

“This is the weekend all teams want to be involved in at the start of the season so we are exactly where we want to be, in with a chance to win the play-offs and to earn a European spot,” said captain David Cole.

“The last time Monkstown played in the finals weekend was in 2017 so we’re delighted to be back playing at this level.

“The team is raring to go and have been training hard for the last two weeks since the game against Glenanne. We are expecting Saturday to be an incredibly tough battle against the league champions, Lisnagarvey. The games in the regular season between the two teams were very high paced and physically demanding and we anticipate Saturday to be no different.

Monkstown’s Karl Lynch. Picture: Adrian Boehm

“Obviously, we had a poor result versus Garvey last month and we’re excited by the opportunity to play them again this weekend. Hopefully we can be successful in Saturday’s match and will have a final to look forward to on the Sunday.”

Saturday’s semi-final winners will meet in the final on Sunday at 4.45pm. There will also be a playoff between Avoca and Belfast Harlequins at 11.30am for the final place in men’s EYHL Division 2 next season.

Saturday 23rd April 2022
Men
EY Champions Trophy Semi-Finals:
Lisnagarvey v Monkstown, Havelock Park, 3pm; Three Rock Rovers v Banbridge, Havelock Park, 5pm

Irish Hockey Challenge – Semi-Finals: Midleton v Portrush, National Sports Campus, 1.30pm; Waterford v Saintfield, National Sports Campus, 3.15pm

Sunday 24th April 2022
Men
EY Champions Trophy Final:
Havelock Park, 4.45pm
EYHL Division 2 playoff: Avoca v Belfast Harlequins, Havelock Park, 11.30am

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Pegasus end in eighth at EHL FINALS with Three Rock sixth in EHL CUP

Pegasus finished their maiden Euro Hockey League campaign on an upbeat note despite back-to-back defeats as Katie McKee scored a first Irish goal in the elite competition in the dying moments against England’s Surbiton.

They fell 2-1 in that one, ending up in a share of seventh place, the predicted outcome as the tournament’s lowest seeds but coach Craig McGrugan was left with plenty to take from the weekend in Amsterdam.

On Friday, they were put to the sword by Den Bosch, the greatest club side ever assembled with 16 European titles in the past 20 years with Frédérique Matla scoring four times in a 9-0 result.
A day later, Pegasus were well in the contest against English eight in-a-row champions Surbiton with the sides going in at 0-0 at half-time in their classification match.

Both Taite Doherty and Katie McKee went close off the back of some lovely stickwork from Lucy McKee and they were defensively sound with Shirley McCay and Megan Todd holding the fort.

The Londoners, though, took the initiative with two goals in a three minute period in the third quarter with Meg Dowthwaite poking home from close range and Sarah Evans scoring an innovative penalty corner.

Late on, Katie McKee scored an absolute peach of a goal to get one back and it gave a positive note for the tournament’s lowest ranked side who qualified all the way back in 2019.

Since then, with two Covid-abandoned seasons, the side has had a massive injection of young players with four teenagers running out in front of the big Wagener Stadium house.

“Very tough weekend,” said McGrugan reflecting on the games. “They don’t come any tougher than Den Bosch – that goes without saying. It was quite an experience for most of the girls; we had 11 or 12 in the group who hadn’t played European club hockey before so a great experience for them, the younger players and the future of our club. It was very difficult to stick with them.

“Today, I think Surbiton played better than they did against Gantoise [in the quarter-final] and stretched us a bit but we stuck at it and it was nice to finally to get a goal on the scoreboard. A tough weekend but a great experience.”

McGrugan will quickly get to see how much the games stand to his side. They are back in action in the EY Champions Trophy quarter-finals against UCD on Wednesday night. A win would qualify them for the semi-finals which will be next Saturday at Banbridge.

“It’s now important the girls recover. They have another big game on Wednesday night against UCD who we know very well, another good side who play nice hockey. It will be tough but this is what it is all about.”

Dromore became the first girls team to take part in EHL U14 competition and acquitted themselves impressively in their three encounters.

They started off against Spain’s Junior FC with Lara Wilson on the mark in a 3-1 defeat before putting it up to Belgium’s Waterloo Ducks (0-3) and closing out the campaign against Dutch giants Den Bosch (0-4).

The side was cheered on by a big travelling contingent having originally qualified for the event which was due to be played in 2020. It featured national champions from the top six nations of the EuroHockey ranking list.

On the men’s side, Three Rock Rovers finished in sixth place at the EHL Ranking Cup in Terrassa. They came unstuck against HC Rotterdam 6-0 in the first game but bounced back to beat Austria’s Post SV.

Ben Johnson got a hat trick in the 5-2 win, starting the scoring in the fourth minute while his side struck four more in the third quarter with Ross Canning, Johnson and Peter Blakeney all adding to the tally in quick succession.

For Blakeney, it was his first EHL goal since October 2008, the longest gap between goals by a player in the EHL’s history.

They fell a day later 7-1 to Hampstead & Westminster with Blakeney scoring his second of the weekend but they were never in the contest. It means a sixth place finish,

Elun Hack, Three Rock Rovers Head coach summed up the weekend: “We are disappointed with the performance today, I don’t think we gave a good account of ourselves, but it is a young side and we wanted to kind of manage ourselves ahead of the Irish playoffs next weekend.

Three Rock Rovers celebrate against Post SV. Pic: Stanislas Brochier/World Sport Pics

“I think they did give a good account of themselves against Rotterdam, despite of the score. In phases we were good, but against good sides, you get punished for errors.”

On lessons for their important games next weekend he added: “We played here at a much higher intensity than we would on some weekends at home, so I’m hoping that we can bring that to next weekend. Of course, we are facing quality sides, so we will need to be at our best.”

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Comer Brothers hooked on backing Hockey in the West of Ireland.  

Hockey in the west of Ireland is set for a huge boost with the Comer Group proposing to build a centre of excellence for the sport at the Mountain South venue which is located just outside of Athenry.

The development is set to provide hockey in the region with a massive boost to an area crying out for improved facilities to cope with a growing level of interest in the sport.

Recently, new clubs have formed in Athenry, Loughrea, Ballinasloe and Tuam despite the lack of full-sized, hockey-specific playing facilities in the region while clubs in Galway city are required to have waiting lists due to over-subscription of players relative to facilities available.

 Mountain South is a 103-acre plot of land which the Comer Group acquired in 2018 and has been earmarked to also welcome a centre of excellence for Galway United Football Club with a number of soccer pitches and a gymnasium proposed in the plans submitted recently.

As part of the project, the Comer brothers have extended a helping hand to grow the game of hockey in Connacht and a masterplan outlining two hockey pitches has been submitted as part of a planning application to Galway County Council.

Mr. Richard Fahey, interim CEO of Hockey Ireland, said: “This proposal is massive for hockey in the region where we are experiencing huge growth and interest with hundreds of new players taking up the sport recently. 

“Having a high-class facility for players will open up hockey to them to pursue their new passion and can only accelerate and consolidate the growth of the game. Following the sports capital support for the Miller’s Lane project in Galway city, this is potentially another great development and testament to the work being done by Connacht Hockey’s officers.”

Mr. Kevin Keane, Chair and President of Connacht Hockey, added:  “The facility will bring opportunity to all in our community, young and old, as a centre of excellence for the development of our sport in the Western Region. We are delighted to be able to share a facility like this with Galway United and look forward to a prosperous future together.”

Ms Aisling Keogh, Connacht Hockey said: “We are very grateful to Luke Comer for meeting with representatives of Connacht Hockey. Mr Comer listened to our story and recognised the need for hockey facilities in the West of the country and specifically wanted to give his support to activities that cater for women. He invited us into this project with nothing but positivity and we look forward to working together in the future.

“We are so grateful, as a community, to the Comer Group, Brian and Luke Comer for inviting us into this exciting development. What the Comer Group have done for hockey in the West by helping us with facilities is just an amazing story.”

Luke Comer stated he was delighted to hear the story of Connacht Hockey and their struggle for facilities in the West. 

“As a keen sports person, It is so important to support young people in sport and particularly women in sport. Following our meeting with Aisling and Kevin, the Comer Group were very happy that Connacht Hockey were to be included in the development at the Mountain South, Comer Group, Centre of Excellence, Athenry, Co Galway.”