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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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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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Cookstown and Ards claim EYHL2 season’s medals

Cookstown and Ards completed their EYHL2 campaigns with the medals following their Sunday wins over Instonians and Monkstown, respectively, at Whitechurch Park.

With promotion to the top tier assured by virtue of Saturday’s semi-final success, the EY2 title was up for grabs with the men’s final first to hit the turf between Cookstown and Instonians.

It was a tight affair with Greg Allen putting Cookstown in front when he finished off after Paul Thompson laid the ball into his path. Tommy Orr equalised when Mikie Watt brought out his bag of tricks to spin between a couple of challenges and then lay the ball into his team mate’s path.

It remained at 1-1 through the third quarter before youngster Mark Cuddy won the contest in the closing quarter, scoring the deciding goal with nine minutes to go.

“Absolutely chuffed; the main priority was to get promoted so we are delighted with that and obviously, coming out for a final, we were here to win it,” captain Thompson said afterwards.

“[For the semi-final] We had seen Clontarf’s results and knew it would be a tough game and it was a slog. When it went to shoot-out, we have Josh McCabe – he’s brilliant and we practice them an awful lot!”

In the women’s final, Ards got off to a flyer with Malseed thumping in from the top of the circle twice within minutes of each other for a 2-0 lead.

Fellow Olympian Chloe Watkins cut the gap in half when she jinked one way and then back onto her open side with a quality shot but Ali Carson put Ards two clear at half-time, making it 3-1.

Monkstown were right back in the mix when a Watkins backhand shot was guided in at the right post by Sophie Moore, setting up a grandstand finish.

But the Ulster side held firm to take the gold medals and a breathless Malseed said it was a perfect end to a long season.

“It was a tough day, physically taking its toll as you can hear!” she said with a grin.

“Yesterday was the final we were building toward all season so anything after that was an enjoyable moment. We came out knowing this was going to be a great game, knowing they have performed consistently all season.

“We started off going two up and surprised ourselves a bit! From there, it was about trying to keep the foot on the pedal to the end.

“With last season a write-off, this seems like a long-time coming and we have been building toward this for a while. We’ll definitely celebrate tonight!”

EYHL Division Two finals
Men
: Cookstown 2 (G Allen, M Cuddy) Instonians 1 (T Orr)
Women: Ards 3 (Z Malseed 2, A Carson) Monkstown 2 (C Watkins, S Moore)

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Monkstown and Ards going back up to women’s EYHL first division

Monkstown and Ards are both back in the big time as they won feisty battles in the women’s EYHL Division Two semi-finals to confirm promotion at Whitechurch Park.

First up, Monkstown won out 3-1 against hosts Corinthian with Anna O’Flanagan scoring twice. The first half were characterised by fierce tackles and a set of penalty corner battles and it was through this method the opening goal came just before half-time.

Olympic duo Chloe Watkins and O’Flanagan combined with the former slapping to the right post where the latter deflected in.

Lauren McGrane evened things up four minutes into the second with a super goal but parity only lasted just over a minute as O’Flanagan scored a similarly high quality effort.

Claire O’Reilly put them out of range in the 46th minute before Town had to endure a lot of pressure and suffered a number of cards in the closing quarter.

But they finished out the tie well to ensure promotion to return to the top tier for the first time since 2018.

The second quarter-final, Queen’s took the lead early on when Madison Bowyer followed up a penalty corner shot from Zoe Wilson that Naomi McKnight blocked.

Ards’ Amy Benson gets away from Alyssa Jebb Pic: Max Fulham

Ards fought back in and Zara Malseed whacked in a direct penalty corner to make it 1-1 by half-time and Ellen Robinson got what proved to be the crucial goal in the third quarter.

The two sides advance to Sunday’s EYHL Division 2 final at Whitechurch Park at 3.30pm on Sunday, looking to add an extra special end to their season.

Women’s EYHL Division 2, semi-final: Monkstown 3 (A O’Flanagan 2, C O’Reilly) Corinthian 1 (L McGrane); Ards 2 (Z Malseed, E Robinson) Queen’s 1 (M Bowyer)
Sunday, final: Monkstown v Ards, Whitechurch Park, 3.30pm

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Inst and Cookstown win dramatic EYHL2 promotion showdowns

Ulster will have five clubs in the top tier of the men’s EY Hockey League next season with Instonians and Cookstown both landing promotion at Whitechurch Park.

Inst won their EYHL Division 2 semi-final against Leinster champions Railway Union 4-2 to earn their promotion.

They were good value for it as they had most of the play in the first half with Mikie Watt getting them in front and it could have been more but for the goalkeeping of Stephen O’Keeffe.

The prolific Mark English – who scored 50 times in the Leinster league campaign – equalised early in the second half but Ben Rose restored the Belfast side’s lead in the 51st minute.

And they never looked back as skipper Stephen Kelso put extra daylight between the sides at 3-1 and, with Railway withdrawing their goalkeeper for an extra outfielder, James Palmer cashed in for a fourth.

Karl Chapple nicked one back but Inst were well clear and are back in the top division for the first time since 2017.

Cookstown, meanwhile, were taken all the way by Clontarf in a shoot-out with Josh McCabe excelling. The Co Tyrone side looked good in the first half and they took the lead via Jack Haycock’s penalty corner drag-flick in the second quarter.

But the Dubliners came back strong and got level with just two minutes to go from former Irish under-21 captain Sam Grace with a corner bullet of his own.

That sent it to the shoot-out where Cookstown did not miss with Ryan Millar, Mark Crooks and Greg Allen all scoring. McCabe, meanwhile, kept out the first two and then stood up brilliantly to make three interventions to block Alan O’Malley’s path to goal, the save leading to a 3-1 victory.

Cookstown celebrate with goalkeeper Josh McCabe. Picture: Max Fulham

Cookstown and Instonians will meet on Sunday for the league title with the game getting underway at 1pm in Rathfarnham.

Banbridge, meanwhile, will get to host their own EY Champions Trophy finals weekend party having got through their quarter-final date against YMCA, 4-2 at Havelock Park.

YM had only picked up one point this term against the top five in the EYHL regular season but this new format gave them a wildcard shot at a semi-final and they were determined to take the opportunity.

Peabo Lembethe’s penalty corner rebound gave the Y a lead in the second quarter and it was level at 2-2 in the closing stages of the third quarter when Grant Glutz countered home goals from Peter Brown and Jonny McKee.

But youngsters Charlie Rowe and Matthew McKee turned the game Bann’s way in the last 20 minutes to hand Bann a semi-final spot where they will be up against Three Rock Rovers.

Lisnagarvey, meanwhile, will meet Monkstown after the latter made it through in a shoot-out against Glenanne. Normal time ended 2-2 with Rowland Rixon-Fuller snatching a draw for the Glens but a perfect Town shoot-out saw them win out 3-0 and advance to the final four.

Men
EYHL Division 1 – Quarter-Finals:
Banbridge 4 (Pe Brown, J McKee, C Rowe, M McKee) YMCA 2 (P Lembethe, G Glutz); Glenanne 2 (S O’Connor, R Rixon-Fuller) Monkstown 2 (D Nolan, J Henry), Monkstown win shoot-out 3-0
EYHL2 play-offs, semi-finals:
Railway Union 2 (M English, K Chapple) Instonians 4 (M Watt, B Rose, S Kelso, J Palmer); Cookstown 1 (J Haycock) Clontarf 1 (S Grace), Cookstown win shoot-out 3-1

Sunday
EYHL2 final:
Cookstown v Instonians, Whitechurch Park, 1pm

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Men’s EYHL quarter-finals see Bann hoping to land ticket to own party

The men’s EY Champions Trophy playoff series gets under way this weekend with Banbridge hosting YMCA and Glenanne facing Monkstown in the first running of a quarter-final phase.

Banbridge will be hoping to make sure they will get to play hosts to their own party on finals weekend on April 23 and 24 as they go up against YMCA at Havelock Park.

Bann have not lost in any frontline competition since October 16’s Irish Senior Cup tie against Monkstown and they have won twice against the Y this season to date, 4-2 at home and 3-2 away.

With 15 points between the sides in the table, in that light, the Co Down side take on the favourites tag. Jonny McKee leads the line with 13 goals this term while Hugh McShane, Brown brothers Peter and Philip and the Magees Eugene and Owen provide lots of experience.

YMCA’s Sam Ryder. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Charlie Rowe has been a break-out star this season as has his twin Louis before injury curtailed his campaign. Matthew McKee and Ben Pollock are others on the rise.

For YM, they won three of their last six games to move from the fringes of the relegation fight to comfortable safety and assure a highest ever finish on the final day of the season when they beat Corinthian 2-1.

And this playoff series provides an extra opportunity after a progressive season, reaching both the Mills and Neville Cup finals.

Grant Glutz has whizzed in nine times in the EYHL while Ross Henderson, Sam Hyland and Harry McCarthy have all chipped in for a side with an explosive capacity on the counter-attack.

Glenanne’s last day win over Annadale allowed them to jump back up to fourth spot, moving ahead of Monkstown who let a point slip against Three Rock Rovers in the last few seconds.

It gives them a relative home advantage on Saturday at St Andrew’s against Town for the short hop along the coast, though over a dozen of their panel did attend the Booterstown school.

In terms of this season, Monkstown won both league meetings in very close battles both times, 1-0 and 2-1.

The sky-blues have endured a number of injury issues which saw them struggle for consistency during the campaign. Davy Carson and Mark Gibbons were in productive form during the second half of the season while Guy Sarratt has his regular place near the top of the scoring charts with 12 to his name.

Glenanne have home advantage. Pic: Adrian Boehm

In Shane O’Donoghue, they have the league’s top scorer by some distance, netting 23 times this season but Town did manage to keep him at bay in the two meetings to date.

Both sides have been strong defensively this term with goalkeepers David Lawless and David Fitzgerald enjoying strong campaigns and how they hold up against two of the league’s most venomous penalty corner shooters will be key.

The women’s EY Hockey League quarter-finals have both been postponed due to the Irish Under-21 women’s ongoing Junior World Cup campaign in Potchefstroom.

Pegasus’s date with UCD has been postponed until April 20th (8pm) at Queen’s while Old Alex’s game against Loreto will be on the same night at 7.30pm in Beaufort.

On Sunday, the boys inteprovincial season reaches its final stage with Ulster facing Leinster in both the Under-16 and 18 finals.

The northern province have been the form team at both levels in the group stages with perfect records to date. The games take place at 2pm and 4pm, respectively.

Saturday 9th April 2022
Men
EYHL Division 1 – Quarter-Finals:
Banbridge v YMCA, Havelock Park, 3pm; Glenanne v Monkstown, St Andrews, 1.30pm

Sunday 10th April 2022
Boys Interpronvicials
Under-16 final:
Ulster v Leinster, Rathdown, 2pm
Under-18 final: Ulster v Leinster, Rathdown, 4pm

Monkstown’s Jeremy Duncan. Pic: Adrian Boehm

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EYHL Division 2’s big playoff weekend at Whitechurch Park

The journey to EY Hockey League promotion and Division 2 glory reaches its final destination this weekend at Whitechurch Park with eight hopefuls battling it out for glory. 

The host club made it through to the final four with a hugely impressive 5-0 home win over Cork C of I last weekend with Jessica McGrane scoring twice, adding to goals from Christina Seggie, Ciara Vincent and Lauren McGrane.

They will be hoping to delight the home crowd when they meet at 3pm on Saturday afternoon in their semi-final which doubles as a direct battle for one of the two promotion spots on offer.

Standing in their way are Monkstown who have been in imperious form this season, winning the Leinster League Division One and topping their group with eight wins out of eight.

Monkstown’s Anna O’Flanagan. Pic: Deryck Vincent

They have only lost one match across the Leinster league and EY Division 2. That was, however, their most recent one when – with the title in the bag – Corinthian were good value for a 3-2 success.

It ups the ante for this showdown and both sides are packed with goals. The McGranes between them have already accounted for over 30 goal between them for the reds while Town’s Olympians Chloe Watkins and Anna O’Flanagan, dovetailing with Emily Kealy, Sophie Moore and Olivia Brady, have helped the club score over 130 times this campaign.

The other women’s promotion place will be determined from an all-Ulster clash with Premier League champions Ards coming up against Queen’s in the fourth game on Saturday afternoon (5pm).

Ards Katie Kimber takes on Corinthian’s Camila Arbulo. Pic: Adrian Boehm.

Queen’s have quite a gap to Ards in their regional division – with plenty of games to catch up on – but they have shown in recent weeks their intent, running up high scores and clean sheets against Lurgan (4-0), Cork C of I (5-0) and UCC (5-0 in the quarter-final) to reach this stage.

A factor has been Zoe Wilson’s introduction. She joined the club in the middle of her recuperation from an ACL injury and has finally got to make her debut in recent times. The World Cup silver medalists has cracked home three goals in EYHL2 games already and, along with Erin Getty and Jessica McMaster, brings crucial know-how to the table.

Ards, meanwhile, progressed through their group stage unbeaten with seven wins in succession, adding to an opening day draw, with 28 goals along the way while they only faltered once in their regional league.

Olympian Zara Malseed is one of the most ruthless forwards around and there is a mixture of youth and indoor international experience in their line-up with Amy Benson, Katie Kimber, Alanah Doyle and Caroline Adams all donning the green at different points.

Queen’s following their 4-0 win over Lurgan

The men’s semi-finals begin the day’s action with another pair of enticing showdowns between Ulster and Leinster rivals.

In the quarter-finals, Instonians eased to a 5-1 victory over Bandon with Olympians Mark Gleghorne and Mikie Watt accounting for the first three of the goals to set them up for a date with Railway Union.

It is a renewal of their group stage rivalry with both sides winning a game each by a single goal to date. The Dubliners lost their unbeaten record on the final day of the Leinster league season when they fell to Avoca 3-2 last Saturday.

Nonetheless, it was enough to win the league crown ahead of the Blackrock side on head-to-head meetings, winning their first Leinster encounter 7-1. Railway backed that up with a Neville Cup final win on Sunday against YMCA and now go in search of more honours.

Instonians Mark Gleghorne. Pic: Billy Pollock

Theirs is a team built on vast experience with Kenny Carroll, Rob Abbott, Fergal Keaveney, Karl Chapple, Rob Devlin, Richie Forrest, Stephen O’Keeffe, David McCarthy and Mark English all around from their Irish Senior Cup final run of 2012. English has amassed over 80 goals this campaign in all competitions.

Inst, meanwhile, have lots of knowledge to draw on with captain Stephen Kelso, Chris Kirk, Ben Palmer, Andrew Corry and William Robinson all part of their side during their last campaign in the top tier.

The Shaw’s Bridge club are in a straight shoot-out with Cookstown, the other Ulster side involved in this weekend’s playoffs, as they go up against Clontarf at 12.30pm.

Railway Union with the Neville Cup last Sunday. Pic: Max Fulham

Both Inst and the Co Tyrone side are unbeaten in the Ulster Premier, drawing with each other, to show their strength with Cookstown putting it up to EYHL sides in the Irish Senior Cup, knocking out Pembroke and pushing Monkstown to the wire in the semi-finals.

They have a wealth of young talents coming through in Max Anderson, Jack Haycock, Ewan Cruickshank, Josh Anderson and Mark Cuddy, guided by old hands Ewan Butler, Mark Crooks and Paul Thompson.

Clontarf made it through a quarter-final thriller against Cork Harlequins last Saturday. They looked on course for a comfortable day out when Sam Grace scored a pair of goals but Jamie Venner nabbed one back and a Jack O’Meara equaliser sent the game to shoot-out – after a heavily debated David Vincent effort was ruled out. 

The Bulls prevailed with Timmy Cullen slotting their winner. John Mullins is a key presence having won a series of all-Ireland titles during his stint with Three Rock Rovers with captain David Power a strong influence in the spine of the side. 

Cookstown’s Max Anderson. Pic: Adrian Boehm

They are the only side in the final four yet to play in the top tier and so will be regarded as outsiders.

Each of Saturday’s winners will earn promotion along with a place in Sunday’s final where the EY Division 2 titles will be presented.

Adult tickets for each day are available on the gate for €10 with schoolchildren tickets €5.

 

EY Division 2 finals weekend (all at Whitechurch Park)

Saturday 9th April 2022

Men

Semi-finals: Railway Union v Instonians, 10.30am; Cookstown v Clontarf, 12.30pm

 

Women

Semi-finals: Monkstown v Corinthian, 3pm; Ards v Queen’s, 5pm

Sunday 10th April 2022

Men’s final: 1pm

Women’s final: 3.30pm

Clontarf’s Timmy Cullen celebrates his shoot-out winner. Pic: Deryck Vincent