, ,

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

,

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.”

, ,

Irish underage sides compete in Lilleshall and Zwolle

The Irish underage teams had their first outings of 2022, taking in fixtures in Lilleshall for the Under-18s and in Zwolle in the Netherlands for the Under-16s.

For the Under-18 boys, they started off at a high tempo against the Netherlands. The Dutch did see a first quarter stroke saved by Conor Murphy while Charlie Rowe had a goal disallowed as the Oranje eventually went on to win 1-0.

In game two, a strong, clinical Belgian side showed their strength and experience. A first Irish goal for Ben Pollock came from play while Harry Dagg scored a penalty corner rebound with the junior Red Lions winning 4-2.

The highlight of the weekend came against England Monday when a touch from Conor Matthews put Ireland in the lead in the second quarter and they held out for the rest of the match to bag the win.

The squad featured 12 first caps from the 22 traveling players this weekend. The side is supported by Comit.ie and Emtek.co.uk.

U18 Boys
Ireland 0 Netherlands 1
Ireland 2 Belgium 4
Ireland 1 England 0

***

The Under-18 girls also had their strongest outcome in game three when they drew 0-0 with England with both sides having their chances but defences held firm.

Belgium had earlier edged Ireland out 2-1 with Darcy McGall scoring the Irish goal. The Netherlands, meanwhile, were and outstanding outfit who won out 12-1, Anna Pim scoring a brilliant corner flick in a strong second half showing.

U18 Girls
Ireland 1 Netherlands 12
Ireland 1 Belgium 2
Ireland 0 England 0

**

The Under-16 boys made strong progress over the course of the weekend in their first games at this level for two years. They started off with a tough defeat to Belgium but narrowed the gap significantly after that.

They put in a strong performance against England, only conceding a late goal in 1-0 defeat while they pushed the Netherlands in an exciting contest which ended 2-0.

Under 16 Boys
Ireland 1 Belgium 7
Ireland 0 England 1
Ireland 0 Netherlands 2

****

In what was a first international series for the Irish Under-16 girls, they fought hard through their series in Zwolle. They put in a superb effort against Belgium, conceding twice in the last eight minutes to lose 3-0.

It was the same scoreline against England and they finished off a learning experience against the Netherlands in a 4-0 result, improving game on game

Under-16 Girls
Ireland 0 Belgium 3
Ireland 0 England 3
Ireland 0 Netherlands 4

,

Pegasus and Three Rock face double Dutch challenge in Europe

Pegasus and Three Rock Rovers are going double Dutch on Friday in their opening Euro Hockey League matches this weekend, facing what look like the toughest possible draws first up.

For Pegasus, they are in Amsterdam for the top tier EHL FINALS in a knock-out eight-team competition. In the strange Covid world, the Belfast side qualified for the competition as Ireland’s last formal champion, dating back to 2019’s EY Champions Trophy.

It means the side that qualified for the competition has undergone a number of changes in personnel and has also attempted to peak for the tournament a couple of times only for the postponement notices to go up.

“It seems like a lifetime ago we qualified for the EHL so finally getting to play is really exciting and I know the entire squad can’t wait to play against some of the best club teams out there,” she said.

“It has been strange to try and prepare now more than once but we are just relieved to be able to participate, finally. It has its positives and negatives being postponed for so long; we now have players who no longer play or have had children since we were due to play who will miss out, but we have also got the chance to develop some of our younger teammates.”

In the KO8, they are up against Den Bosch who are – without question – the greatest club side Europe has ever seen. They are the reigning EHL champions and have won 16 of the last 20 top tier Euro competitions, including a run of 12 successive victories between 2000 and 2011.

To that end, Maguire knows it will be a rare battle: “Yes, we certainly realise Den Bosch is the toughest opponent given their incredible record. We are not naive to the fact that it will be the toughest game we will have ever played in a Pegasus shirt, but it is such an opportunity to play against the best there is, and anything we take from this game is bonus.”

But what better arena to prepare for a huge run-in to the domestic season as they will return for an EY Champions Trophy quarter-final against UCD next Wednesday.

“We finished third in the league which, at the start of the season, we might have been happy with, but seeing how close the season finished we feel we could have pushed that bit further.

Pegasus’s Ruth Maguire on the attack against Muckross. Pic: Adrian Boehm

“We still have at least another three games to play after the tournament, so it is hard to have the focus for EHL and for the ‘business end of the season’ but our approach is simple- take one game at a time.”

How they fare on Friday will determine what their classification matches series looks like over the weekend.

For Three Rock, they are in their second EHL competition of the season, taking on the EHL Cup in Terrassa, Spain having played in the Ranking Cup last October as well.

Coach Elun Hack says his side “obviously made excellent progress” since then. There, they were undone by HC Minsk and Hampstead & Westminster with a new look team but Rovers have gone on to have a productive domestic season, winning the Leinster Mills Cup and only missing out on the EYHL regular season title on goal difference.

“We were a new team, thrown together last minute, but to have ended our regular season level on points with a really well established team like Garvey, shows in itself the progress that has been made.

“The plan now is keep building on the squad as we go, and hopefully do well in EHL, not only results wise as the opposition are some of the best in Europe, but well in terms of hitting our own goals and objectives, and get some good momentum going into the important playoff weekend.”

They are close to full strength but will miss Luke Adams for the weekend. Their KO8 tie is against HC Rotterdam who feature the EHL’s all-time highest goalscorer Jeroen Hertzberger along with Olympians Justen Blok and speedster Thijs van Dam.

Rotterdam, however, have been slightly off-kilter this season and sit ninth in the Dutch league which maybe offers some opportunity.

Three Rock Rovers with their Mills Cup trophy in March. Pic: Adrian Boehm

“Rotterdam, or any Dutch team is always going to be a challenge,” Hack added. “The level that these teams play at week in and week out, is much higher than we are used to or exposed to, so they will always have the upper hand.

“The talent in their squad and ability of their star players, will always pose a massive challenge. They are struggling, and that does mean some light at the end of the tunnel for us, but sometimes a weekend like EHL, can be the spark that they need.

“We will naturally give it our best shot, we are representing both TRR and Ireland, and want to give the best account of both that we possibly can, and miracles do happen; you just never know when and where.

“If we give our best, and play at a 9 or 10 out of 10, then who knows… but it will certainly be a really good challenge. It’s a great opportunity for our lads to test themselves against some of the best players in Europe.”

Like Pegasus, a win on Friday would put them into the top four playoffs while a loss lead into the fifth to eighth playoffs.

Friday, April 15th (times Irish)
Men
EHL Cup, KO8:
Three Rock Rovers v HC Rotterdam, Club Egara, 1.15pm

Women
ABN AMRO EHL FINALS KO8:
Pegasus v Den Bosch, Wagener Stadium, 10.30am

Saturday, April 16th – Monday, April 18th
Classification matches – to be confirmed

, ,

Four-star Ireland finish debut Junior World Cup with a flourish

Women’s Junior World Cup
9th-10th place playoff
Ireland 4 (S O’Brien, L Mulcahy, Y Pratt, C Hamill) Austria 0

Ireland finished strong to end their first ever Junior World Cup campaign in ninth place with a third successive win in Potchefstroom, running up four second half goals in a superb performance.

Siofra O’Brien, Lisa Mulcahy, Yasmin Pratt and Christina Hamill were all on the score sheet, ending the campaign in ninth place. It added to wins over Canada and Malaysia in the classification matches, bouncing back well from the group stages when Ireland missed out on the top eight in frustrating fashion.

“We really enjoyed this!” said player of the match Sarah McAuley. “We treated it like our final and did ourselves proud, finishing ninth. I am so proud of all the girls. It was the last game; we just said ‘go out, give it a lash and relish this opportunity’.”

Reflecting on the flow and tactical battle of the game, coach David Passmore added: “We didn’t convert in the first half and were a little bit frantic at times. But in the second, we played with a lot more composure. We did have a small panic when we lost a bit of structure but you have to ride those periods. It will never be plain sailing for 60 minutes.

“Tactically, we did it how we wanted to do it. The key thing is we wanted to develop with every game and finish well and we have done that.

“We like to play on the front foot, pressing, pressing, pressing. From the other Austrian games, I hadn’t seen them face that and so I thought we’d give it a go. You do accept they will occasionally get the ball through but we won a lot of ball.”

That high pressing intent was shown from the outset. Yasmin Pratt – player of the match in the win over Malaysia – won a corner with just 35 seconds gone, a set piece which took over 20 minutes to take place as lightning in the area saw the players race off the pitch as a precaution.

On their return to action, Sarah McAuley twice tested goalkeeper Fabienne Gnehm from the top of the D before brilliantly keeping out Anna Horan at close quarters from Christina Hamill’s dancing run and cross.

Austria, sitting in a deep half-court mode, had only fleeting moments in offence but were providing tough to break down and it remained scoreless in the first half.

The gaps started to appear more frequently in the third quarter and Ireland made the breakthrough in the 36th minute when McAuley, stepping up down the left wing, cut inside and picked out Siofra O’Brien.

The striker had her back to goal but turned smartly and chipped in a backhand shot that left Gnehm with no chance.

Austria showed more in attack after the goal, winning their first corner which Katharina Proksch fired just wide but they were two behind as the hooter blew for the end of Q3.

Pratt was again instrumental in winning the set play which Caoimhe Perdue slapped at goal and Lisa Mulcahy deflected in.

Holly Micklem was called to make her first save with nine minutes to go, sliding out brilliantly to block Franziska Frey and, from the rebound, the Old Alex keeper made her second block seconds later.

But the tie was well and truly settled from Ireland’s sixth corner, again Perdue bringing the power and Pratt was on hand to redirect the shot out of reach of sub goalie Corinna Stedronsky.

Christina Hamill closed out the tournament with a beautiful piece of work, McAuley’s long ball locating Mikayla Power who slipped an inviting pass that the Loreto midfielder threw herself to make it 4-0.

It brought the curtain down on a dramatic World Cup campaign, one which was initially postponed from December and then realigned due to Russia’s exclusion and Ukraine’s eventual withdrawal.

Nonetheless, it was an unforgettable experience for the Junior Green Army to compete at this level for the first time, winning three out of five fixtures in South Africa.

“I just want to thank everyone here for being so kind,” Passmore concluded. “We got such a great welcome. It;’s been a tough two years for everyone on the organising committee and we really appreciate everything they have done.”

Ireland: H Micklem, E Reid, S Murdoch, R Kelly, C Perdue, A Elliott, Y Pratt, C Sherin, C Hamill, L Mulcahy, S McAuley
Subs: E Paul S Cole, S O’Brien, M Power, A Horan, K-J Marshall, E McLoughlin

Austria: F Gnehm, C Kemper, H Herzog, J Czech, K Bauer, K Proksch, L Kern, L Buchta, F Felber, N Matousek, F Frey
Subs: M Monghy, A Minar, S Klaus, H Szladits, S Hruby, J Frey, C Stedronsky

,

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)

,

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

,

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

, ,

Perdue’s last minute magic propels Ireland to win over Malaysia

Women’s Junior World Cup
9th-12th place playoff
Ireland 2 (R Kelly, C Perdue) Malaysia 1 (N Zulkifli)

Captain Caoimhe Perdue whipped home a brilliant penalty corner strike 46 seconds from time to ensure Ireland will finish in the top 10 at the women’s Junior World Cup in Potchefstroom.

She applied all the power for her second goal of the tournament as the Junior Green Army eventually broke through against a Malaysian opponent who made life very difficult in a bruising encounter.

Ireland had led early on when player of the match Yasmin Pratt raced clear to set up Rachel Kelly to slot a 14th minute goal.

But the Asian side rode their luck for long periods while their all-heart style led to numerous injuries and breaks in play which slowed the tempo of the contest. They got level in the fourth quarter via Nuramirah Zulkifli’s superb strike but Ireland kept piling forward and from a late trio of penalty corners, Perdue settled the contest.

Pratt summed up the jubilant post-match mood, saying: “We are just over the moon. In the last five minutes, the intensity upped another level and we were really fighting for that win and when the goal went in, none of us could have been happier! So proud of my team.”

It puts Ireland through to a match against Austria on Monday with the winner finishing ninth overall, a strong comeback after Ireland missed out on the quarter-finals in frustrating fashion.

“Obviously, we believed in ourselves to get here but we have never been to a World Cup before so we didn’t know what to expect. We have really done ourselves proud. We definitely have that Irish spirit, a lot of passion and when it comes down to the nail-biting, hard wins, we really call on that passion.”

Coach David Passmore, meanwhile, added: “We made hard work of it! We didn’t take our early chances. I thought we played quite well at the beginning of the second half and then just lost control, structure and made the wrong decisions.

“That happens and it is about riding that. Thankfully, after conceding that, we really showed the best of our game and were on the front foot, creating a lot of chances.”

Early on, other than a couple of Malaysian penalty corners, it was a tie Passmore’s side started in strong form with Christina Hamill’s 3D skills and ghosting runs causing havoc.

Sarah McAuley’s strike was awkwardly saved by Mashitah Ab before Kelly potted her second of the tournament in the 14th minute.

It was ably setup by Pratt’s searing pace – both players having learned their hockey at schools in Kilkenny, the asssiter at College, the scorer at Loreto – after Mikayla Power had poked the ball back into Irish possession.

With a little more composure it might have been two on a number of occasions in the second quarter while Ab almost contrived to let in a Power cross, sprawling to recover from her own error to brilliantly scoop the ball off the goal line.

Pratt deflected Katie-Jane Marshall’s slap into the circle onto the post as the Malaysian goal lived a charmed life while their low-down approach saw three Malaysian players ship knocks and depart injured in the third quarter alone.

It made for a stodgy phase with little momentum and Malaysia get their foothold in the tie. During this phase, a loose bouncing ball found Zulkifli in the circle unattended and she took her time before firing high into the net.

The Irish reaction was strong, making all the running for the last 13 minutes. Aoife Taaffe could not get enough on Kelly’s clever cross while Sophia Cole’s innovative reverse-stick shot was blocked.

But three more penalty corners came in the last 75 seconds, the third of which Perdue slammed in from the top of the D for a gleefully celebrated win.

Ireland complete their campaign on Monday (2.45pm, Irish time) against Austria with ninth place on offer for the winner.

Ireland: E McLoughlin, E Paul, S O’Brien, R Kelly, C Perdue, A Elliott, Y Pratt, C Hamill, L Mulcahy, S McAuley, K-J Marshall
Subs: S Cole, E Reid, A Taaffe, M Power, C Sherin, A Horan, H Micklem

Malaysia:
M Ab, A Dayang, S Mohd, N Azhar, K Nurul, S Husain, N Azman, N Zulkifli, N Syafi, K Gurdip, I Hussin
Subs: I Effarizal, N Mohamad, N Isahhidun, N Mohd, K Mohd, N Yussaini, S Nasir

,

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